There’s No Shame In Dodging This Draft.
On paper, Galaxy Warfighter seems to have quite a bit going for it. Heavily inspired by classic horizontal shooters like Gradius and R-Type, it puts you in the cockpit of a heavily-armed starfighter on a mission to blast waves of enemy ships to twisted heaps of space junk. The game offers an impressive 100 stages of cosmic carnage to complete as you upgrade your craft with a wide assortment of new weapons and gadgets to help you overcome the alien menace.
If you’re a shooter fan like myself, then this game probably sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, not exactly. Despite developer Qplaze’s best efforts to aim for the stars with this retro-inspired shoot-’em-up, Galaxy Warfighter’s execution is anything but out of this world.
Intergalactic, planetary, planetary, intergalactic.
If you’ve ever played a space shooter released in the past three decades, then you’ll know what to expect from Galaxy Warfighter. The game puts players high above the stratosphere of alien worlds to battle waves of enemy ships with an assortment of weaponry. While you soar across the stars blasting baddies to bits, they’ll drop glowing green coins which you can collect and spend at your hangar to upgrade your ship’s armor, shields, weapons, and more. As you’d expect, each stage ends with a battle against a larger, more lethal boss enemy. Vanquish this threat, and you’re off to the next level to do it all over again.
Sure, this is all by the book. But Galaxy Warfighter does do a few things differently, for better or worse. For starters, there’s no fire button to speak of. From the moment you take control, your ship will be dishing out a constant volley of fire. With the whole “shooting” part of the shoot-’em-up equation being handled by the computer, your main goal is to simply cruise in front of the next cluster of ships that appears to collect the loot they drop when they explode. Power-ups will randomly appear, such as smart bombs or items that cause your ship to fire a single wave of bullets all around the screen, but you have to use them right away. This inability to stockpile your arsenal means typical genre conventions, like saving your bombs and heavy weaponry for boss encounters, are off the table in Galaxy Warfighter.
Then again, this is probably for the better, as the bosses in Galaxy Warfighter are total pushovers – especially once you begin to upgrade your ship’s gear.
In The Garage
Between stages, you can spend the mountains of cash you earn to improve your ship’s firepower and durability. These upgrades range from defensive gear like armor to increase the damage you can take and shields that intercept enemy fire, to more offensive tools like enhanced lasers and drones that fly alongside your craft and deal death to the enemy. There’s an undeniable sense of satisfaction that comes from upgrading your ship. However, there’s a tradeoff that comes with upping your arsenal; the game becomes incredibly easy.
You can obliterate formerly formidable foes almost as soon as they appear on the screen, even with modest upgrades to your craft. Needless to say, adding a half dozen heavily-armed drones, a near bottomless supply of hit points, and the ability to stop time to the mix doesn’t exactly give your enemies a fighting chance.
Given more varied bosses and enemy types to keep the action fresh, this could almost be forgivable. But that’s not the case with Galaxy Warfighter. Despite the game’s 100 levels, you’re going to be battling the same fleet of insipid spaceships and the same four (yes, you read that right) boss enemies throughout the game – which often repeat back to back.
Oh, and about those 100 stages that I keep mentioning. While that certainly sounds like a sizable number of locales to practice the art of star war, it’s a bit misleading as the same handful of backgrounds repeat to infinity and beyond. And in the off chance you die and have to restart the stage, more often than not, the environment will be entirely different than the one you just played. This lack of focus and consistency results is a game that feels as haphazardly cobbled together as its uninspired enemy placement and shot patterns.
The Banal Frontier
When it comes to presentation, Galaxy Warfighter leaves a lot to be desired. At first glance, the game’s sharp and colorful visuals are easy enough on the eyes. The problem is that they’re painfully unimaginative and pack all of the depth of a Colorforms set. To make matters worse, bosses are generally quite small and unimposing, lacking the kind of presence you’d expect from other games in the genre. Effects like explosions and laser fire don’t fare much better. They’re devoid of any sort of punch, which makes the moment to moment gameplay feel mostly weightless.
If you thought you’d be spared on the aural front, well, I’m sorry to say that’s not happening. If you thought Galaxy Warfighter’s meager selection of boss enemies was bad, you haven’t seen anything yet. Just wait until you hear the one song that makes up the game’s entire soundtrack. It’s a butt-rock riff that loops endlessly after what feels like considerably less than a minute. By the time you turn the game off, you’ll likely have acquired a newfound hatred for the guitar. Just disable the music in the options menu and turn on the Weather Channel for background noise. You’ll thank me later.
If it’s Fight Or Flight, I’ll Choose Flight.
As a big fan of the shoot-’em-up genre, I had my hopes up for Galaxy Warfighter. Unfortunately, the game just doesn’t do anything to hold the player’s attention. Truth be told, you can see everything the game has to offer in the time it takes to watch or read this review. For a quick-fix free-to-play mobile game, that might be acceptable. But for a title that’s currently going for $7.00 on the Switch eShop and Steam, that’s just inexcusable.
Nintendo’s hybrid console is home to countless spectacular shooters. Sadly, Galaxy Warfighter isn’t one of them. If you really want a budget-friendly, retro-style horizontal shoot-’em-up in your Switch collection, you’re much better off springing for Super Hydorah or Freedom Finger instead.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed) PC; Developer: Qplaze; Publisher: JoyBits; Players: 1; Released: April 16, 2020 ; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $6.99
Full disclosure: A review code was provided by the game’s publisher.