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Without a doubt, Raptor: Call of The Shadows is one of my all-time favourite games; whenever I feel like playing something that's just plain old fun, I dig up my Raptor floppies. (It's quite amazing that those floppies still work after 16 years..)
I'm quite glad that Raptor now is available on GoG for everyone to enjoy. Back in '94, Raptor came and went a bit unnoticed: Platformers still reigned supreme and first-person shooters were on the rise. Additionally, Raptor's tech was outdated when it was released, seeing as Doom was already released a year earlier. None the less, Raptor is a hidden gem that is definitely worth checking out!
Despite its older tech, Raptor was and still is a polished and great-looking game. I still remember my friends ooh-and-aah'ing over the short ending cinematic after each mission, where you see your ship landing in its hangar.
What stands out for me however are Raptor's sound effects: Next to the endless rattling of your machine guns, rockets and lasers being fired, there quite literally isn't a single second in this game where you're not hearing an explosion, all of which sounds nothing short of awesome. Puts Michael Bay's movies to shame really. :) This orchestra of weaponry and explosions continues throughout the entire level, until you reach the level boss ..and you will know when you're about to reach a boss when you hear something that I can only describe as a muffled version of the MGM lion's roaring. Once you hear that ominous sound, you know you'd better get ready for a fight.
As for the music, you'd think that hardly anyone would ever notice the music with this constant barrage of explosions. And yet, Raptor does have music. What's more, it has great music! Even though it's hard to consciously pay attention to it while playing, the music seems to feed you courage as you fight your way through wave upon wave of enemies.
Then there is the actual gameplay: Raptor has a surprising amount of depth for a vertical scrolling shoot'em up. Everything you blow up, be it enemy ships, ground turrets or harmless buildings, gives you cold, hard cash. After each level, you'll be able to spend your money on energy, shields and, most importantly, weapons. From the beginning of the game, you can already see all the different weapons that are available, so you can look forward to getting that next bigger, better, more bad-ass weapon once you've saved up enough cash. And there will be a grin on your face the first time you lay your hands on the ultimate weapon, Raptor's version of the BFG: the Twin Laser. :)
While some weapons are more powerful versions of others, there also is a lot of variety in Raptor's weapons, which is necessary to cope with the various types of enemies in the game. Some weapons are better suited for fast moving enemies; some are better for enemies on the ground; some are better for enemies in the air; ... Because of this, the ability to switch quickly to the right tool for the job is of the essence, especially when playing on the higher diffulty settings.
Speaking of difficulty, Raptor is an expertly paced game. Every time you get a new weapon, you get to feel overpowered for a short while, but you'll soon realize that you're going to need all this firepower, as your enemies get more powerful and have new tricks up their sleeves. The game feels just challenging enough and it never got me even close to the point of frustration. Raptor doesn't ever play nasty tricks on you, such as sending in enemies from the sides or behind you; if death comes, it comes from above. You can even tell where enemies will be coming from, because you can already see their shadows moving in from the top of the screen. This will come in handy once you encounter enemies that you'd better avoid rather than trying to shoot them down. In the event that you do get killed, you're actually in for a treat. Yes, even dieing is fun in Raptor! As your ship is on its last bits of energy, you will first start to lose your weapons one by one. Once your energy is depleted completely, your ship will go down in a trail of explosions. Move your ship towards the guy that took you down and take him down with you! Now that's how you die in glory. :)
Raptor's controls also are spot-on. If you get hit, you'll only have yourself to blame. However, I do recommend playing the game using the mouse. Using the keyboard or gamepad controls also works just fine, but you can actually move your ship a lot faster if the controller type is set to use the mouse. Your ship will feel much more nimble and you can now weave through enemy waves more easily. You may even want to crank the difficulty setting up a notch, just to make things more interesting.
All in all, Raptor is an excellent game that is just great fun to play. In fact, it's even a great stress reliever; just play a short burst of Raptor to clear your mind, or rather fill it with the sweet sound of explosions. :)