Gunscape Review: Purposelessly Retro

If you’ve ever played Goldeneye, Doom, Wolfenstein, Quake, or any of the first person shooters that come to mind when you flash back to the 90’s, then you’ll understand the experiences that Gunscape attempts to replicate. Unfortunately in this case, the replication Gunscape is offering is largely derivative, without merit, misunderstanding many of the reasons that these classic titles were popular within their own era.

Much of the problem lies in the glorification of the presentational style of games like the original Doom, and Wolfenstein. At the time these titles were at the pinnacle of 3D technology, some of the first that allowed us to explore what were then, immersive, 3D worlds. Their simplistic and sometimes ugly, aesthetic presentation was in fact, at the cutting edge of what video games were able to achieve within their era.

At the same time, this simple, low-resolution representation was a limitation of the era that these titles were produced within, and not an intentional artistic choice. Naturally as games progressed these titles saw sequels that became better realisations of the developers original vision, facilitated by better hardware. Doom didn’t look the way it did when first presented because that was the limit of what the developers wanted to achieve, it looked that way because that was at the limit of the technology the developers had at their disposal.

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Many of these games evolved into modern incarnations, with fancy 3D graphics and visual effects, while largely remaining rooted in their original gameplay traits. These titles, like Return to Castle Wolfestein, effectively transitioned the positive components of these classics (the gameplay) while evolving the series in line with the technical capabilities of modern hardware. Which is why it’s a little confusing to see the classic low-resolution aesthetic replicated in games like Gunscape, as this presentational aspect was not the reason the games were popular, and in fact, looks rather ugly on high resolution, modern displays.

This coupled with Gunscapes cumbersome performance, weapons that aren’t satisfying to wield, and terrible level design of the core campaign, makes for a game that replicates the style of its predecessors, but without a clear understanding of why it’s doing so. Games like Quake were fun, because of the fast paced, brutal, twitchy gameplay, games like Halo featured tight mechanics and great level design, while Gunscape offers very little merit of its own. Ultimately Gunscape mimics a retro aesthetic in the hopes that it’ll take you down some nostalgia trip, yet leaves behind what made these games so remarkable, within their own era. ¬†Gunscape is slow, cumbersome, the framerate often dips, the screen tears, none of the weapons have any real depth to their utility, and the games level design is entirely at the hand of the user base.

That last remark, this notion of user generated content, is Gunscapes sole merit. For you can create your own levels, for both co-operative and competitive play, within Gunscapes level editor. These tools work, but the end result is often ugly, compromised by a lack of tools and textures available to you. Unfortunately if I’m buying into a game with creation as its core premise, those tools need to be robust, and powerful, allowing me to produce the levels my imagination conjures. For the most part, this isn’t possible in Gunscape as the game lacks even basic items like wooden doors.

Most of the content already created compiles generic replications of levels from games like Goldeneye and Quake, but these merely made me want to play these classics sooner than I wanted to continue playing Gunscape, as it’s performance issues, unsatisfying weaponry, and limited aesthetic presentation paled in comparison to the original incarnations. At least you can play these levels online however, if you can find anyone playing the game on PS4.

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Don’t missunderstand though, what’s on offer here isn’t awful. Gunscape functions just fine, the weapons are reasonable enough to use, and the game, while generally unappealing, isn’t painful to look at. It could be said that most of the game is palatable, if uninspired. Nothing really stands out as remarkable, well designed, intelligent or surprising, and beyond the ability to create your own levels, which in itself, comes with its own set of limitations, the game is without any real strengths. That’s the problem then, even if you did, hypothetically create a great level, your enjoyment within that level will be constrained by the uninteresting weapons and mechanics that Gunscape features.

The game also features four player local split screen, but without each account having Playstation Plus, we couldn’t get this working. Local multiplayer is an oft forgotten pleasure that occasionally features in modern, independent titles, and it would have been one of Gunscapes merits, if it had worked without an impractical setup. Though we assume it’s perhaps more easy going on PC.

Ultimately, Gunscape misunderstands the merits of its inspiration and instead captures all its limitations, when coupled with the games own performance issues, stale weaponry, split screen and creative mode limitations, Gunscape offers an experience that’s largely without merit. Still, if you’re itching to build some retro-inspired first person shooter maps, the creation tools provide a decent framework in which to so, if you can cope with the creative compromises that the games limited tool-set induces. However if level creation is not your focus, any enjoyment that there is to be had here, could be better had by simply booting up the classics from which Gunscape draws its inspiration.

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Author: Jozef Kulik

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