Let’s take a look at … – Interstellar Marines (Early Access)

Interstellar Marines is a science fiction FPS with quite the history. Currently in development by Zero Point Software, the game has been in development since 2005 under the working title Project IM. After being Greenlit in late 2012, a Kickstarter was launched to fund the rest of the game, but it unfortunately fell short of its target: $157,907/$600,000 was raised.

Since mid-2013 Interstellar Marines has been available in Early Access on Steam. That’s quite a run in Early Access! Let’s take a look.

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The official website states that IM will take you through three massive campaigns, taking you through mankind’s first contact with a sentient alien species. The gameplay currently available in Early Access appears to be the pre-cursor to this storyline. You play as a soldier who has been specially selected to join the Interstellar Marines, and you play through training.

On starting the game for the first time you’re greeted with an epic introductory cut scene. It looks great and production value is through the roof. It got me really excited to get playing! This quality carries right through into the game models and environments. It’s a looks great, and even in early access I had only a few very minor graphical glitches. The same can’t be said for UI. It feels empty, and unfinished. Not a fan, and I hope it gets an upgrade before the game leaves early access.

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My favourite thing about Interstellar Marines is how it feels. It’s solid and different than a lot of shooters. The closest thing it reminded me of was Battlefield. You feel more connected to the character, and movement feels real. It’s the little things like how your sight sways, and if you become out of breath they will sway more as you recover. Weapons give a lot of kickback, so you can’t just spray and prey. You have to pick your shots, and use your weapon wisely.

At the time of writing this article, the game supports keyboard and mouse only, so those that like to play their shooters with a controller are out of luck. I would however encourage those pad users to give the game a go with mouse and keyboard. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

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Up until this point Interstellar Marines has a good first impression. It looks pretty good, I like the controls, they feel solid, and the overall production is great minus some lacking UI. As we now come to take a look at gameplay however things ramp down a gear.

There are currently 2 campaign missions available, and both are training exercises that take place in quite small environments with equally small goals. Campaign 2 is longer than campaign 1, but they can both be completed in a short single sitting. There is also only a small collection of weapons available, and a single enemy. It’s all very sparse and demo-ey feeling, even for an early access title.

Alongside the 2 campaigns, and a tutorial level, there are a selection of scenarios such as survival and escape. These can be played in either singleplayer or online multiplyer, although I could only find a couple of multiplayer games live that were both for survival.

Gameplay itself is very unforgiving. The campaigns do not have any checkpoints, so if you die during the mission that’s it. It adds a real sense of fear, and make you feel very vulnerable which is great. It can be frustrating when a robot that you can’t see shoots you, and the mission re-starts, but I enjoyed the challenge. I was playing on normal, and it doesn’t take many bullets to kill you. There are also two difficulty levels available above normal, so I can only presume they are insta-death!

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I was unsure whether to include this next section or not, but since it directly affects you as the consumer I decided to leave it in. The advertising of the game irks me greatly. I understand that when selling a product you want to make it seem amazing, you really have to sell it. But Interstellar Marines has lists upon lists of selling points that just shouldn’t be there. Here are a few from the list of current features:

  • Shoot from hip or look through the Red Dot scope for increased accuracy.
  • Full-body first person character simulation (no more floating hands!) with a physics-based dynamic character controller.
  • Toggleable tactical flashlight for when it’s pitch black.
  • Toggleable laser to assist your aim (no crosshairs).

These are all standard things that every FPS has. It’s like selling a car and going ‘Look. It has wheels and doors.’ Well, it’s a car, so obviously it has wheels and doors, what else does it do? This may seem pedantic, but this sensationalism is seen throughout the Steam page, the website, and all promotional material, and the game does not live up to how it’s sold. On the website you’re painted a picture that you’re about to receive an epic ‘AAA-Indie’ experience, but that’s just not the case. Not yet anyway.

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What gameplay is there is solid, it’s just there isn’t a lot of it! I enjoyed my time with it, but have no reason to go back to it. If you’re a big fan of shooters you’ll find reasons to like Interstellar Marines. But given the development history, and its current state, I’m not sure I’d actively suggest it right now, but keep an eye out.

Tl:dr – Interstellar marines is a promising shooter with controls that feel great and make it stand out amongst other shooters, and an interesting sounding story line. Its main problem right now is lack of content, and according to plenty of Steam reviews updates just aren’t coming frequently enough. Fans of shooters will find reasons to like it, but for casuals I’d suggest waiting until further into development.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam (Early Access) (£10.99)

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Dirty Bomb (Beta)

We covered Dirty Bomb last week as the title prepared to transition from closed to open Beta. Well, the game is now openly available through Steam, so here are our thoughts on what we’ve played so far.

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In-case you missed our last article, Dirty Bomb is a FREE-to-play FPS from Splash Damage. With a heavy emphasis on fast, team-based combat, it’s all or nothing. The game starts with a clear and concise tutorial, covering not only the basics of a first person shooter, but also a quick guide to class specialties and skills such as the medic (Aura) being able to throw down healing stations and quick-revive fallen comrades. Right from the tutorial you can see the production value of the game. It’s so well done, with a witty narrator introducing you to the game.

Once you’re into the game you have the possibility to land in a variety of environments ranging from the classic Underground tube stations to the Aged Chapel, each with their own objectives. My favourite initial map had to be “Bridge” in which your objective when attacking is to repair your mobile vehicle (EV) and escort it to the completion zone. I loved the map’s mix of open areas for sniping, and tight alleys with their sharp corners for the more close-combat mercenaries such as the medic that utilises the shotgun and fast heals to capitalize on the funnel-like corridors.

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The game consists of multiple classes known as mercenaries and it’s up to you which you choose to play with. As a new player you’ll have a few standard mercs unlocked, with the others requiring unlocking either through in-game currency or cash; the same system that MOBAs tend to use. At the time of writing each merc costs £7.99 or 50k in-game credits, or you can wait until that merc is in free-rotation to try it out for a limited time. Before each match you’re able to choose 3 to take into battle, and each time you respawn you have the opportunity to change between them, allowing you to respond to battle situations as they arise. Each has their own weapons, perks and loadouts, which are also handled in a unique way.

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Loadouts in Dirt Bomb are handled through a card system. It’s really rather nice. Through playing games you unlock in-game currency which can be either spent on mercs or equipment cases. From each case you’ll receive a random loadout card for one of the mercs. This is how you get gear, and the cards come in a range of qualities, ranging from iron (a basic card) to cobalt (an epic card). You don’t unlock weapons, sidearms, and special equipment separately, then build a class, you unlock an entire loadout in a single card! Inevitably you end up with duplicate cards, so you can use them to ‘trade up’ to a card you want. It’s akin to the crafting system in Hearthstone; you use the value of existing cards to create others. So say you want a cobalt loadout for the sniper class, but don’t want to open a boatload of cases to get it. Well you can craft one providing you have enough cards of the right rarity. This is cross-class also, so you could dump all your cards for a certain merc you don’t play to create an epic loadout for one you do!

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The developers and trailers all boast that the game is reliant on teamwork, as most FPS titles do, and this is a vital component to Dirty Bomb. Whilst I was able to rush round saving my fellow mercenaries with my speedy revives, when it came to drawn out standoffs with the opposing team I found myself relying heavily on my teammates generosity and their ability to deploy ammo packs as I rapidly fired through my few shotgun pellets and found myself backed into the corner desperately trying to defend objectives with solely my pistol and knife. Whilst this initially seems limiting, it does force team co-operation which led to some intense gameplay as teams set up stations with healers and ammo focused players as they progressed to their objectives. If you don’t play as a team you’re going to lose.

There are currently 2 gamemodes available: Objective and Stopwatch. In objective the goal is to either complete the level objectives, or stop the opposing team from completing them. Each map has different objectives, it isn’t a simple capture the flag deal, so there’s lots of fun and variance in gameplay to be had between maps. The other mode, Stopwatch, is a race to complete the level objectives as fast as you can, then stop the other team beating your time.

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The standout factor of Dirty Bomb for me is the speed of combat. As soon as game starts teams pile forward relentlessly towards one another. This relentless back and forth continues throughout the game, and since it doesn’t take much to down you, sticking with your team is vital. If you do try to be a hero … well that won’t happen. You’ll run into a group of the opposition and you’ll be dead before you’ve even thought about shooting. It’s fast-paced, relentless team combat just as they promise.

The game’s art style and models are similar to that of titles such as Warface and Loadout with a detailed cartoonist art style, allowing for immersive gameplay without too much direct realism. Whilst there where minor texture issues, the game was in closed beta during my game time, I found the overall graphics to be fitting for the game style and pleasing to the eye, with the TF2 like animations such as the healing bay and ammo pickups. There is also a good range of options for player to alter their settings allowing those with non-high end rigs to enjoy the title.

The audio for the titles is enjoyable and solid as the rest of the game. In-game sounds are fitting and what you’d expect in any form of shooter, with a clear instructional voice describing the objective on each level.

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Overall, after clocking a few hours on the title and ranking up to level 5, I think that Dirty Bomb is a fun and enjoyable F2P game which I can see myself spending around three to four hours on per session, especially if playing with friends as I would want to try and incorporate a full team skill set into some matches. The game feels incredibly solid and polished with an already impressive set of maps and loadouts and will only get better. If you’re into your shooters then this is a must-play.

Check out Dirty Bomb for yourself on Steam http://store.steampowered.com/app/333930/ or on the official site Nexon Site http://dirtybomb.nexon.net/, be sure to let us know what your thoughts are on the title via our comments section below or via social networks!

Tl:dr – Dirty Bomb is a FREE-to-play fast-paced shooter with a heavy emphasis on teamwork. With a unique approach to characters and loadouts, it feels fresh, and although in beta is a very much a solid and high quality game. It will only improve, so if you’re a fan of the genre it’s a must-have.

Rating – 9/10

Purchase – Steam FREE

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Magnetic: Cage Closed

Repulsively Fun

Magnetic Cage closed will immediately feel familiar to you when you first load it up.  Yes, It’s basically Portal but it’s different enough to call itself it’s own game in a genre that there isn’t much competition in.

You wake up in your personal cell in a place called Facility 7.  A maximum security prison where you quickly learn your sentence is to take part in some weird experiment they have devised to test their prisoner’s in a game of life and death.  As you look around there are cameras everywhere that follow your movement.  “Someone” is always watching you.  You are greeted by the Warden and are instructed to continue forward where you transported to a room that holds the Magnet Gun perched on its alter.  You are given some time to experiment with the functionality of the Magnet Gun and then your trial begins.

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The Magnet Gun functions much like you would expect.  The Left Click will Repel and the Right Click will attract.  You can also change the power of the repel or attract function by scrolling up and down on the mouse wheel.  This comes into play as you may want a stronger force or weaker depending on the challenge.

As you progress through the levels, Portal fans or even those who are able to think “What would I do in this situation” will blaze through these first 10 levels or so as the challenge isn’t all that daunting.  You’ll see the all familiar “cube” that will play an integral role in most levels and some panels and contraptions that will be new to you.  Some are recessed platforms that can be pulled and pushed.  Others are circle panels on the walls and floor that allow you to pull yourself toward at a faster rate, or jump really high by repelling yourself away from it.  There is also no fall damage… thankfully.

Every so often you’ll be brought to a room that isn’t like the others.  You’re faced with a challenge but there is no skill involved, only a choice.  Magnetic: Cage Closed mentions that no play through will ever be the same and they hold to that.  Your choice will set you down a different path each playthrough and will open new rooms dialogue, and endings.  There appear to be nine different conclusions.

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The story follows an expected pace and then gets crazy.  I want to say I expected this to happen but I was surprised when it did as you can’t assume anything in this game.  Many times it felt random enough to keep me guessing.  There are however some issues with the game that did detract from my experience such as the Warden’s voice-over.  His dialogue and ominous tone get old pretty quick.  It felt like the actor tried to hard to create a hard-ass sounding warden who occasionally tries to joke with you.  It falls flat many times and I found myself not caring when he would talk.  The female voice actor who appears during the “choice” sections of the game does a great job and feels right in line with the setting.

The other glaring issue that just kept taking me out of the game was the level transition.  You come through a door, finish the room and exit to the next.  Once the door opens, you have to crawl through a very small hole into the next room.  I understand the purpose of this process is to start loading the next level assets but it drove me insane with the time it takes to crawl into the next room.  I wish they would have come up with a still screen or something while the next room loaded instead of this process.  A simple gripe but overall it did detract from my experience.

My first two hours with game felt too familiar.  Many puzzles were too easy, it was just getting the timing right. Some of the choices I had to make didn’t feel weighted.  Much like go left or right instead of life and death.  As I played I honestly started to get a little bored until the game shifted to a new setting. To avoid spoilers, this will make more sense when you play it.  As I continued the puzzles began to get really creative and I started to really enjoy these harder rooms.  This section of the game honestly turned me around from almost writing a bad review.

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If you start to feel a bit bored, give it some time and at least complete the game once.  I believe you will come back to experience more of the story, puzzles, and satisfy your curiosity.

My first playthrough took a little over 3 hours but after finishing the game once, I’m convinced that there is more too this game than being a love letter to Portal.

Bottom line, if you like Portal, you will really enjoy this game.

tl:dr – Portal fans will find a very familiar and enjoyable experience in Magnetic: Case Closed.  Aside from some bad voice acting and level loading choices the experience of being trapped in a prison, forced to take part in strange experiments was really enjoyable especially towards the end of my first run.  The repel/attract functions of the gun work well and provide a brand new challenge in the arena of first person puzzle games.  With over 9 different endings and tons of new rooms to explore on each playthrough, no run will be the same.

Rating – 8/10

Trailer –