The desire for freedom is common in stories in which control and oppression are law. In Vector, you play as a man in an Orwellian dystopia, no longer able to bend to the will of his masters. He casts aside his mind-control device, and apparently his shirt, and leaps from his skyscraper prison, sprinting across rooftops toward the distant horizon.
Vector is a celebration of artistic freestyle running, where you are awarded for pulling off parkour tricks such as barrel-rolling over edges or spinning through the air over office desks. This free-running platformer relies on expert timing to vault over–or slide under–obstacles, leap into the air, and wall jump, all the while being chased by a hunter displaying similar athletic prowess. The characters are stark black silhouettes that stand out cleanly against the gorgeously rendered urban backgrounds.
Vector’s protagonist and his pursuer are beautifully animated and demonstrate realistic grace as they nimbly vault over objects. The goal of the game is to navigate each stage to a safe zone, before your pursuer catches up. The game is brimming with exciting moments. Your pursuer creates an inherent and constant sense of danger as you move through a stage. Leaping off high-rises into the air as doves dart out of your way like in a scene from a John Woo film, all to the rhythm of a pulse-pounding soundtrack, is an adrenaline-charged thrill.
Hitting an action key at the wrong time yields dire consequences. Mistiming can cause a momentary disruption in pace, forcing you to stumble and slow down as you struggle to regain footing, allowing your burly pursuer the opportunity to close the gap. As the hunter draws near, the camera zooms in, and deadly electricity arcs from his gauntlets, vigorously increasing the tension. In these moments, the game demands all of your focus, because one false move means the end of your shirtless dash to freedom. You get a rush of relief and satisfaction upon reaching the goal when death is so near, and seeing the exasperation on the hunter’s face as the door that seals your safety slams down makes your victory all the sweeter.
Your performance in a stage is rewarded in stars. Surviving until the end earns you one star, but to gather all three, you must perform every trick in the stage as well as collect all the floating bonus cubes scattered across the level. Stars and the occasional coin grant in-game currency you can exchange for tricks, which can be purchased just before the level starts. Also available for purchase in the in-game store is the force blaster, which temporarily stops the hunter, giving you some much-needed breathing room. But even with the weapon, it’s still all on you to maneuver through the stage with expert precision in order to nab that three-star rating. One major slipup, and it’s back to the start minus one potentially life-saving item. You can also buy clothing items such as a hat or a scarf, if you’re into accessorizing. Later stages branch out into multiple paths. While all given paths eventually lead you to safety, only one includes every trick and bonus. Practice and exploration are highly encouraged, and it may take multiple replays to discover and master the best route.
The game is short, and can be completed in around three hours. However, there are plenty of reasons to jump back into Vector. Levels generally take only minutes to finish, making quick visits to nab stars during breaks appealing. Collecting stars unlocks difficult bonus missions that test your parkour skills to the limit. To progress through the stages, you need to collect stars to unlock two of the game’s main sections. The number of stars necessary to unlock these areas is high, meaning you need to purchase many tricks and master multiple stages just to proceed. In time, earning the necessary stars to increase currency and purchase moves becomes a slow grind. Mistakes get frustrating, and the game soon has you pounding away at the restart key, sometimes even moments after starting a stage. But when everything goes right, Vector is a fast-paced joyride that earns your attention.