Terminal Velocity: Boosted Edition Review - Stuck in the Past
Watching another 90’s oldie get an HD treatment should be something you’d expect me to celebrate, right? At least in terms of making something accessible to players who don’t have access to period hardware, or the inclination to mess about with emulators or the like.
But with Terminal Velocity: Boosted Edition, I’m not sure it’s quite a clear-cut victory for this mid-90s PC blaster. At least with this PlayStation incarnation.
For those unfamiliar with the original, you’re a nameless pilot sent for that most epic of assignments: taking point in saving humanity from attack by its former allies. You’ll take the fight to them over 9 worlds – split up into three episodes, with 3 worlds apiece
I always loved the set-up. The first two stages will have you taking down various targets in preparation for an assault against the main target in the third. As you fly over each mission area, you’ll also have the chance to locate hidden tunnels that offer power-ups – whether new weapons (or upgrades to your existing ones), extra shield energy or fuel for your afterburners.
The latter is something that I found really handy to get to an objective quickly without being harassed by the waves of enemy air defences which’ll be right on your six.
Back on release, the open maps and the speed at which everything ran at was the result of some technical wizardry, and even with close to 30 years of progress, I can’t help but still be impressed by what was accomplished for mid-90s hardware.
So what does this Boosted Edition offer? Mainly graphical updates. Firstly, increasing the game’s resolution, and expanding the field of view to give you a widescreen view of the action. You also get an expanded draw distance, which sounds minor, but I found it incredibly helpful with being able to line up with targets in some stages, particularly those up in the skies as on its second planet.
Another feature I appreciated was the extended HUD, which expands upon the three-letter codes for your current objective and weapon. I wish the art had been scaled up more – it’s one thing looking at it when sitting in front of your PC, but when playing from the couch, it felt a touch too small and hard to read for my liking.
This is the attitude I feel about most of the other aspects of the Boosted Edition – an overall sense of missing polish and attention given to the experience. It’s apparent right from the outset, as the opening cutscene kicks in looking incredibly rough due to the way it has been upscaled. I really felt a little visual processing could have done wonders to reduce the impact of those giant pixels in these sequences, but alas.
Thankfully, you can turn them off in the Options, and honestly? I don’t think you’re really missing out on much, as they were a bonus for the original game’s CD version and not critical to the overall experience.
But it’s the menus where the lack of thought is most prominent, as when diving into the game’s Graphics or Sound Options, you’ll find items presented that can’t be adjusted! Obviously, they were featured in the original game, but if they can’t be adjusted, then do they need to be shown?
More than anything else, I really found myself irritated by the changes to the game’s save system. As a PC game of the 1990s, you were free to save and load your game at any time during play.
While that’s still possible, just a little less convenient now – as you’ll have to pause the game to bring up the menus. What helps nullify that a bit is the Quick Save being triggered when starting a stage.
The downside is there’s only a single slot used for this – so if you want to retry a stage you’ve just beaten in order to do better… well, just be sure to keep up with those manual saves as well.
It also was something I ran into a few quirks with too. After my first session ended in a Game Over, I went back to load said auto-save, and found that nothing happened.
Meaning I had to restart from scratch.
I’m lucky that I was only a few stages in at that point instead of closing in on the boss of the final world, as a lot of progress would have been lost. On the flip side, every subsequent save was fine, so maybe it was a once-off issue.
I guess the takeaway is that if you check this one out, then be prepared to abuse that manual save system like it’s 1995 all over again.
Now, all these are irritating features you can live with, but the real letdown is the little things that get in the way of gameplay. From the pauses which kick in as achievements are unlocked, to the visual mess and music resets which happen when entering or exiting tunnels.
The seamless nature of those transitions with the original game added to its wow factor, and to see these shows how not sweating over the finest of details can be detrimental to the experience.
I won’t lie, in terms of its gameplay mechanics, looking at Terminal Velocity in 2023 certainly shows up its flaws. From the dramatic increase in difficulty for the final episode to the distracting way enemy fire knocks you about when hit… even though your shots lack the same effect when hitting them.
I feel those things limit the approachability of this game for new players, whether those who never had a chance to try it back then or weren’t around to. But if you’re patient enough to accept the 90’s experience, you can certainly have some fun with Terminal Velocity: Boosted Edition.
But if you’re not, then the lack of attention and polish makes it tough to justify going back too.
Terminal Velocity Boosted Edition was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by the publisher.