Shattered Horizon Review
|Developer:||Futuremark Game Studios|
|Publisher:||Futuremark Game Studios|
|Genre:||First Person Shooter|
|Release Date:||November 4th, 2009 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
The moon holds a special place in my mind and heart. Ever since I was a stripling, the thought of strapping on an astronaut's suit, blasting off to visit Earth's nearest neighbour, walking on the surface of the dusty orb (and planting an England flag instead of the American one) has always been one of my dreams.
Luckily while there is no chance I'll every actually walk on the moon, with Shattered Horizon I can walk on bits and pieces of it, even if every time I stop to admire the scenery I get a rifle bullet through my brainpan.
Let me set the scene. Some time in the distant future man has returned to the moon, landed and started mining its rich resources. The Moon Mining Co-operative, a bunch of greedy capitalists, cause a massive accident, shattering the moon into millions of chunks which take up orbit around the earth, forming a ring of debris known as 'the Arc'.
This leaves the astronauts of the MMC and the heroic troopers of the International Space Agency (ISA) to fight over what little there is left after the explosion - food, water and air. With both parties cut off by the debris field, it quickly becomes a fight to survive.
Quite a set up for what is basically a multiplayer shooter isn't it? I rather thought so, more like something out of an Asimov novel.
Coming from the minds of Futuremark, a new company based in Finland, Shattered Horizon, the company's debut game, is a brilliant little shooter which rejuvenates a stale genre and forces gamers set in their ways to re-evaluate old strategies fought on the ground, because the entire game is played in zero-G.
There are currently only four maps out, though I expect more will soon be available through Steam, where the game retails at a very reasonable £14.99.
The four maps all offer something a little different. Flipside is a rock with bases, towers and buildings on either side and a bunch of tunnels linking them. Arc is a massive map entirely full of floating moon rocks, where the firefights can suddenly become fistfights at a moment's notice. Moondust is a massive chunk of debris with a huge open drilling core in the middle, best suited to sniping, but my personal favourite, ISS, is a brilliant map based on the International Space Station, which in the game has been ripped in two, creating a dense field of debris to fight amongst.
The control scheme is clever and intuitive. While at first the zero-G environment can take a bit of getting used to, fairly soon navigating between obstacles and zipping through the fighting becomes second nature.
The astronauts can also attach themselves to any object with the push of a button. This makes shooting a lot more accurate and helps with finding you target, but makes you a lot slower - it's a trade off which is often very worth it.
Each astronaut has a jetpack to move around the environment. The pack can boost the astronauts up to a higher speed and provides an explanation for why the gamer can hear anything in-game (space being silent after all) - the suit generates fake noises to aid immersion in the battle, a fact never more obvious than when you turn off your suit and go into 'silent running'- all electronics off - and only the sound of your own breathing echoes in your ears.
Silent running also makes you invisible to the enemy's sensors and is brilliant for sneak attacks, as well as escaping when you're injured - turn off your suit and make like you're dead, fools them every time.
The standard-issue rifle each astronaut carries is a fully automatic machine gun, a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher built into one.
Three grenade types - MPR (a concussion grenade which sends enemies flying), EMP (which disrupts suits and cuts manoeuvrability) and ICE (which serves as a zero-G smoke grenade) - all change the gameplay drastically, and are often of a big use on the objective-based missions, which are basically zero-G capture-the flag, along with team deathmatch. Though I would have liked to see a few more weapons thrown into the mix, the one rifle does its job well.
The gameplay is a very fast and frenetic mix of team-based advancing and close-range fire. Cover, ever the safe-zone of FPS', can become useless in a matter of moments as your enemy move around and above you - but the radar built into your suit is brilliant at keeping track of them, as are the designators on the heads-up-display, so getting lost is a hard thing to do.
Futuremark deserves a round of applause for their efforts in the graphical and sound department. The game is a great looker, with all the environments rendered beautifully, spinning in the void as the battle happens around them. The moon itself, which can be glimpsed off in the distance, is brilliantly realised, as is the curve of the Earth. The light of the sun illuminates the sites of the battle, casting wide shadows ideal for silent running, and the muzzle flash of your rifle, the explosions of the grenades and the massive cloud of ice let out by the ICE grenade are all beautifully rendered, even when graphical settings are turned down to their lowest.
But more than that, it's the little things Futuremark included which make this such a great game - the heavy breathing of an astronaut in silent running, the noise of frozen ice hitting your faceplate as you boost through the cloud, the gentle spinning of packing crates tossed out by a grenade explosion, it all combines into a beautifully realised game, and one well worth playing for its low price.
Shattered Horizon is a brilliant debut game for the Finns, a re-evaluation a tried-and-tested genre which came out with something truly special. While the lack of maps and varied guns is a shame, the game still has more than enough to keep you coming back for one more round, and the zero-G combat is second to none for fun and challenge.
Suit up and join me in orbit.
- Great gameplay
- Nice setting
- Beautiful graphics
Not so good stuff
- Only one gun
- Only four maps at release
- Can be a tough learning curve