Vector Thrust Preview – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Vector Thrust Preview



Flying is one of those abilities none of us would actually mind having. Well, except for those who suffer from altitude sickness, I guess. Good thing is – planes exist, and stuff, so we can all just go ahead and get a pilot’s license! Oh, wait. No. No we can’t.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why flight simulators exist. To provide us shambling humans a fraction of the actual joy of flying a giant metal coffin at mind-boggling speeds. However, sim titles have a way of being terrifyingly complicated for a weekend flyer such as myself, and rarely feature planes with guns (everything is better with a gun plastered to it). So, setting true simulator-like experiences aside, we also have a more arcade take on the plane flying genre (?) – and this is where Vector Thrust fits in.

Few Early Access games have ever made me go: “Wow, this looks great.”, but Vector Thrust sure as hell is one of them. While I don’t usually begin the feature by talking about the game’s visuals, this particular title leaves a very good first impression and works it up from there. It’s quite simple, really. There’s a single person developing this game, and instead of trying to create hyper-realistic models of each and every airplane he could find, he decided to go cel-shaded. This way, each plane requires less detailed textures and geometry while still looking great, and the dev can focus on other things. Such as making it through the alpha stage of development, for example. Now, it’s quite a sight to witness cel-shaded dogfights, and they are the reason I ever took interest in Vector Thrust. You will also be pleased to hear that each aircraft is delightfully animated and they all react nicely to the player’s commands. Only several craft have rendered cockpits at the moment, however, so there’s that. The graphics do disappoint in one area, sadly, and that’s the way ground is textured. These textures may very well be weaponized, judging by their looks, and while I’m pretty sure the dev will replace them eventually, they mar the visual experience quite a bit as it currently stands.

Gameplay-wise, a bunch of missions are already available, but these consist of similar objectives. They do remain interesting for as long as you keep unlocking new craft in the Challenge mode, though. And I’m talking about the ever-increasing number of nearly 200 planes, where each vehicle differs at least a little bit from every other currently on offer. But we’ll get back to the planes themselves later on. When a mission starts, regardless of it being a campaign feature, a challenge or your own creation, you get a set of rules on how to accomplish the given objective. So you might have to bombard a military installation, intercept a pair of fighters on their way to ruin some politician’s day, assault an air convoy… you name it. The information is usually abundant, but the execution is where most players will fail for the first couple of times. Vector Thrust isn’t an easy game, despite the fact that it’s an arcade title and has only a couple of important controls to remember. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll have to ignore the on-board targeting solutions and just wing it (Ha!), as far as missiles go. Since numerous missions have you flanking the enemy craft, it will be difficult to determine when, where and towards what to launch the ordinance, so you’ll want to slip behind the bastards and fire only once you’re sure the missiles will be able to correct their routes properly. Low-caliber rounds are only viable at short range, and even then just barely, due to the speeds at which the craft fly. All in all, the aiming computer doesn’t really predict well so don’t rely on it too much until the dev gets the bugger fixed. Nevertheless, dogfights are fun, intense and will certainly keep you coming back for more. I enjoyed them more than I did the ones in, say, H.A.W.X., so there’s that.

Setting all of that aside, there is one thing that certainly sets this game apart from its older competitors. It’s the moddabilty – as the developer made Vector Thrust an easy-to-mod title where new missions can be created in-game, and new planes are easily introduced without much hassle. The modding community isn’t all that widespread just yet, but I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before people catch on. What we really need is a badass Batwing, so get on with it, mod-people.

Being an early alpha release, Vector Thrust needs lots of work before it becomes a fully developed title, but the basics are here to prove that the game definitely deserves our attention. If you’re looking for a new aircraft arcade to spend time with, Vector Thrust should be at the top of your list. Now we can only hope the developer manages to finish it up in due time.