Game review: Dead Star offers revamped old-school thrills and truly great online multiplayer

Think Space Invaders given a hi-tech makeover and you’re halfway there – but Space Invaders could never create such exciting online battles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 April, 2016, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 April, 2016, 1:00pm

Dead Star

Armature Studio

3.5/5 stars

Dead Star is currently free for PlayStation Plus members. I’m starting with that bit of info because it’s unlikely that, even after reading this review, you’ll ever end up buying it. That’s a little sad though, because it’s a fun little game, if not exactly as world-building or genre-spanning as the big-league entries that dominate the market.

Also available for the PC, Dead Star is a “shooter” in the most traditional sense, long before Doom and its future FPS buddies forever POV’d our perspective: this is arcade-style intergalactic combat, your little pew-pew spaceship taking on the universe. Think Space Invaders, but jacked up for modern times and pushed into the multiplayer world.

Players are armed with a future-cool variety of weapons, from fast-shooting lasers and missiles to begin with, all the way through to massive energy orbs and beasts of destruction as the game progresses. Upgrade options span an impressive range of ship types, and choosing the right vessel – from quick-moving speeders to tank-like frigates – is crucial to your success.

The key fight here occurs, as almost always in this genre, when two teams battle for control of a space station. Conquer the base and you win. Simple on the surface, but tactical underneath, as the limited range of your ship forces you to take a more strategic approach than the standard shoot-everything route.

And here’s where things get interesting: beat enough games in that Conquest mode and master its basic manoeuvring, and you unlock Escape Run. This allows you to commandeer a massive capital ship alongside three other online players, facing off against two smaller spacecraft in the online realm. The clever part? These are actually other Conquest games in progress – as in, you’re straight-up disturbing other multiplayer games and forcing them to team up against you. It’s a creative spin on classic online play, and some of the most thrilling fights I’ve encountered because of it.

Really old-school arcade-style thrills like Dead Star can be a hard sell, even with a remarkable facelift and even if the multiplayer is some of the most creative yet seen. I wouldn’t say it’s worth paying for, but for absolutely zero dollars, you could do a lot worse.