Fast-paced. Ferocious. Fun.
In an industry where the correlation between game length and overall quality is an ongoing topic of debate, Luftrausers shoots down this stigma (pun intended) with its combination of progression and relentlessly-frenetic gameplay.
Based in an era we can assume to be around World War II, you take control of a German dogfighter and you’re instantly thrown into the uncompromising action. The 2D old-school-style visuals and arcade shooter gameplay has drawn much inspiration from the retro classic Asteroids. If you’re like me and find yourself in a bind explaining the game to a friend – call it Asteroids on crack.
If your enjoyment stems largely from pretty visuals and entertaining storylines, this mightn’t be the game for you. Luftrausers is intense, fast-paced and surprisingly deep – you’ll die over and over again, but just like the games of old you’ll do it all again in an attempt to better your last effort. It’s an incredibly addictive game in its own right, yet its achievements and unlockables further add to the charm and provide a sense of progression typically not found in arcade-inspired games.
Throughout the game, you’ll come across over 125 combinations of weapons, body kits and engines to unlock and use. Whether you want to spray enemies with a machinegun, blow them to smithereens with a laser beam or blast them with cluster rockets, there’s a huge variety of offensive options to choose from.
Body kits will typically increase your health at the expense of movement, while engines will allow you to fly faster but decrease handling. To access these unlocks, though, you must either level up or complete achievements. Each achievement must usually be completed five or so times before they’re unlocked, too – though it’s never made to feel like a chore.
Rarely do we see a game built upon such simplicity actually provide and successfully implement a diverse range of tactics.
It’s this deep sense of progression and achievement that sets Luftrausers apart. Being able to play the game in your own way hugely adds to the replayability factor. You can choose to rely on your weapons and go in all guns blazing, stack armour and kamikaze into other planes or use speed to bait and evade enemies – it’s all down to personal preference. Rarely do we see a game built upon such simplicity actually provide and successfully implement a diverse range of tactics.
We see far too many developers these days (especially multiplayer) try to cram in as much content as possible to improve the quality of their game when in reality it’s an unnecessary overload and becomes a hindrance to the player experience. Luftrausers knows what it wants to be. Mechanically, it’s almost as simple a game as you’ll ever find. Fly around and shoot ships and planes while avoid death yourself.
However, as the game’s difficulty ramps up so too does its reliance on player intuition. When you unlock new equipment achievements will usually follow, and to further progress many will require (and subtly encourage) you to use your newfound weapon/armour/engine. Not only does this play on our sense of fulfilment, but allows us to discover new ways to devastate enemies.
While I played Luftrausers on the PlayStation 3 and enjoyed it immensely, I feel its true home is on the PlayStation Vita. Not only is it the perfect example of a title you can pick up and play at any time, but its fast-paced nature also suits short-burst sessions. Don’t let that take anything away from the PS3 or PC versions, though – there’s plenty of fun to be had.
In terms of faults within the game, most are trivial. Of course, being a 2D arcade shooter, you’re fighting the same battles over and over again. Inherently, there will be people who, due to this, will find the game tedious. On top of this, while I praise the amount of unlockable content, a lot of it is almost instantly redundant. You’ll know from the get-go the way you want to attack each mission and which weapons you want to use. In saying that, though redundant, it’s still nice to be rewarded for sticking with the game.
The Final Verdict
For $9.99 on Steam and $13.25 on the PlayStation Store (Australian dollars), you really can’t go wrong with Luftrausers. It’s a perfect fit for the Vita and holds up just as well on consoles, too. If you’re looking for some old-school, arcade-inspired frenetic action, look no further. With its challenging gameplay, vast variety of unlockable content and more-than-reasonable price point, Luftrausers will have you enthralled (while tearing your hair out) for hours on end.