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Strike Force Heroes: Extraction Review

Strike Force Heroes: Extraction, a port of a popular flash runner from NotDoppler and Sky9 Games, is now available from the app store. Deriving plenty of inspiration from Canabalt, Strike Force Heroes: Extraction provides fast-paced twitch gameplay with a cool cover-based element and tons of cool upgrades.

Strike Force Heroes: Extraction Pros:

  • Fast-paced auto-runner with a cool cover mechanic and combat scenarios
  • Terrific visuals that draw inspiration from Canabalt
  • Arcade soundtrack that meshes with game style
  • Easy control mechanics
  • GameCenter integration for leaderboards and achievements to earn

Extraction Cons:

  • Downward swipe for cover is unreliable and frustrating when it doesn’t work
  • Looks too much like Canabalt, taking away from its uniqueness

Strike Force Heroes: Extraction offers Campaign, Endless, and Free Run game modes, with the latter two unlocked after you play through a few of the Campaign levels. In Campaign, you must sprint across rooftops, barge through buildings, and scamper over billboards to reach your extraction point as quickly as possible. A successful extraction sees you taking a leap of faith from the last building, disappearing below the sight line before reappearing with your meaty hooks clutching the underside of a helicopter. Before you can reach this point, you’ll need to fight your way through a handful of enemies who are shooting back at you. One nifty mechanic that I’ve yet to see in another auto-runner is the ability to slip into cover and shoot back. A simple downward swipe will cause your hero to pull up and hide behind a nearby object, protecting himself from incoming fire and giving him a chance to blast the baddies from a relatively safe position. Of course, the timer is still running, which can make it difficult to earn your star for beating the clock. The trade-off is that you’re more likely to preserve your health and actually complete the level to earn a different star. Your third star is earned for snatching up all of the available intel you’ll find along the way.

Coins are also available to be collected while you run. These can be used to purchase new heroes and new weapons, as well as upgrade ones that you already own and obtain upgrades to health, critical chance, reload speed, and perk bonuses. Weapons vary according to power, a rate of fire, range, and ammo clip size, so some weapons may be more effective against certain types of enemies. Heroes also differ by their abilities and the perks that are available to them. Each also has one significant flaw that is unique to the character, making the decision to use one over another a strategic one. For example, a character might take double damage from falling off of a building or running into an enemy. When attempting a speed run to earn your third star, you probably would not want to use the hero that takes double damage from running into enemies. It’s a rather engaging game with a lot to consider and different ways to play. Survival mode eliminates the extraction point and measures your distance and number of kills across three different levels. Free Run further does away with the enemies and just measures your total distance across the same three levels that you play in Survival. This option is basically a reskinned version of Canabalt.

Graphically, it is clear to see elements of the Canabalt inspiration, from the use of billboards, scattering birds, and devastating drops between buildings to the way you burst through windows and send shards of glass spilling out into the fray when you run through a building. The familiar Canabalt grayscale has been swapped for a more colourful approach, and new wrinkles like helicopter chases increase the challenge from time to time. We like the style but would have preferred that it not resemble another popular game so closely. Level randomization keeps things fresh each time you play, but it can also lead to some weird respawning issues that force a cheap death or two on the gamer. The soundtrack adds fuel to the adrenaline rush as the fast beat keeps up with the quick gameplay. Radio chatter and various sound effects help to flesh out the experience. The controls are pretty simple to learn, requiring a tap on the left side of the screen to jump and a tap or hold on the right side to fire your weapon. A downward swipe is supposed to put you into cover mode, but we found this to be an extremely inconsistent mechanic, which led to a lot of frustrating moments.

Replay value is very good, as multiple attempts will probably be necessary to max out your stars in Campaign mode. Earning enough money to acquire all heroes, weapons, and upgrades should also take some time. Survival and Free Run modes are great for high score junkies and could net you a new personal best at any time. GameCenter integration offers a half-dozen leaderboards and a dozen achievements to earn. Available for $1.99 (or $2.99 for the iPad-specific HD version), Strike Force Heroes: Extraction is a 4-Dimple challenge.