Radiangames releases Crossfire 2 without the instant gratification of the original, trading that for a new leveling system instead. The end result is a slow start in trade for a feeling of progression, the puny speed and firepower of that beginning ship is not satisfying enough to blast away in what we are told is a Mars environment. The stylish, appropriately simple visuals don’t exactly place the player anywhere.
Crossfire 2 doesn’t reach its peak until the final stage when you’re at last powered enough to blast enemies into a frenzy of neon death. It’s strange how it becomes easier to appreciate when the screen erupts into maddening chaos than it is when the enemy patterns are actually more of a presence. The more complex it gets, the more of a race it is to survive than to precisely navigate between varied masses of abstract invaders. That’s what Crossfire does best throughout the entirety of the game.
The first Crossfire doesn’t have much a power-up system, just things like a time freeze or rapid fill of a secondary weapon that mauls anything in its way. That hasn’t changed for this sequel, and that’s fine. The subtle changes to the enemy structure are enough to give notice, including bulkier brutes that absorb significant damage. The larger-scaled ships act as mini-bosses of sorts, one of them which takes away the key mechanics of the entire game.
Crossfire and its sequel’s gimmick is that you can flip behind the ships, and you can imagine how helpful that would be in any Space Invaders scenario. Enemies can shoot in either direction, some swapping between patterns, some reflecting bullets. Taking away that ability to quick dodge, the only defensive maneuver in the game aside from the basic left and right movement, is a deadly proposition. Of course, the enemy type that prevents that switch doesn’t show up until multiple stages in, just when you’re becoming comfortable enough to enjoy the necessity of it.
Fresh or not, Crossfire’s sequel is a step slower. It’s a combination of things, from the now extended pauses between the levels to select what to spend earned points on to the gameplay itself. The speed of the first was its crowning achievement, so immensely polished was the product as a whole that watching that offensive death machine blaze side-to-side felt right. The instant gratification is gone here, and now the struggle becomes which piece of the game should come back first.
Is it the non-stop assault of colored rays shattering invading aliens that makes the first game great? Is it raining up (or down) of super-igniting death rays after waiting patiently for a recharge? Was it the speed? Is it flipping back and forth so fluidly it becomes second nature? It is all of those things, and Crossfire 2 fragments those into pieces. Simplicity is sublime, and while still a piece of shooter heaven, Crossfire 2 is one step away from the golden gates instead of inside them.