Saturday, March 22, 2014

PC Spotlight #83: Luftrausers

Title: Luftrausers
Developer: Vlambeer
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS Vita
Price: $9.99
Luftrausers is not a dogfighting game. You may control a plane and you may be shooting down enemy fighters (and boats and blimps), but what Luftrausers really is frenzied aerial bullet hell chaos. But, in true Vlambeer fashion, what makes the game so good besides the action and stylized graphics, are the controls.
In Luftrausers, there is no such thing as downtime. You assemble your plane in the Hangar and then launch into unfriendly skies. It only takes a few seconds for the screen to become pure mayhem as battleships and fighters fill the sepia-hued air with bullets and aces swoop in behind you, and that's before the hulking projectile-spewing blimps appear. But even in the midst of the most hectic gauntlet, you are always in the control and that's the brilliance of Luftrausers.
It's one thing to weave between some bullets and return fire. It's another to swoop into a dive, deftly plummet through a hail storm of bullets, take out a battleship, and pull up so close that the water's surface is flared up by your thrusters. Or to maneuver your enemies into a tight cluster, cut your thrusters, and shoot the planes pursuing you while your momentum carries you in the other direction. Your plane is insanely maneuverable, able to turn on a dime, reach top speed in a moment. Realism isn't a factor here; it's pure arcade handling and it makes every close call, every elegant evasive maneuver feel so satisfying. Equally impressive is how diverse your plane combinations control and feel. Each part is useful in some fashion and each combination is wholly unique, with its own shape, name, and music. Equip the hover engine and cannonball and you can easily maintain a level altitude while raining explosive fury onto your enemies. With the water-proof engine, collision-proof body, and laser, you become a devastating master of air and sea, diving beneath the surface to evade bullets and flying through enemies like an unstoppable bullet. Completing missions unlocks new parts and other rewards, such as different color schemes and the hard-as-nails absolutely unforgiving SMFT mode. Normal mode at its most chaotic is child's play compared to what awaits in SMFT.
Luftrausers isn't the most complex game, but it's certainly one of the most addictive and satisfying I've played in a while. I'd say it's easily on par with One Finger Death Punch, in terms of delivering a simple experience that's laser focused on delivering stylish  finely-tuned gameplay. It's the kind of game where I'm instantly restarting upon defeat, to improve my skills, to complete missions and unlock new parts. You can purchase Luftrausers on Steam, Humble, and PSN.

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