Saturday, 30 November 2013

Review - Wrack (PC)

The classic 90's FPS is back!! Time to celebra..  oh!

Finally, Wrack is here! You will have to excuse my excitement, but ever since I set eyes on screenshots, and read the blurb about this new indie first person shooter, I have been eagerly awaiting its release. Wrack aims to bring back the classic, no-nonsense action gameplay that we saw back in the 1990's and which has now, sadly, been replaced with long story lines and cutscenes, quick time events and, groan, military and war settings. I have been in contact with the developers, Final Boss, for many months, constantly pestering them (sorry guys) about a release date, and was super excited when I saw that it has finally been released - in unfinished, beta form - on Steam. After obtaining a copy from the generous fellows (probably in a bid to stop me harassing them via email) at Final Boss, I sat twitching my thumbs waiting impatiently for the game to download and install. So, now I have finally experienced Wrack, how does it hold up, and does it manage to recreate the balls-to-the-wall excitement of your Dooms, Duke Nukem 3Ds, Bloods, and Quakes?

The first thing you will notice is that the game features a story and cutscenes - hardly what I was expecting from a game trying to go for the true 1990's FPS experience - but thankfully they are short, skippable and, er. Unfinished! Yes, the game certainly shows its beta status, with screens showing half finished sketches or simply messages stating, 'work in progress' or 'cutscene to come' in the place of a proper animated scene. This is all well and good, but it's not really acceptable in a game retailing for £11.99. Maybe Final Boss should have held back a bit longer (despite my please to the contrary) and released the game when it was in a more completed state. The story is utter piffle anyway - containing cheesy and unfunny dialogue from a cast of generic, quasi-anime, characters - and you will be hitting the skip button as fast as your trigger finger will allow.

In-game, the graphics have the ray traced cartoon effect seen in the excellent (and overlooked) FPS, XIII, or, more recently, Borderlands. It is an appealing and stylish look that works well and helps elevate Wrack above the mountain of brown and dismal looking military shooters that dominate the market these days. Sonically, the game offers some decent and powerful sounding effects, but is let down by some fairly poor rock music that often sounds like a mixture of Mission Impossible and Doom's original (and awful) soundtrack. But then I consider heavy metal and rock music to be Satan's own flatulence, so your experience may differ.

Final Boss have certainly stuck to their guns with regards to gameplay, offering up some fast paced, straight-up blasting action, with none of the superfluous bullshit that developers feel obliged to chuck into first person shooters in the misguided belief that it adds depth and improves the game. You start with two weapons, and must simply rush around the stages slashing and shooting the shit out of anything that even considers moving in your general direction. We are in old school territory here, with nothing more complex than locating a coloured keycard or pressing a switch to open doors required from the player. And it is much better for it. There is a basic combo system in play that begins after you kill three enemies in quick succession, continuing upwards - complete with rising chime sound effect - as you slaughter as many adversaries as you can.

Unfortunately the game fails in some pretty major areas, bursting my bubble of enthusiasm and leaving me feeling rejected, and returning to Brutal Doom in a cloud of disappointment. Firstly, I was horrified to see that the monsters are not flesh and bone beasts to be blasted apart in cloud of gore - as it should be - but robots and aliens. Nooooo! (I literally shouted). Doom was a huge success for many reasons, one being the hideous array of bizarre monsters you faced. It was (and still is) exceptionally satisfying to pump two barrels of lead into the face of the 'pinkie' demon,  lay waste to a room full of zombie grunts with a minigun, or watch an imp explode in a shower of gore when hit by a rocket. Here, you face tedious crawling spider robots that look like Gibbons, floating drones and alien soldiers in blue armour that look like badly drawn characters from a cheap Thundercats knockoff. It's a real game breaker for me I'm afraid, as I garner absolutely zero satisfaction from blasting these bland adversaries. You may feel differently if you enjoy aliens and robots, however, but it ain't for me. The guns are a mixed bag, with the starter selection of a light sword and pistol offering some fun and vaguely satisfying combat, but the slow firing shotgun and rocket launcher feeling far less so.

The levels fare slightly better, but are still fairly featureless, missing the ambiance and clever design of id's masterpiece. They certainly do the job, but it all feels very run-of-the-mill, and there is no incentive to explore every nook or cranny of the familiar looking stages. Gameplay is perfectly adequate, but fails to offer any real thrills, spills, or genuine tension. You simply run around the cartoon-esque stages, blasting some of the crappiest enemies since Daikatana stank up our screens back in 2000 (alien mosquitos, really?!), collecting the plethora of ammo and health that is dotted around everywhere, pressing switches to open new doors, and then fighting a large mech boss. I'm afraid it's all very underwhelming to be honest.

Admittedly, I came to Wrack with high expectations - after all, here was a new indie game proclaiming to bring back the classic Doom-era FPS gameplay - but I was left feeling extremely disappointed, probably the most I have been with any game this year. While I applaud the developer's intentions, and the game engine and visuals on offer here are perfectly adequate,  bad design choices with regards to style, enemy types and weapons leave you with nothing more than an expensive, and unfinished Doom-wannabe that cannot compete with the old games it tries to rejuvenate, nor some of the fantastic - and free - fan made mods for id's seminal titles.

Again, I must stress that the game is in open beta form, and is still being worked on, so hopefully feedback from players will result in a far more polished Wrack experience, but I can't really see the core experience changing that much - unless the game receives a massive overhaul in design. Finished or not, Wrack simply isn't worth the high asking price and will only disappoint true 90's FPS fans (unless you really like shooting charmless robots and aliens). I may re-assess Wrack if any new major updates appear, but for now I have no desire to go near it again, and my 90's FPS itch will continue to be scratched by the talented modders in the Doom community.

Wrack comes with a 'comedy' disclaimer stating "This game is a work in progress. It may suck". Unfortunately it does.

The Good
  • Cool art style that reminds me of Borderlands or XIII

The Bad
  • Bland and samey environments
  • Horrible rock soundtrack
  • Awful enemies to fight against
  • Weedy and unsatisfying weapons
  • Unfinished and over-priced

Title : Wrack
Developer : Final Boss
Year : 2013 (beta)
System : PC
Price : £11.99