My laptop specs:
Chassis: Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Series (7567) w/ 15.6″ 1920×1080 LED display
Processor: 7th Generation Intel Quad Core i7-7700HQ at 2.8GHz
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti w/ 4gb GDDR5
RAM: 16gb, DDR4, 2400MHz
Hard Drive: 1TB 5400 rpm + 128gb SSD
OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
Hey friends! Judging by my copy-pasted laptop specs, it looks like it’s time for another PC gaming article. This time it’s Feardemic’s 2084, which launched on Steam on December 13. From some of the team behind Layers of Fear and Observer_ – both of which I highly recommend – 2084 is a first-person shooter with a cyberpunk style and hacking mechanics (which I’ll get into in a bit). As it’s currently in Early Access, I hesitate to write too lengthy a review or to criticize it for one feature or another: the developer clearly and repeatedly states on the game’s Steam page that in its current iteration, 2084 is little more than a polished prototype they wanted to share with the community to get feedback as they flesh out the full title. However, what is out is certainly worth discussion, so this article will be short but sweet.
In 2084, your character plugs into a VR headset to experience an outbreak of some kind that has turned people into mindless weirdos who beat you with their fists until you die. They’re not zombies, and in Early Access the basic enemies all look the same – pale, bald characters in hospital gowns, some of whom crouch – but I can say for sure that they really, really don’t like you. Armed with a gun that can hack electronics and launch grenades, it’s up to you to make it through the city and blow these sons of bitches back to cyber Hell.
But here’s the thing. Somehow, some way, 2084 successfully takes us back to the mid-2000s when FPS’s were bizarre and hardcore and fun. Remember how, despite their flaws, titles like Painkiller and Prey (original) and Quake 4 were just laugh-out-loud enjoyable? Before everyone got as hung up on Call of Duty and Battlefield and Halo as they have been since about 2008? That’s what 2084 does. No cutscenes every three minutes, no machismo dick-wagging, no needlessly convoluted objectives, just “Hi, welcome to the game; dudes are attacking from the front and behind and they ain’t stopping.” And this game is fast. Once they’re in the level, bad guys are never more than three seconds away from you and often a second or less, regularly dropping into open areas five or ten at a time.
So how about the mechanics? Well, let’s talk hacking first. To hack a device (always a blue-outlined box or object), right click and a quickie QTE/minigame box pops up and slows time down. The box has a series of directional arrows to be punched in sequence (corresponding with your WASD movement keys) as well as a countdown timer of two to four seconds depending on the length of the code you need to punch in. Succeed and you’ll earn extra ammo or health, unlock doors, hack computers and so on. Fail and you can try again.
But the hacking is much more central to gameplay than just padding out item pickups. Some enemies have TVs for heads – hack them and you’ll electrically stun them and any enemies in their immediate vicinity, giving you a precious extra second or two to mow them down. Hack an ammo box on the floor and not only will you receive its contents but it will zap nearby enemies as well. Some bosses are invulnerable to normal fire until you hack them and expose their weak spots. Hack a dishwasher and it sprouts legs and chases down enemies for you; hack a surveillance camera and it becomes a frickin’ laser turret. How can a surveillance camera shoot lasers out of its lens? Because shut up, that’s how! To be honest, you’ll find a surprising amount of depth and gameplay options that open up as you hack to your own style of play.
Another sorely-missed aspect of FPS’s that 2084 brings back is in the labyrinthine levels. You’ll spend most of your first hour subconsciously hunching in your shoulders as you wind your way through dilapidated apartment floors and basements, traversing down branching hallways to find switches that open far-off doors that loop back around to the beginning of the level and then open other locked doors so you can proceed. It brings back the claustrophobia of Condemned without seeming as painfully linear, and getting into an open outdoor area comes across as a reward, not a given e.g. the battlefields of the aforementioned Call of Duty or Halo. It’s hard to describe exactly what makes it work so well, but it does (see picture below).
Also? Boss fights! Man do I miss a good old-fashioned FPS boss fight. In 2084 there are classic boss battles left and right and they reminded me of how fun those can be. What a hoot.
Speaking of working well, let’s spend a brief moment on what doesn’t – but keep in mind this is still Early Access and has all the time in the world to change before its finished product (which, Feardemic says, will likely be in 18-24 months). Primarily, I wasn’t crazy about the homogeneous nature of the enemies. In the first couple hours, there’s a hospital gown guy, a crouching hospital gown guy, a shrunk-down hospital gown guy and a hospital gown guy with a TV for a head. All four are based on a single character model and that’s totally silly for a title that looks and plays this well. Also, when a group of bad guys spawns off-screen, the foley effect is straight out of 1997…and not in a charming way as the other classic gaming elements in it are. Oof. Also, the game eats batteries like piranhas eat you. I went from a full battery on my laptop to a “plug in your PC” warning in about an hour.
But these are minor quibbles in an otherwise engaging and frenetic game. Dive into the story or see how long you can last in its punishing Endless Mode. Either way, enjoy this truly fun new-meets-old FPS for $10 USD while it’s in Early Access before it retails for a higher price in 2020, because it’s worth it. I can’t give it a final score, but I definitely say it’s worth picking up.
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