Originally released in 2014 as a PC exclusive online competitive shooter, Strike Vector was noticed for its fast pace combat and fun mechanics. However, it never really got much of an audience, not even breaking 1,000 players at its peak. Attempting to fix this, Strike Vector EX is an updated version of the game being released to consoles. Featuring a single player campaign and a skirmish mode in addition to the original game's multiplayer, do these additions make Strike Vector EX worth picking up, or will it fail to catch on?
The campaign puts you in the role of Marv, a conscripted Consortium Vector pilot who had always dreamed of joining the army. Yet, he doesn't find the army life to be what he wanted, so he bolts to join a gang of pirates known as the Horde. Soon after, he suddenly becomes a mercenary, joins another faction called the Syndicate at some point, ends up a mercenary again, and goes on a strange rampage against anyone who has a name. Keeping track of Strike Vector EX's story is nearly impossible. Constantly hopping around, the story barely makes sense or provides anything close to a cohesive narrative. For some reason, the writers seem to have decided that the best way to handle the story is to put in a plot twist every single mission. Character's motivations change randomly to be "shocking", there are more secret family relationships than an episode of Game of Thrones, and every time combat stops to show another cutscene of Vectors hovering around each other while the pilots talked I couldn't help but groan.
The campaign spans fifteen missions that only took me a little over an hour to beat. Most missions were pretty similar in structure, offering little more than either "Kill X amount of enemies" or "Survive for X amount of time". Occasionally I would be tasked with protecting something, destroying specific ground targets, or engaging in the occasional boss battle. There is even a single race and a single escape sequence thrown in. Still, it's just not quite enough variety to make the missions feel unique, and it doesn't even really serve as a decent enough tutorial for the multiplayer.
It doesn't help that the campaign's AI is strangely dumb. They often didn't follow any strategy other than flying up to you to get in range of your craft, then just sit still shooting. Once they're hit a few times they'll always deploy their "Special Action" sub-weapons, even when it doesn't make any sense to do so. Enemies would turn invisible while sitting still, or hit absolutely nothing with a close range tesla shock. Even bosses follow this same basic pattern, the difference being that they usually have three times the health while doing it, and would sometimes fly away real quick to restore their health.
Strike Vector's gameplay also suffers from some really strange quirks. Friendly fire is always on, which is fine until you factor in that missiles and homing mines can actually lock onto friendly targets. Without a quick and easy way to change your aim, this leads to frustrating moments where I would have to readjust the ship's angle and hope that it would stop targeting my team. Weapons and sub-weapons also unlock at an absurdly slow trickle, and you don't get full access to the arsenal until the very last mission. This barely matters in the end, as the Gatling gun is so much better than any other weapon that it'd be silly not to use it. I could do decent enough with a few other weapons, but the Gatling gun is just almost absurdly good.
Every few levels a stadium will open up on the world map. Each stadium contains five races for you to participate in. The races are less than a minute long but are an entertaining enough distraction from the main missions. That said, there's no actual reward for participating in the races. They're just a side distraction to get you away from playing the main campaign for a little bit.
The game's Skirmish mode does a much better job preparing you for the multiplayer, mostly because it's just bot matches. For some baffling reason, the game uses a completely different set of AI here, one that is far more intelligent and interesting to fight. It's strange that this isn't the AI in the campaign, as it could have done a much better job at making the campaign more interesting to play.
Similar to the campaign, the Skirmish mode has some really strange design decisions. Instead of letting you pick a map and a game mode, it just lists the game's fifteen maps. Each map already has a game mode assigned to it that can't be changed, and the game doesn't tell you what it is so you have to memorize which map has which. The majority are set to either deathmatch or team deathmatch anyway, so if you want to play anything unique you have to hop onto the multiplayer proper. The game also only gets half-full in Skirmish, making the bot matches no more than six players, which is strange when multiplayer supports up to twelve.
The real draw to Strike Vector should be its multiplayer mode. The game offers up six different game modes across fifteen different maps for twelve players. Most of the standard multiplayer modes are included, including team and free-for-all deathmatches, capture the flag, and king of the hill. One mode that sees you destroying objectives, which is a fun take on fighting an enemy base. The most interesting mod is Bounty, a free-for-all where your goal is to collect money by killing high-valued players. I found trying to pick out the higher valued players from a crowd to be fun, and the wild chase that occurs when you end up in the lead was even better. As I killed enemies and completed objectives, I would gather up money that I could spend on cosmetic changes and profile tags for my vector. Thankfully you start off with all weapons unlocked, so I didn’t have to look for those.
Similar to the single player, the multiplayer comes with its own strange design decisions. For Bounty mode, destroying explosives is actually worth quite a bit of money, which means I could sometimes get to first just by flying around the map taking them out. For any team mode, this includes the same problems of lock-on missiles locking onto friendlies for some reason. Multiplayer also suffers from the same problems with weapon balance, the Gatling gun just being far more useful than any other weapon. There’s also a ton of unexplained mechanics. During one play session, I heard one guy say “my favorite move is the quick 180 turn.” I still have no clue if he was making this up or if I just haven’t figure out where the 180 is.
None of that really matters in the end, as Strike Vector EX suffers from one massive problem. No one is playing it. After the servers went live I found a grand total of two games with players in them. Both were team deathmatches. One had two players, the other only had one. The game will put bots in so there’s always a minimum of six players (something that makes me wonder what the point of Skirmish mode even is anymore), but I barely saw any actual people playing the game.
Strike Vector EX‘s single player content isn’t really that good, serving up a simple campaign that lacks any highlights along with a pointless Skirmish mode. All the mechanics are here for an interesting multiplayer shooter, but it lacks actual players. Unless you’re grabbing this with some friends, I would only suggest it if you’re up for bot matches.
Strike Vector EX was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the developers. It is planned to come to Xbox One at a later date.
Strike Vector EX’s single player content ranges between okay and actively bad. It really needed an active multiplayer to save it, but it seems that the player base has already ejected.