Review: Corsair

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I have a few gaming regrets. One of those is my neglect of space shooters. I didn’t really get into the genre until I was much older, when the multidirectional dual-stick shooter became the main means of play. I blame the lack of old-school space shooters in my life on the coin-sucking arcade machines that I played as a young boy. Space Invaders is cool until you spend two bucks and realize you’ve only clawed and scraped past the third level.

Corsair is an Xbox LIVE Community Games title that I’ve recently had a chance to play. It borrows from the old school and neglects the new school kick of games like Geometry Wars. It doesn’t quite have the bite and it definitely doesn’t have a nice control scheme.

But I won’t go too far into that here. Hit the break for the review.

Corsair (Xbox 360 Community Games)
Developer: Centurion Games
Released: February 20, 2009
MSRP: 400 Microsoft Points
Read more about our Community Games Review Challenge

Corsair is a simple and crummy space shooter that you could live without playing. Here’s the deal, people: love them or hate them, good dual-stick, multidirectional shooters provide effortless control that translates to slick maneuverability and precise shooting. Corsair is not a dual-stick shooter and the developers have done nothing to bring either of the two landmark elements to the forefront. As a result, the game suffers greatly.

So, let’s talk about control. I’ve been playing Corsair for roughly six to seven hours, and I still can’t move my little space ship around effectively or predictably. The game has a momentum system where your ship floats in the direction it received its last thrust. I believe the controls are inverted — I can’t tell because it’s such a mess — and as a result, you’ll find yourself spinning wildly out of control, endlessly floating or plunking into the edges of the screen (which, of course, rebounds you relentlessly until you regain some modicum of control over your ship). Even after you get used to the directional control, you’ll still find yourself fighting with the all-too-powerful thrusts. This is because of two reasons: (1) the perimeter of play is terribly confined, and (2) a massive space ship clogs the center of the screen.

Corsair has two modes of play. The first, “Corsair” mode, is what I’m referring to above. The objective is to kill a hulking spacecraft (dubbed a Decimator) in the center of the screen that relentlessly fires at you and the three other space ships attempting to destroy it.

In “Corsair,” you begin by spawning in the corner of the map. At this point you want to get moving because the massive space ship doesn’t wait to fill the screen with bullets that look like peas — or, roughly, the size of your ship. Three other AI-controlled vehicles spawn in opposite corners. The objective is clear, but performing well is certainly a difficult task, thanks to the dastardly controls. The AI (which you can trade out for buddies if you can trick them into playing the game) is quite sharp, so you’ll pass many a mission without doing much damage to the ship.

Level progression happens even when you lose a battle, but really, things just stay the same. Fights take place on planets. After each skirmish, you move to the next planet. Everything looks the same and the action never changes.

What does shake the experience up, though, is the second mode of play, called “Decimator.” In this one, you control the mammoth ship that clogs the screen. The objective changes to killing the four AI spacecraft that spawn in the corners of each little area. You get complete control of the turrets and a bit of movement (with the right analog stick, ironically). This mode is by far the more fun experience; however, it’s still crippled by moronic control options. The turrets are controlled by numerous buttons on the controller and directed by the left analog stick. It’s loose and abides by the same fumbly rules of spacecraft direction.

I don’t want to take too much away from Corsair — it looks decent by Community Games standards and the soundtrack isn’t the most annoying I’ve heard. Plus, the multiplayer options are fairly robust. However, the good aspects are ultimately crushed by the horrendous controls, boring level design, and redundancies. Definitely look to sink your coin into something else.

Score: 2 — Bad (2s are a disaster. Any good they might have had are quickly swallowed up by glitches, poor design choices or a plethora of other issues. The desperate or the gullible may find a glimmer of fun hidden somewhere in the pit.)

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