Raptor (PC) review
"Your plane lurches to the right, out of the volley fire of the incoming warship. Missile after missile pummels the body of the warship, imbedding it deeply with spikes before exploding. This barely chips the paint of the massive death cruiser, and it returns fire with an arsenal that would make George ''Dubyah'' Bush envious. "
Your plane lurches to the right, out of the volley fire of the incoming warship. Missile after missile pummels the body of the warship, imbedding it deeply with spikes before exploding. This barely chips the paint of the massive death cruiser, and it returns fire with an arsenal that would make George ''Dubyah'' Bush envious.
As you desperately swerve out of the way of the total annihilation blaster, you also have to weave in between smaller fighter pilots, half of them kamikaze, the other half firing potent energy blasts directly at your ship's hull. If you can manage to dodge all of this, and deal with the steadily developing ache in your trigger finger, then you might be in position to attack the huge ship again.
Oh yes, the above scenario is one of the game's ''easy'' stages.
Raptor is a classic DOS space shooter, in the vein of other space shooters such as Gradius, and especially U.N. Squadron. Released by Apogee, one of the pre-first person shooter revolution software giants, it seemingly had the pedigree to be an excellent game. And it meets some of the criteria of a great game. However, a hellish difficultly level dooms it.
In Raptor, you play an aerial bounty hunter and space pirate striking it out on your own. Due to the post apocalyptic nature of the world now, there is no shortage of work for an aspiring mercenary such as yourself. Strapping into the cockpit of your fighter, you blast off in a whirl of smoke for glory and riches.
After you enter in your name and call sign, and pick from four ridiculous picture portraits, you are brought to the plane hangar. From here, you have several options: save your pilot's data, fly a mission, or spend your hard earned cash in the supply store.
The levels in Raptor are split into three different sub-sections. Bravo, Tango, and the ambiguously named Outer Regions each have nine stages of progressive length and difficulty. Three levels of difficulty can also be selected at the beginning of the game. However, it should be noted that you can only finish the game on normal or hard; easy level games can only select the Bravo sector.
Whatever setting you pick, it soon becomes apparent that Raptor isn't your average space shooter. Even the early stages are marked by wave after wave of enemy fighters lobbing shots at your fighter. It's impossible to kill and destroy everything, so learning how to dodge is imperative.
Also, unlike a lot of other shooters, one shot isn't fatal to your ship. A long life meter on the right side of the screen is drained with each hit taken. Thankfully, the meter can be replenished, either by buying more energy cells and extra shields, or allowing it to slowly recharge by holding your fire.
Enemy ships are just as resilient though. Direct hits from your missiles or steady machine gun fire is needed to destroy even the most basic ships. The more advanced cruisers and battleships take repeated shots and blasts to fell, while level bosses are literally flying fortresses of doom.
For each ship you destroy, you receive a certain amount of cash. This encourages you to keep shooting instead of laying in the wheeze, waiting for your shields to fully recover. The larger the ship destroyed, the larger the reward. Cash is also awarded for laying waste to the many buildings and silos that you'll come across in your missions. This option is particularly attractive, since buildings can't fire back...
As you can probably guess, money is at the heart of everything in Raptor. Indeed, it's a strange microcosm of life contained inside of a computer game. Money is used to recharge your energy cells and to buy newer, shinier equipment. Chief among this equipment are various types of missiles, which make up the bulk of the attack.
Unfortunately, there never seems to be enough money around. Without the option of playing any training or test missions, you must make do with what you earn from regular flights, or from what you can pawn at the supply shop. It's very easy to become ''boxed in'' between stages. You can't replay past stages (unless you've completely beaten all nine stages of a level) but you can't defeat the next stage either. Being cut off from the better equipment, especially the auto-aim cannons vital for survival in the later stages, due to a lack of cash, makes Raptor even more difficult.
Until you get to a point where the difficulty handcuffs you, Raptor is a blast to play. However, the fun soon blends into frustration when you're forced to replay later stages over and over and over again. Allowing the player to play the entire game on easy would have been a much better course of action.
The presentation values of Raptor are superb for the time frame involved. A gritty feel is portrayed by the graphics, and especially the lighting. The terrain and ships are full of dark, dismal colors, fitting the apocalyptic setting of the game perfectly. Explosions are impressive, whether it's a fireball from a small fighter or a large scale chain reaction from an imploding toxic waste dump.
There is one gameplay issue with the graphics though. While there's no slowdown at all, an important aspect of any shooter, sometimes the screen becomes far too cluttered. It becomes far too hard to dodge and shoot ships through clouds of soot from resulting explosions. However, it can be dealt with.
Raptor was one of the first games to take full advantage of Sound blaster technology. Booming explosions and metallic machine gun blasts are constants, blaring over the game's somewhat pedestrian midi theme in the background. While playing, you really are stuck by how powerful the sound effects involved are, especially when in comparison to other games of the era.
Give Raptor a try. It can be found for a pittance in bargain bins of old software, and a shareware version is also available for download. If you can handle it, Raptor provides satisfying fun, although for how long will you be able to handle it is a very good question.
Community review by sgreenwell (August 28, 2002)
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