Star Raiders Review

By Darryl Kaye on May 20, 2011

Star Raiders is yet another attempt by Atari to bring an old franchise from their glory days into the modern era. In the case of Star Raiders, it was originally developed for the Atari 800 back in 1979, with another version appearing on the Atari 2600 three years later. There's no denying its importance to the industry as a whole, but why couldn't it have just been left that way? This remake does nothing but taint everything the original stood for.

The story is probably as generic as they come. You're given a brief introduction where you meet the various characters and you're then thrown straight into the tutorial. To summarise though, some guys called the Zylons are invading and you have to stop them - despite being a new recruit.

From here, each mission does have a purpose, but the game tries its hardest to make you not care. For the main missions you're given a very short plot briefing, and for the sub-missions you don't even get that, you just get a very short mission briefing. Short isn't an understatement either as often you're looking at around a sentence. For example, "Scout the area for Zylon activity." That's all you get.

Gameplay is in some ways very reminiscent of space shooters from the late 90s, except somehow worse. You see, your ship has three forms - one is a ship, one is more like a mech and the last is a turret. Each form has two weapons, which can then be upgraded. The controls aren't the best though and changing between the different forms is rather cumbersome.

Often though, you will end up using the generic ship as it's the easiest form to use when taking out enemy ships. You'll use the mech when you need to explore and the turret when you need to take down a frigate - but you'll probably need to change between them to move around properly. It can become rather annoying to keep having to change between forms just to attack a different part.

Another big problems comes with the objective system. You will often have more than one objective, but there's no way to distinguish between them. For example, if you're tasked with taking down fighters and a frigate. You can only give the system an indication about what you want to target based on what's on the screen, but frigates have multiple gun emplacements and cells which must be destroyed. So, when you're trying to target a fighter, you'll end up cycling through other things that you don't want. Likewise, the mini-map at the bottom is absolutely useless.

If you need to complete objectives which don't involve destroying something, it tries to direct you towards them using a grey arrow on the screen, but this isn't that helpful in scenarios where you're underground. You have absolutely no idea where the thing is pointing because it just goes through walls.

It's a huge failing when objectives that attempt to make the game less bland are broken. Because that's really what the game consists of, bland, boring, broken objectives. Your ship also has an energy supply and to replenish it, you're meant to fly near a beacon. However, the game offers absolutely no penalty for dying, so it's quicker to just commit suicide in order to come back with full health and full weapons.

You can at least upgrade your ship to make things a bit more personable, but the options are rather sparse. Each of the various guns can be upgraded, as well as an AI component which will give you some kind of modifier. But that's about it, there aren't huge amounts of options available.

Graphically, the game isn't the best. Quite a lot of the components are recycled, just like almost every other aspect of the game. Also, despite the game being set in space, it feels rather restrictive - which is rather ironic.

The game does have a fair few missions available, and you can upgrade all of your ship's components if you want. But the gameplay is so boring that you really will need to persevere in order to push through and get to that point. There's only so many ships you can destroy without change before things just start to grate at you.

Final Thoughts

Star Raiders is a failed attempt to bring an old Atari franchise into the modern era. It features very boring missions, with gameplay that does very little to inspire anything. The story is also as generic as they come. It's a shame that the original game now has this associated with it.

Your ship can be upgraded.
There are three ships in one.
It has a decent length.
Gameplay is very boring.
The missions are more frustrating than anything else.
There are no repercussions for dying.
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