RACING INTO THE BIG LEAGUES
A month before it had even been released, FuturLab made a bold claim that their title Velocity 2X is the game of the year. The article went on to focus on how Velocity 2X exemplifies the categories for a game of the year nomination: “best-in-class for audio, graphics, gameplay quality & production value.” To my delight and amusement, I am glad to report that Velocity 2X meets the high bar they set for themselves — FuturLab has made a game that rivals the likes of Housemarque’s Resogun for best arcade game on PlayStation consoles.
As in any arcade title, gameplay is the key component in making an excellent game. Luckily, Velocity 2X, as a sequel to Velocity Ultra, makes major improvements to the formula while keeping the core of the title untouched. FuturLab knows “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Velocity Ultra has been praised by nearly all critics for its fast-paced, high-octane, precision-based space fights. However, instead of focusing solely on space gameplay, half of all levels are spent on foot in side-scrolling segments.
While Velocity 2X nails gameplay, the inclusion of the “Long Form Teleport” does considerable damage to every stage after Level 17. The mechanic, which helps players backtrack through both sides of forked paths, tends to substantially break up the momentum of the player. Often, players aren’t given any direction about which path to take first, making the formula more trial-and-error than skill-based. To make it worse, when tasked to toss Telepods through obstacles, the throwing mechanic seems hit or miss. While most of the issues are alleviated with subsequent playthroughs, it is a minor blight on an otherwise pristine system.
Thanks to the heroine’s, Kai Tana’s, ability to teleport and sprint (due to alien body modification), each side-scrolling segment is just as speed-based as the space missions. What’s even better is there is a seamless transition between the modes — while players will constantly feel frustrated by the game, it will never be due to the rock-solid gameplay.
What exactly do I mean that this game generates frustration? Let me put it plainly — within the eight hours I’ve played , I have reset stages nearly 440 times. While the game is not hard to complete if you are shooting for the minimum requirements, Velocity 2X encourages you to aim for higher scores and rankings on each level. In order to land a “PERFECT” rating, players have to save every ally, destroy every object in the level, collect every Rekenium shard, and get through the level in breakneck speeds, all without losing a single life. However, don’t be discouraged — this is a good type of frustration. The game is accessible (and beatable) to anyone, however poses a much deeper challenge to those looking to take it.
Additionally, Velocity 2X constantly ramps up throughout the game, bringing either a higher difficulty or new mechanics with every level. Though each of the 50 levels consists of the same formula of warping, shooting, and running to the end point, nothing ever feels recycled; upgrades come often and bosses help to break up the monotony.
Apart from the gameplay, FuturLab’s new focus on the female protagonist is refreshing. While I couldn’t tell you anything about Velocity Ultra’s story, I’m going to be hard-pressed to forget Kai’s gung-ho, violence-oriented attitude. While the story helped to add some comedic breaks in between the action, a more central plotline would help elevate the title.
On top of that, the future-themed artstyle and backgrounds really help tie the entire package together, not to mention, the music is top notch. While the sound design never really deviates from upbeat techno, it perfectly matches the speed-themed title.
The game will most likely take players anywhere from three to five hours to beat — however, if a player is motivated to grab “PERFECT” ratings or high score chase, they will be busy for far longer.
The Verdict: 8.8 out of 10
While many AAA behemoths loom on the horizon,Velocity 2X stands alongside the likes of Mario Kart 8, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Shovel Knight as a nominee for game of the year. FuturLab has managed to expertly merge classic Velocity gameplay with new side-scrolling elements to make one of the tightest arcade games for this (or any) generation. While there are some very minor issues with the formula and controls, the sheer value and addictive nature behind Velocity 2X marks it as the last great summer hit this year.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Lou Contaldi is MONG’s Executive Editor. In his off time, he enjoys being aggressively mediocre at Hearthstone. You can follow his incoherent ramblings at Twitter.
This review is based on a game that was independently purchased through PlayStation Plus’ Instant Game Collection. The reviewer has played 8 hours on this title, and may or may not be exhibiting signs of arthritis.