Metrocide: Review - Games Weekly

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Metrocide: Review

Flat Earth Games is developing a talent for charmingly lo-fi games that combine polished mechanics with an elegant retro aesthetic. Towncraft, the company’s first effort, did what it said on the tin, with an easy-to-learn, difficult to master town management sim. Metrocide, Flat Earth’s second game, is similarly backward looking in terms of its look and feel, but with some remarkably challenging gameplay.

It is, essentially, your typical murder simulator, and the game makes no bones about it. You play as down on his or her luck contract killer TJ Trench, and your mission is simple get enough money to leave your life of crime behind. To do that, however, you need to complete contracts take on jobs killing some of the city’s denizens.

This is far easier said than done, because Metrocide is hard. You start out with a very challenging blaster pistol, and just drawing it at the wrong time can send nearby witnesses into a panic, which in turn could lead to the police being on your trail. If you do manage to get ready to execute your target discretely, you still have to charge the weapon to fire it, by holding down the mouse button until it discharges you really need to plan ahead.

On top of that, the cops don’t like bodies on the streets, so you need to hide your victim down a convenient manhole, or dump them in a river. Being spotted is pretty bad for your health.
... the emergent gameplay from the city’s living AI makes each playthrough feel different.
The game is played from a top down perspective, with a simple set of controls. You use WASD to move around, but W always moves you toward the on-screen cursor, which is also your aim point. It takes a little getting used to, but in practice it actually makes for a lot of tight control.

But the real charm in the game comes from the setting of each city, and how rich they are. Gang members and vigilantes roam the streets, and other shootings happen quite often, complete with cop-patrolled crime scenes.

The population walk around, stop to look in windows, light up cigarettes, or get in your way (or run in fear) it all feels amazingly natural. And the emergent gameplay from the city’s living AI makes each playthrough feel distinctly different. Your targets are always random, and some are armed, some aren’t. It’s entirely possible for your target to get taken out by other NPCS, too, which is always like a gift you still get paid.

The game’s art is made of blocky pixels, but the combination of carefully chosen colours, and a very rich soundscape, make it seem remarkably detailed. Streets are littered with rubbish, buildings have very real depth to them, and the constant rain and ever-present police drones complete with accusing spotlights make for a true cyberpunk atmosphere.

The game is in Early Access, so is being updated as we speak. The developers are working on tweaking the game’s impressive difficulty level, and still adding the odd new feature, but for $6.99 the game is already feeling quite complete. If you want a breath of not so fresh city from the constant rollout of AAA epics, Metrocide’s a good antidote.


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