After returning from an excursion, you discover that everyone is missing. Your family, your friends, the politicians you may or may not have liked before your trip – all gone! There is no real trace of any of them and so it is up to you to find out what happened while you were away.
Who are you? You’re no Sherlock Holmes or Bruce Wayne type investigator. Instead, you play as a teenager that fits into one of several stereotypes associated with the 80s. You could be a jock, a nerd, a goth, etc.
Welcome to the 1989 Swedish countryside, now occupied by killer robots without human insight. Time to get armed and ready to fight.
Depending on how you look at it, this is one of those areas where this game either appeals to you or it doesn’t. Apart from the general background information, there is a story in the traditional sense, but there is still one to be told.
If you’re looking for a narrative-driven gameplay experience, this isn’t it and that is by design. Remember, this game does come from Avalanche Studios, which is behind games such as the well renowned Just Cause series. If they wanted to tell a story in that way, we’re pretty sure they could.
Instead, the game is built in such a way that the world tells its story and it’s up to you as the player to interpret it and piece it together in any way you see fit.
With such a unique premise you would expect killer gameplay but that’s not exactly the case. A lot of the gameplay elements in this game are either hit or miss.
You can set out alone or you can experience the thrill with up to four friends. Whichever way you decide to play can be fun, but it’s painfully apparent that the real appeal of this title comes from the multiplayer side of the spectrum.
A lot of the gameplay revolves around stealth and the use of your environment, along with various gadgets such as radios to either avoid or ambush your mechanical foes. On paper, this sounds amazing and there are moments when it is, but that’s not always the case and this is for a couple of reasons.
First, the A.I used for the robots is very inconsistent. Sometimes the stealth works and at other times, the enemies see you from light-years away and just make a beeline for you. There’s no apparent reason between why it goes either way. It just sort of… does. Second, if you’re a fan of stealth games, you know there’s fun to be had in spending time moving around meticulously waiting for the opportune time to strike. There are plenty of games that have done this well but here stealth feels unnecessarily slow.
There’s also the exploration aspect which sees you entering and looking around numerous bunkers, cabins, etc. to find essentials to use in your war on machinery. This is a great mechanic to have but it begins to lose its appeal as you realize that many of these houses are just reused assets. In a big open-world (and this is a big open world) that’s never good news.
There are also missions in a sense, but they usually just boil down to heading to a location and looting. However, they do feed very well into that “figure it out” nature of storytelling as there is no hand-holding. The game drops subtle hints but never gives you traditional waypoints which is very cool.
Finally, there’s the combat. It’s pretty satisfying to shoot at robots to no end and it feels the way a fight with a robot should. In most cases, you can’t fight alone head on and when you think about it, they are robots so that does make sense. Imagine if a car were sentient and you decided to fight it head-on. Unless your strength is akin to the likes of Brian Shaw or Martins Licis, you’re probably not going to win. In the same way, the robots can deplete your health pool very quickly, so some level of wit is required in battle.
The enemies only come in a few variations, but they do get bigger, stronger, and more violent as you progress so while it can be repetitive, there is some semblance of freshness.
The graphics of this game are outstanding. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong when you have the Apex engine on your side, but we do have to give it to the developers for giving us an aesthetic masterpiece.
You can feel the Swedish countryside in the design, the textures in the world are all beautifully rendered, and the design of the robots is as intimidating and as deliberate as intended.
It all contributes to the world-building and it’s hard to resist the urge to just stop and take it all in at times though there may be more pressing matters at hand.
This is another area in which the developers nailed it. The music playing in the background is perfectly synonymous with both the time period you’re playing in and the action happening around you.
What we do have to mention is the sound effects, which are just perfection. Every texture you interact with sounds exactly the way it should. From moving through the foliage to walking around in a house, it all just sounds superb.
We also need to mention the mechanical sound effects of the bots. Whether they’re just patrolling, or scanning, or getting ready to come add you to the list of missing persons, the sounds are exactly what they should be. Not to mention shooting them and hearing the way the bullets impact the metal and the explosions that result from successfully taking a robot down.
The sound is very well done, and we have no complaints there.
The game has a unique premise and it can be loads of fun with friends but quite a few things are holding it back from being a complete masterpiece. We can’t recommend this game for everyone because there are quite frankly some players who are going to find it flat out boring, but it does have its redeeming qualities.
The game isn’t for everyone and while some can find fun in it, others just don’t fancy the experience at all.
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