We've always had fond memories of Capcom's Strider, but the character and franchise have been relegated to guest appearances in several games instead of garnering a whole new entry. That changes next year when Strider returns in full high-definition for both Xbox and PlayStation consoles and the PC. We got to spend some time with an early build of Strider at New York Comic Con, and were impressed with the modern take on the classic series.
Developed by Double Helix (the same team behind the Xbox One's Killer Instinct reboot), Strider brings back protagonist Hiryu for another side-scrolling adventure in Kazakh City. The Russian inspiration that permeated the original is present almost immediately in this latest take, with Hiryu dropping in on a military complex hidden in the snow covered mountains. However, unlike its predecessor, this Strider offers a bit more variety and versatility in its level design, offering multiple paths to explore. There's a definite Metroid-vania vibe, but the fast-paced action around every corner kept us interested as we navigated though the various corridors.
Slicing and dicing up enemies is where Strider draws its strength, and the combat is fast, fresh, and easy-to-learn. There are nuances to explore for those looking for a bit more depth, but anyone should be able to pick up and start playing with ease. In our time with Strider, we uncovered a handful of power-ups, including a charge attack and a slide attack, which not only aided in combat, but exploration of the level as well. Vents or doors that were previously unaccessible bent to our will when we returned with the upgrades.
Enemy variation wasn't all that impressive on just this one level, but it's something we're willing to overlook considering it was just a demo. We encountered only a few variations on the same robot soldier, with a slightly more powerful and agile soldier waiting towards the end of the trial. Getting attack patterns down is going to be key if you want to survive against tougher troops, though the low-level grunts were easily dismissed with a hack here and a slash there. As it was an introductory level, we're not all that surprised with how simple it was to complete. While the rest of Strider remains a mystery at this point, our past experience with the series gives us a good indication of the challenge waiting in later levels.
What impressed us most about Strider was the presentation. The score is appropriately rocking, the animations are incredibly smooth, and the stages themselves offer plenty of eye-candy. With the foreground darkened, it really helped the colors pop on characters and in the stage design in the distance. Seeing Hiryu's scarf blowing in the wind or as he ran brought back fond memories of the arcade classic, and had us instantly pining for the final full version. We played on the PlayStation 3, so we can't say exactly what kind of improvements the next-gen consoles will have visually, but even the current-gen version looks great so far.
Strider will be out in 2014 on the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC.