|Format played:||PC – Steam|
Poland has developed into quite the hub for game development over recent years. CD Projekt are perhaps the country’s most well known export whilst we came across Dali Games in our review of the quirky fable Lucid Dream. Add to that list Feardemic with the release of 2084. The developers tout 2084 as a ‘fast paced FPS with hacking mechanics,’ which seems to sum it up quite nicely. After the shortest tutorial ever committed to video games, it is straight into the action.
There are two game options available once you have completed the tutorial, in the shape of a story mode and an endless horde mode. In the story mode, you stumble around a set of creepy corridors, being pursued at every turn by a horde of crazed zombies. In between all the shooting, there are various panels and devices that you can ‘hack’ and which provide you with benefits, such as extra health or ammo. Most of the corridors are tight with blind corners and hidden doorways, meaning that zombies will often emerge from hidden nooks and crannies to attack you. Their presence is usually telegraphed by a grim zombie growl but you can also stumble across them just by entering a room. They tend to operate in packs too, making each encounter something of an endurance test. Each zombie doesn’t take too many hits to drop, so you can liberally spray your bullets to take them down. You also have the option of a grenade to take out larger packs and can also use the environment to your advantage, blowing up a conveniently placed canister for instance to take out anyone standing too close.
The hacking mechanic is straightforward and makes more sense than zombies dropping pick ups or having random items stashed around. Once a panel is activated you have to complete a set of direction button presses in the right order and within a set timeframe to be rewarded with a boost. Failure usually comes without a punishment and after a short delay to recharge your hack, you can try again.
It’s all reasonably mindless fun but 2084 offers little in the way of sophistication. Disappointingly there appears to be no advantage to landing a head shot over just a random body part, removing any sense of tactical shooting. Enemies simply disappear when shot too, a fact which can be explained within the context of the story but one which feels cheap. Even Gloom on the Amiga CD32 left a trail of body parts for you to see your handiwork. Enemies pop up from nowhere too. Turning a certain corner or entering a specific room clearly triggers an attack at that locale but your character is ahead of the game, the zombies popping into existence from nowhere a millisecond after you arrive. You also find yourself having cleared an area and moved on, facing down an attack in front of you, only for another goon to magically appear behind you. There are no extra doors open and he hasn’t climbed through an unlocked window. He has simply appeared because the game wants to throw an additional threat at you. Again, it can be explained within the context of a story but it feels cheap.
Switching to the endless horde mode, the tight corridors are gone and replaced with an open area but this exacerbates another issue. When things get hectic and the screen fills up with enemies, there is a noticeable slowdown. Within the confines of a tight corridor, as you inch backwards, firing from the hip, this is less of a problem. In an arena, with threats from all side, it is more problematic to nail your aim, especially as blood starts flying or you start taking damage, your vision reducing to a pixelated mess before you crumple to the floor under a hail of blows.
I found the difficulty a little frustrating. There is no map and lots of samey looking corridors so you have to rely on visual clues to find your way. Playing through the first level I would routinely stumble into a zombie attack and in a panic turn myself around and lose my bearings. Unfortunately there were no restart points until I got to the end of level boss, meaning that I had to replay a large chuck of the level repeatedly. Your ammo stack is fairly robust with a decent number of points at which to top up although annoyingly firing a grenade depletes the same meter, rather than having its own allocation, meaning that I largely avoided using it.
Whilst 2084 evokes a certain unsettling quality to its atmosphere, assisted by the closed environments and sudden enemy swarms, it is rough around the edges. Appreciating that it is still in early access form (a full release is not expected until 2020) there is nothing particularly new or inventive here.