PS2 Review: Rebel Raiders - Operation Nighthawk

Rebel Raiders doesn't try to be anything more than what it is: a budget title. This small $20 flight game makes up its own physics, gameplay mechanics, and cheap story to provide quick, tight arcade action. Unfortunately, its budget gets in the way of forcing out the repetitiveness, unavoidable bland graphics, and total lack of multi-player.

Rebel Raiders barely even qualifies to land itself (pun intended) in the same genre as Ace Combat or Crimson Skies. It has more in common with 16-bit shooters than anything else. Planes can reload weapons with the press of a button, eight missiles can be launched at any locked on target (and they dish out damage with a precise accuracy never before seen in a flight game), and machine guns prove deadly to anyone who gets in the line of fire.

Altitude meters, radar, and wingman control isn't important to Rebel Raiders. That stuff clogs up the shooting. You don't even need to worry about ramming yourself full force into a mountain. Worst case scenario only has you losing a few points off your shields, which are replenished by taking down any enemy. Missiles don't even need to be outmaneuvered. You'll need to roll out of the way when they gain speed (by watching the trail behind them), and this is generous.

Taking down air targets is not a problem. Ground targets are nearly impossible. Since your missiles don't lock on, you'll need to get in close to deal damage, and that leads to a lot of lost shield energy. It's around this time you realize how awful the graphics are, complete with needlepoint mountains, horrible textures, and pasted sky.

Even with its flaws, Rebel Raiders does provide some excitement. Barreling through a canyon at full throttle, taking down multiple foes with a single blast of rockets, and not having to worry about smashing into a wall is unbelievably satisfying. What happens here is repetition.

None of the missions feel different from the next. When one set of enemies goes down, the next one appears. The tiny variety of opponents (you can count them on one hand), complete lack of AI (they follow patterns, not an escape route), and repeating environments are all unforgivable flaws, especially when combined with a length of only a few hours.

Fans of shooters might find something here to enjoy. The feel of turning on a dime, unique evasion, and total focus on blowing things up are all reminiscent of the games we used to play. As a quick overnight rental to play through the first few missions (you'll see it all by that point), this is worth giving a go. Anything longer only exposes everything it does wrong.

(** out of *****)

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