Friday, December 17, 2010

Raptor: Call of the shadows

The title screen, which will be better recognised
than the box art
'Raptor: call of the shadows' is a 2D side scroll shooter released by Apogee in 1994. The game featured you as a jetfighter flying mercenary against hordes and hordes of other planes, tanks and other weirdly shaped ground units that obviously don't want you flying around there.

I just recently bought Raptor: call of the shadows for PC from GOG, but I played this game way back when I was just a kid in elementary school. Apogee took a market model to distribute Raptor just as they did with Commander Keen and Duke Nukem, release the first episode for free and sell the other two to the user if he wants more. It's like most games nowadays with DLC, only you got the thing that made you buy more for free!

As is with every game I write about here, I didn't play it as the programmers intended. The programmers were very smart by putting a failsafe in the game that if you quit a level halfway through, you'd lose all your money earned in that level and your shield would be as damaged as it was when you hit escape. Marvelous! But the same went for your never-depleting weapons. Usually free weapons were given so far into the level that it didn't pay off to fly to it, pick it up and sell it again. There is just one level where you get a very expensive rocket pack at the beginning and then you suddenly have a 20 second loop that gives you endless money. (It's Bravo Sector wave 6, if you are interested) When I played it way back with a friend we took half an hour exploiting the loop, selling the rockets and then buying all but the most expensive weapons in the store. The dreaded pulse cannon was enough for us.

Now you can also cheat without the money loop. If you make sure you have an arsenal of a lot of rockets which have a high reload time you can also exploit what I like to call 'the switch glitch'. If you switch from one rocket to the other the reload time for that rocket is counted different from the other rockets. If you constantly switch rockets you can fire a rocket, loop through all other rockets whilst firing them and you are back at your initial rocket when its reload time is over. A sane person would look for a gamepad with turbo-function using auto-fire for the fire button and set the turbo to switching. Me and my friend, being kids with not enough money to even buy the full game, let one of us fly whilst the other shot and switched weapons.

Look, Maw! I'm fighting a building!
Note that even with exploiting these glitches, the game is still quite difficult. In the later levels the enemy acquires some kind of laser that can take a quarter of your shield out when hit and believe me, you won't see it coming. When I bought Raptor and GOG and played it I spent an two hours exploiting the money loop and buying the three most expensive weapons. The switch glitch isn't usefull with the new weapons I bought, because the reload time per weapon is so much shorter you'll eventually only slow the weapons down.

As was usual with these games, when you eventually do get through it it rewards you with the biggest reward possible: You may play it again! On a higher difficulty level! Here's the reaction of Mr Cricket:


Okay, that was not totally deserved. The fun in raptor is that when you set the difficulty level higher, you get to see never seen before enemies. I've only come as far as finishing medium (aka 'Rookie') difficulty, but the new enemies you get too see are already insane. My favourite is a ship that starts of big and then appears to have two massive jetfighter pods. You already have a 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!' feeling when it comes on screen, then it transforms to three ships whilst spamming you with loads of rockets. I can't get enough of seeing it and it's always a rewarding challenge to get revenge on that son of a heap of scrap metal.

So did Raptor age well? Yes. Even worse: I think it was (part of) the start of the style of modern games. This is where this post gets a sour note. Raptor is a great game, well balanced, still fun to play, but I don't like the art style. Granted: the enemies are awesome and the weapons you use to annihilate them with are even better, but it was also one of the first games to have that greyish feel in the graphics. At the time it was awesome, because this game took itself serious and was different from the rainbow colored gamesupply of that time. Being a breath of fresh air then, I blame it for having set the trend of the 'brown filter' we see in most games nowadays. The result was that after approximately 13 years of wondering how the other two episodes looked like, it was a let down to find out that it was just as grey as the one I'd played before. The level on the moon didn't even feel as exciting as I'd expect from that kind of level.

Don't let it get you down, though. The new enemies are still awesome, I was especially surprised by their new laser weapons. Though it might've sparked what I did not want, Raptor is one of those games you can play over and over without getting bored.

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