The Velocity series is one with humble beginnings,starting as it did as a PS mini shoot ’em up. The leap from the PSP to the PS Vita with Velocity Ultra brought with it a graphical overhaul, but kept near identical gameplay with some minor alterations to the controls, yet was a remake rather than a sequel. Is Velocity 2X the sequel the original deserves?
In many ways, it picks up exactly where the first game left off. Through a handful of brief flashback levels, it recaps the events of that led to Lt. Kai Tana being flung halfway across the galaxy and how she came to be cybernetically augmented. The story is a fairly simple on, as she breaks from captivity in the Vokh empire with the help of Hjun Ralan III, a member of their Jintindan slaves.
Their partnership is depicted by text discussions interspersed with a great number of gorgeous pieces of artwork, and it quite pleasingly shows a fast growing friendship in the face of adversity. The counterpoint is the snark and sass that Kai exhibits in her interactions with the game’s primary antagonist, General Glaive. It might not be a story that will win awards, but it put a smile on my face, that’s for sure.
The game’s true focus, just as before, is on the gameplay, and it very quickly lets you get to grips or reacquaint yourself with the Quarp Jet’s movement, the accelerated scroll rate and the short range teleporter. However, it’s also quick to introduce the big new addition, that Kai can now step out of her space ship and run along the corridors of buildings on alien planets.
In giving her the ability to do so, FuturLab faced the problem of translating the ultra-slick Quarp Jet controls to controlling a human being, but have done so with aplomb. It’s difficult to describe, but even as they’ve moved the primary weapon from a face button to allow for 360º of firing on foot and taken away the imperative of an ever-scrolling screen, 2X manages to keep the essence and feel of Velocity’s controls when Kai’s on foot and they push you into a quite different scenario.
2X The Platforms
- Switching between PS4 and PS Vita is pretty easy, thanks to Cross-save. It’s not seamless, but through prompts and menu options, you can quickly move your progress between the two platforms. The controls are near identical between the two, but the Vita does have the advantage of using the touchpad for short teleportation in the Quarp Jet, although directing your on foot Telepod throws with the tiny analogue stick is appreciably more fiddly.
A key part to this has been the manner in which the Teledash has been implemented. Its ship-based analogue lets you move a teleport cursor around anywhere on screen – or on the Vita, tap anywhere on screen – allowing you to hop from one space to another in the blink of an eye, but on foot it’s at a set distance and in only one of four directions. Initially it’s there to help you pass through walls, but you quickly learn that it can also greatly speed up the rate at which you move through the levels, before it’s turned to depleting the shields of Vokh guards as you Teledash through them before opening fire, and ever more intricate manoeuvres in tandem with the throwable Telepod.
The manner in which the use of the Teledash evolves through the 50 missions epitomises the overall difficulty curve of the game. As someone that completed and mastered Velocity, it was admittedly quite odd to have my favourite toys withheld from me and be breezing through fairly simplistic levels. The difficulty ramps up very gradually, introducing one new element here, another there and always building up to the point around 2/3rds of the way in at which you feel like you’ve got everything under control. There’s more surprises waiting for you though, as the game design really opens out and lets you see what it’s been preparing you for all along.
The Long Range Teleport once again comes to the fore as the level design becomes ever more intricate and complex. Rather than providing you with a simple fork in the road, so that you have two avenues to explore and two sets of switches to trigger before you can progress to the level end, it starts to see you doubling back, calling up the level map – thankfully freezing time – to look for which part of the sprawling map you need to visit next, what areas have been unlocked and so forth. A neat trick is that you can teleport from being on foot to being in the Quarp Jet and vice versa, saving precious seconds as you race against the clock.
Admittedly, the overall time limits on each level are really very generous, giving you ample time to go round at a snail’s pace if you want to, but the game is all about pushing yourself to beat the time for a gold rating while also collecting all of the Jintindan cryopods and the Rekenium crystals, all without dying to get the Perfect rating. It all adds up to a score which is added to the online leaderboards, where it can be particularly compelling to aim for one of the top spots, or at least best your friends and send them direct challenges.
Managing to put together a perfect run gets much trickier as you progress, as you get much narrower windows in which to get Teledash and avoid certain death, or maybe it’s through pushing yourself with the accelerated scroll speed that you crash into a forcefield and respawn, losing precious seconds and, of course, your shot at perfection. The enemies that you face aren’t particularly smart – it’s a shoot ’em up, after all – but come to flood the screen with fire or, on foot, the Vokh guards might only have one attack, but can easily catch you out if you mistime your moves.
Then there are those encounters with General Glaive, the boss fights of the game and another addition compared to the original. Again, there’s a sense of inventiveness to how they work throughout the game, staring off a fairly straightforward shooting battles, but morphing into little puzzles for you to figure out, as you break through Glaive’s shielding and even head inside the ship to deal damage on foot.
It’s often very hectic and demands absolute concentration for minutes at a time, as you try to breeze through the levels, so it’s easy to gloss over just how gorgeous the game looks. Velocity Ultra’s particular aesthetic has only been improved upon and refined, as they now visit alien worlds and get greater variety in the backdrops to the action.
Regardless of whether you’re playing on PS4 or PS Vita – both at a rock solid 60 frames per second – it’s all made to feel so much more vibrant thanks to the vastly improved lighting, with bloom and lens flare everywhere. It could be the twinkle of lights in the backdrop, the lightning effects as you break up Rekenium shards or the plethora of generated particles, halos and more that make up each and every explosion. In tandem with the art exhibited during cutscenes, it’s a finely tuned approach that, to my eye, can stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Rayman Legends and Child of Light.
It would also be remiss of me not to mention at least in passing the soundtrack which saw Joris de Man and James Marsden collaborating once more and, as with so many parts of Velocity 2X, takes what was there before and builds upon it greatly.
Velocity 2X delivers another dose of pitch perfect shoot ’em up gameplay, but refuses the rest on the laurels of its predecessor. Taking Kai out of her Quarp Jet opens up whole other avenues for the gameplay that only gets better and better as you progress, with every other part of the game lavished with further polish and refinement. I can only think to echo the sentiment and the score that we awarded the original.