Written by  :  Maw (884)
Written on  :  Feb 21, 2007
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Wham and splatter

The Good

A description of Raptor is pointless, if you haven't played it you've probably played a million games like it. The vertical shooter is a genre that goes in and out of fashion (though mostly out), but the fundamental gameplay mechanics have gone unchanged from the classics like Xevious to modern-day releases like Ikaruga. Raptor is an evolutionary link in a series of games that are almost identical to one another. With that said, it's a very fun time-waster and a great example of the genre.

Planes fly down from the top of the screen and you have to shoot the hell out of them. In lieu of points you collect money for your kills. As the levels go by you have to deal with tougher, smarter and more numerous baddies and eventually a boss. This is all set to a senselessly bombastic soundtrack that you can hardly hear over near-constant explosions and gunfire.

It is a shmup in every good and bad sense of the word. Raptor isn't quite as intense as some of its contemporaries (movement speed of the planes is actually rather slow ), but it's a joystick-destroyer of a game nonetheless. And instead of being a 100% knockoff there are actually one or two nods towards creativity that warrant a mention.

I mentioned earlier you receive money for kills. In between levels (at the main console) you can buy and outfit weapons and armor for your plane. Buying and selling stuff gives the game a cool "Mercenary" flavor, rather then having the game randomly dole out weapon upgrades during the game like most other vertical shooters do. Repairs cost money as well, so you'll invariably be torn between wanting that shiny new Autotrak Minigun and the need for fix your damaged plane. The game isn't very generous with money so the stakes are pretty high. You can carry multiple weapons at once and equip them at your leisure (although the controls for this are somewhat awkward.)

On easier difficulties the game is fast albeit measured. On the harder levels it becomes so frantic and desperate you'll clutch at any advantage you can get against the relentless waves of enemies. Strangely, the most useful advantages is what would outwardly appear to be mere decoration. When an enemy arrives from the top of the screen, its shadow will appear a small amount of time before the enemy itself. This means you have a critical quarter-second or so to prepare for whatever's coming at you. If you see a shadow arriving that takes up more than half the screen, you're facing a boss. Er...yeah. A boss.

As you'd expect for one of Cygnus Studio's games the production values are excellent. You get treated to a stunning pre-rendered animation that's almost as good as the FMV characterised by the CD revolution. The graphics are top-notch. Explosions are bright, zany and colorful, and while the enemy planes aren't very detailed (what would be the point? They're on the screen for about one or two seconds each) this deficiency is more than made up for by the detailed and elaborate locations you play in.

Most vertical shooters take place in deserts, glaciers, or other empty environments, but in Raptor you fly across bustling cities complete with buildings, cars, bridges, oil refineries, gas stations, etc all of which can be blown up for quick cash. But while the backgrounds are extremely detailed, they aren't so eye-catching as to take your focus off the foreground, something many shmups forget about. A nice touch is how buildings blow up one piece at a time, or burn slowly and are then destroyed. This is really effective and evokes an atmosphere of pure mayhem.

The Bad

Like most games of its type Raptor has little replay value. Once you complete it once or twice and buy all the weapons and upgrades there's nothing left to do. Many shooters try to entice you into playing further with unlockables and bonus features, but there's none of those here. Seriously, is a 2-P mode too much to ask?

Being able to buy and sell weapons is cool, but it's not exploited as well as it could have been. Weapons are of the "strong, stronger, strongest" category, so your choice in buying weapons is not dictated by strategy but rather by your budget. Once you max yourself out and get the strongest weapon in the game you'll never need to touch any of the other ones, which is a shame.

And since it's a shmup (perhaps the lowest common denominator of video gaming) the standard "if-you-don't-like-the-genre-don't-play-this" disclaimer applies.

The Bottom Line

Whether you could call Raptor a classic is debatable, but it's a cool game with solid gameplay and (for its time) great graphics. Raptor is obsolete these days, but if you are into classic gaming and aren't one of the "playing 2D shooters are beneath my dignity" crowd I urge you to give it a try.