Strike Vector EX is a fast paced flight combat game that pretty much feels like you’ve brought an arcade cabinet right into your living room. From the dogfighting to the near sensory overload of information, it really makes me feel like I should have some coins on hand in case I need to continue.
The game is out right now on the Playstation 4. It’s an updated version of a PC title from 2014. In most cases, a game like this would be little more than a curiosity but as I played it, I realised that it perfectly understood what it takes to feel like an arcade game. First off, there’s the actual gameplay itself.
The entire play experience maintains a consistently fast tempo, full of swooping dives and constant switching between two different modes. In one, you function like a fighter jet. In the other, you’re something of a mech suit. Swapping between modes allows you to alter trajectories and quickly face enemies. The game asks you to manage a lot; health, ammo, enemy position, which mode you’re in, pilot chatter and special abilities. The sensory overload really does make me feel like I’m in the middle of an arcade. The thing that really brings it all together is the UI.
Left: Strike Vector EX. Right: Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram
The above image illustrates this. The world of Strike Vector EX has the facade of a simulation game; the presentation sometimes shifts to a grittier and darker world. The UI itself tells a different story. It’s informative but it’s also eye catching. At peak moments, a large number of indicators are on screen. I immediately thought of other pseudo simulation games like Virutal On. A game like Virtual On Oratorio Tangram tries to capture a sense for piloting a robot much like Strike Vector Ex captures what we might imagine the experience of flying a future jet fighter could be.
Current trends in UI design tend towards a crisp minimalism. Games like Destiny and No Man’s Sky take great steps to keep everything clean. Cleanliness seems antithetical to the flash and spectacle of the arcade. It sounds odd to say, but I think the fact that Strike Vector EX’s UI can get hectic and overwhelming might be its most endearing characteristic. The little things add up in games and Strike Vector EX manages to capture the feeling of an arcade game by making sure the small things are juuust right.