Coming from Headup Games is an intriguing prospect – a side scrolling shoot-em-up that promises to mix old skool action with modern, 3D style graphics. Now, I like a shmup as much as the next man, and so was very interested to play Rigid Force Redux, if only to see if it could live up to the hype. So, come with me to a world of aliens, action and asskickery as we try to take down the evil that is infecting the galaxy. It’s time to get Rigid! Wait, what?
Apart from the Carry On worthy title of Rigid Force Redux, the rest of the action is pretty much as you would expect. There is a tutorial to learn the ropes, then a story mode to play through. The story is actually pretty coherent, which is always a bonus in these types of games. I mean, it’s not going to give the likes of the Final Fantasy franchise any sleepless nights, but it hangs together and is presented well by the ship’s AI, doing a good job of explaining why we’re actually fighting. The voice-over work is also very good, as is the music – something which is worthy of special mention. Described as “an electrifying Synthwave soundtrack”, the tunes in Rigid are great, fitting the action perfectly. Fast, pumping, and urgent, these and many other furious adjectives can be applied to the music on offer, and this does help to raise the shooting experience to a new level.
Speaking of the shooting experience, this is the real star of the show. As you go through the levels and shoot things, you will gain power-ups and energy from defeated enemies. So far, so shmup cliche, right? Well, it’s what these power-ups do that I found most interesting. First off, there are two types to collect: the first adds extra turrets to your craft, to a maximum of four. This is where the real fun begins, as with a swift prod of LB or RB, the turrets can be reconfigured, moving from the front of the craft, where they ensure maximum firepower, all the way to having all four turrets firing backwards and only the main gun firing forwards. The optimal position in my eyes requires just the one press of LB, which sees the turrets arranged above and below the craft, but all firing forward. This setup enables screens full of foes to be dispatched with the utmost efficiency.
The second type of power-up changes the way the weapons fire, from standard “Fire in a straight line, blue laser of death” to “Bounce around the screen green bullets – also of death”, taking in a three way spread along the way. The green bullets soon become a firm favourite, as the way the rounds bounce means that nothing can survive, and especially in a narrow space the enemies are cut to ribbons. This weapon type is also good for the bosses, so if you get the green power-up, my pro tip is to hang on to it, avoiding other power-ups if need be.
The other thing to collect is energy, which defeated enemies drop. This energy powers the ship’s two special abilities; a super powerful spread of bullets, or a blade that can cancel out the incoming enemy bullets. Holding down RT will allow your ship to suck in this energy from an extended range, but has the side effect of making the ship slower to manoeuvre. You will most certainly need to use it wisely.
The levels look great, and Rigid Force Redux is never short of things to shoot and avoid. All the scenery hurts too; avoid contact with the background at all times, as if your ship is destroyed, you drop all the power-ups, and it is usually quite tricky to pick them up again. I’m not sure why this is, but whether it’s because the new ship is flashing to signify the fact that it is invulnerable temporarily or because the game wants to ruin your day, I don’t know. It just doesn’t make it easy when flying over the power-ups to reacquire them. However, this annoyance aside, the shooting action here is top class, with long levels, multiple routes to navigate, and a separate boss area after each of the six levels. Add in some challenging mid-level bosses and all the shmup tick boxes are filled in. The design of the enemies is also first rate, with different worlds having a variety of creatures to attack and kill.
Completing each level not only allows you to move on the next, but it also unlocks the stage in Arcade mode, letting you play through it again. So, not only can you play each level as part of the story, you can then replay it with a score chasing mechanic added, and also with little extras like men in spacesuits to rescue, like in Sky Force Reloaded. The score multiplier can reach ridiculous levels if you keep killing, with up to a 128X multiplier possible. It decays fast if you don’t shoot things though, so for the best scores you’ll need to plan your attacks carefully. Keeping track of your position in the world is allowed with the inclusion of leaderboards too.
Finishing all six levels and defeating all the bosses in the Story mode unlocks the final mode, Boss Rush. As you may have guessed, this involves you squaring off against all the bosses from the game, attempting to defeat them all. This is a timed mode, and with an achievement for completing Boss Rush in under six minutes, it will also keep you busy long after the game is completed. Add to this three difficulty levels, and you can see that there is no shortage of content.
What there is a shortage of, sadly, is polish. I’ve had weird graphical glitches, where using the energy attract function would see the ship becoming alternately visible, then hidden behind a big black fuzzy panel. I’ve been killed, then respawned inside the mid-level boss, unable to escape until I’ve died again, and as I’ve mentioned above, picking power-ups back up is harder than it should be.
In conclusion, Rigid Force Redux on Xbox One is a great shmup with some superb ideas that are only let down by a lack of technical polish. The issues have never been enough to stop me playing, and bucking the trend for shooters lately, the achievement is a real challenge. With a bit more care, a bit more testing, this could have been a real contender for one of the best shooters of the year, but the annoyances, while not game breaking, do add a slightly bitter taste to proceedings. Rigid Force Redux is a good game, that so easily could have been great.