Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Product Review: Nerf N-Strike: Elite!

Just in time for the holidays, I've been taking a look at Nerf N-Strike: Elite. This is a sequel to Nerf N-Strike, released back in 2008. It comes bundled with the Nerf Switchshot EX-3 blaster for approx. $59.99.

Well, before we take a look at the game let's look at the blaster. The first version was a yellow blaster, this time around the blaster is blue. It's still a pistol, and if you have a nitefinder it is roughly the same size. The plunger/barrel assembly is still removable to make space for the wii-mote in the shell, and yes that means if you feel like combining the parts to make a blue-yellow blaster, that's available too. There is also a new accessory, the Red Reveal, but that's more for the game than the actual performance of the blaster. Unmodded, I'd say it maybe gets about 20'. I haven't removed ARs or replaced the barrel on it yet, but it's pretty decent all the same.

Nerf Switchshot User Video from Video Ninjas on Vimeo.



Alright, the game. The first N-Strike game was kind of an on-the-rails-shooter and more a series of gallery shooting/puzzle games. It was alright, but lacking. The blasters were selected for you. The levels didn't really offer a lot of reason to go back, and unlocking stuff wasn't particularly earth shattering. No matter what blaster you did, all you had to do was point. Disregarding the outlandish story (we don't exactly expect Shakespeare in most rail shooters and House of the Dead I'm looking at you), the simplistic artwork, and the questionably-stereotypical ethnic characterizations of some of the characters, the havok-style physics of the puzzle levels, simple mechanics, and unlockable blasters (they were still unlockable!) made the game worth a go-through, even for me.

In the first game you assumed the role of Shane, a kid who beat an arcade game secretly designed to be an aptitude test for asskickery and earned a spot in the secret Nerf N-Strike force, a group of preadolescents who fight the good fight with a stash of top-secret Nerf blasters. He was recruited by B.O.B.(yes, 80s reference), a robot servant for the N-Strike program. Along the way, you competed against other kids: Raven, Komodo, Jackal, and Tango. Ultimately you took on B.O.B in a final showdown and stopped a Robot Uprising.

This new incarnation plays out a little differently. Gone is the static comic art, replaced with full 3D models of the characters. They're cartoonish, but the mouths move and thankfully they give the characters a bit more personality. Each character specializes in a special class of blaster; Shane has the rounded selection between shotgun-type blasters and a Nerf Recon, Tango specializes in heavy type blasters, including the Nerf Raider CS-35 and a huge RPG, Komodo is all about high ROF which includes a maverick, and Raven is the sniper with long-range blasters like the Longshot CS-6.

Each character with four blasters, each blaster is customizable in a variety of ways. ROF, Damage, color, ammo type, and magazine type are among the choices, so unlike the first game there is a vast number of ways to affect your gaming experience on multiple playthroughs. You have to shoot energy canisters during the course of each level in order to pay for the modifications (yes, internet community I mean YOU) so be warned, it will take some time to afford everything. And multiple playthroughs.

The interface is on-the rails shooter, point and shoot according to the crosshairs on the screen. You select the character you want to play, and you can cycle through your blasters using the d-pad on the wiimote. The A button activates a scope (if your blaster has it) and you reload by shaking the blaster. Don't let the presence of your comrades fool you though, the shooting is still all you. They won't cover your butt, but the voiceovers add a nice bit of humor through a level. The voice acting is decent, and I definitely laughed my fair share at the intentional jokes in the voice track.

A new addition from the first game is the red reveal. It's an attachment to the back of the blaster, and during certain parts of the game you flip up the little red screen to show against your tv. Certain colors come out against the red and you pick out the particular bits that show up, shooting them with your darts. The red reveal can also indicate weaknesses on the enemies you encounter, so kudos to EA for making it work and integrating it so well. I will admit, I tried a couple of times to see if I really needed the red reveal, and definitely did. Sometimes the shading is just too close to be sure. And if you don't get the puzzles right, be ready for a fresh volley of missiles to come after you.

Not gonna lie, I wish aiming was more like "Duck Hunt" and didn't require the crosshair to follow on the screen, but the blaster definitely doesn't lag and is appropriately responsive. And don't let the Nerf name fool you, there are three difficulty settings and on the highest one I am not afraid to admit I was yelling at the screen due to the difficult time I was having at certain points. Not because the blaster wasn't reading my shots, there were just so many dang enemies on the screen!

So is it worth it? I'm a fan of nerf blasters and a fan of shooters, so that's already a selling point for me there. As simple as this game is, it was still a lot of fun and between certain plot points the story's got a good "wtf" moment I didn't really see coming, mainly because I didn't expect that from a kid's game.

I had fun with it, and thankfully the game wasn't a rehash of the first, as sequels end up. There's a blasting range to test out other blasters, but no extensive puzzles like the last time. And if you get lonely bring along a friend or just use the 2nd player as an excuse to take on the robot horde with a blaster in each hand. And seriously, can you really go wrong with shooting hordes of robots? I don't think so.

I don't have a vidcap setup, but it looks like there's already plenty of video out there on the gameplay. Here's one from http://www.thesportsgamer.com



Give it a go, and when you're done blasting stuff indoors don't forget to reinsert the barrel assembly and play outside! Clearly, when choosing a way to play in and outdoors, it's Nerf... or nothin'.


- Stampede

Special thanks to my extra eyes, ChicagoJo and Crystal Burke!

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