Velocity Ultra – PC
Developer: Curve Studios
Release Date (NA): May 15, 2013
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
Reviewed by Malefico
Velocity Ultra, an HD remake of the award-winning Velocity, is a credit to its developers and deserving of the accolades it has received. In the grand tradition of Xevious, Soldier Blade, Raiden, and tons of others too numerous to mention, Velocity Ultra rewards the player with great graphics, smooth scrolling, and lightning-fast action.
In Velocity Ultra, you play the pilot of the Quarp Jet, a highly maneuverable spacecraft that can also teleport to any position on the screen. Armed with a rapid-fire cannon and bombs for the bad guys dug into the terrain, your job is to rescue pods full of survivors and eliminate waves of enemy ships and emplacements along the way.
Utilizing the keyboard/mouse configuration, I found Velocity Ultra relatively easy to play, but as I branch out into more different genres I can definitely see the benefit to getting a decent gamepad for use in games like this. During the faster parts of the game, when enemies filled the screen I fat-fingered buttons on numerous occasions. I can’t blame this on the controls, however, which respond fluidly and instantaneously to player input.
The cannon fires rapidly and the bombs go where you aim. The teleport function works well too – just hold down the right mouse button and put the destination cursor where you want it, then release. In addition, the player can up the scroll speed with Boost.
Each zone has set goals, whether to rescue survivors, destroy hostiles or both. You’re also constrained by a timer so you can’t dawdle. The game actually scrolls quite slowly at normal speeds, but Boost really increases the difficulty; some zones require you to use it all the way through the map, or you’ll run out of time and fail the mission.
The graphics are sharp, although the textures on the enemy ships could have been better. Velocity Ultra makes great use of color throughout, with different enemies easily distinguishable not only by shape but their color palette as well. The background terrain is also quite good with detailed and varied structures surrounding your Quarp Jet.
The use of dynamic lighting really makes for a colorful and intense visual experience. When you get into a pitched air and ground battle while you’re trying to jump around the screen rescuing survivor pods, the ambient lighting of your weapons, enemy weapons, and multiple explosions really gets wild.
In-game music is good and changes up often throughout the missions. The up-tempo score goes well with all the on-screen mayhem and definitely keeps you pumped to play the next zone.
The soundtrack matches the mood well. Edgy and up-tempo, it definitely keeps you pumped for the battles ahead, and changes often throughout the game. Rescue missions feature more subdued melodies while battle zones feature more driving rhythms. Overall, very satisfying.
As mentioned above, the gameplay is fast and fluid. The early maps help you get acclimated to the controls and weapons, including the special Quarp Jet abilities. One of the things I like most about Velocity Ultra is that it pays homage to classic shooter elements while introducing the teleport ability which really adds to the challenge and possibilities for level structure. It certainly makes for some interesting and daunting zones.
The developers have used this unique element to create puzzles within the level terrain. Very early on you have to use the teleport ability extensively to advance as structures literally wall you off and force you to jump to keep moving forward, lest you fall victim to the implacably approaching walls. The game also features destructible areas in the walls that allow you to free and rescue pods, and even more complex strategies are required as you progress through the zones.
An added element is the teleport pod. Once acquired they can be dropped from the Quarp Jet to take the player back to an earlier part of the map. This proves to be essential to the player’s progression, not just an interesting diversion.
Enemies are varied and attack often, and in increasing numbers. Although most of the formations and tactics are those you’ve seen before, keeping track of aerial and ground enemies while trying to anticipate the terrain and rescue survivors give you plenty to occupy your mind, you won’t fall asleep playing Velocity Ultra, that’s for sure.
In addition to survivor pods, you can hit power-ups to add more pulse streams to your cannon, but these seem to expire rather quickly unless you pick up more. You don’t get to keep the additional firepower for long in Velocity.
Your ship doesn’t blow up immediately due to enemy contact/fire, but it does take damage, which can be replenished with health pods. Your ship can also run into vertical or diagonal terrain with no ill effects. Getting trapped at the bottom by the horizontal walls means instant death.
The Bottom Line
Velocity Ultra starts relatively easy but quickly turns up the heat on players. Once you get into the mid to upper levels you’re fighting for your life all the way through. The difficulty scales well and the game never plunges you into a new situation without giving fair warning. The creditable controls and fast, fluid flight make for an arduous but achievable adventure through the pinched passageways and puzzles in your path (how’s that for assonance/consonance, folks?).
Velocity Ultra delivers the kind of fun shooter fans seek in a sleek and well-designed package. It offers plenty of firepower, a blistering pace and the unique Teleport element that adds a whole new dimension to this venerable genre.
If anything, with keyboard/mouse the game can become too fast.. The Quarp Jet is extremely agile, so you get the impression the game is crawling by at normal speed. When you hit the boost, the pace increases to frenetic and the craft’s nimble nature can actually be a hindrance. However, I can see where you need that kind of acrobatic capacity to handle the twists, turns, and deadly walls before you. I will say I died much more often due to walls than active enemies.
Like any shooter, replay value is limited as the maps don’t change. In addition, Velocity Ultra does not feature different levels of difficulty so once you beat the game, the only option is to remap the controls to connect Boost to a toggle button. Then the game goes from quite hard to insanely hard in short order.
If you’re a fan of scrolling shooters and don’t own Velocity Ultra, proceed immediately to the nearest purveyor of digital entertainment and grab a copy. It’s well worth the price and is available from the Futurlab site or Steam.
This game will be among the new classics of this genre and will no doubt influence other designs and spawn imitators. Until then, this update of the original is wholeheartedly satisfying.
Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10
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