Developer Futuremark Games Studios
Platform PC/Mac (Via Steam)/ Online only
Things You Might Like
- Original idea in a saturated First Person Shooter market, realistically portrayed
- Beautiful visuals
- Simple but playable game types
- Atmospheric in the extreme
- Multiple strategies possible
- Varied secondary weapons
Things You Might Not Like
- Unreliable, confused Artificial Intelligence occasionally
- Unclear ‘fire coming from’ system
- A team balance system that will often forget how to count
- Over complicated maps
- Inaccurate weapons
- Higher than average system spec requirements
Floating and fighting in near earth orbit next to a devastated moon is a brilliant idea, well executed in this game, but there are a few fairly simple let downs that could have been better dealt with.
4 out of 5 Shattered Astronaut Helmets
Since Steam became iTunes for PC games, PC gaming has been given much needed new life. Even as PC game retail space dwindles alongside consoles (ironically, even in PC World), the PC still produces engaging entertainment. Shattered Horizon is a perfect example of this.
Set in 2049, a mining accident devastates Earth’s natural satellite. International Space Agency astronauts must bring those who caused this disaster — the Moon Mining Corporation — to justice.
Since gameplay is simulated in zero-gravity, there is no fixed orientation and combat is thus made far more challenging. There are eight maps, all gorgeous to look at. If it wasn’t for the possibility of getting shot at, you might just like to float freely for a few minutes, enraptured by beauty. In ‘silent running’ mode, with almost everything on your Heads-Up Display (HUD) shut down (radar, ammo count, navigation and the ‘sound simulation system’ which answers the question of how you can hear your gun in space. This mode makes you move slower, but also invisible to radar) there’s an atmosphere that feels as close to being in space as you’re ever likely to get. Just your heartbeat, breathing, the vibration of a gun against your suit, and the blue or yellow glow of your opponent’s rocket packs telling you if they’re nearby.
There are three game modes: assault, battle and skirmish. Assault is turn-based. Teams either attack or defend a group of ‘control points’ which are captured by standing next to them. It ends either when every point is captured, or time runs out. The roles are then reversed and the attacking team must capture the points faster, or capture more overall. Battle is similar, but not turn-based. Each team starts with an equal number of control points. The round ends when either all points are taken, or the time run out and whoever controls the most wins. Skirmish is a simple frag frenzy. Inflict as many enemy casualties as possible within the time limit. Three simple, thoroughly playable game modes, neither complicated nor overdone.
All praise said, there are some fairly significant problems. To make up the numbers, Futuremark populates official servers with bots. Most are intelligent enough to be interesting, but not so good there’s no point in playing. However, there are some frustrating anomalies. For starters, the ‘auto-assign’ occasionally breaks down. I’ve played in teams outnumbered two to one because the computer gave out far too many extra bots. Also, sometimes they’ll go crazy and congregate peacefully in small spaces, doing nothing. If Futuremark were aware of the limited take up problem, the bots really should be more reliable.
Secondly, the weapons can be difficult to manage. It’s important that you take this criticism with a pinch of salt. I am mildly dyspraxic, so I may be alone on aiming issues, but the HUD crosshairs often expand while firing so much that you wonder how you can be certain of a hit. The HUD does register hits with a sound and a change in the target icon though, so that’s something. Rather than picking up weapons mid game, you choose a specific set before you spawn, and don’t seem to run out of clips, though you do need to reload. Like many FPSs, coming to the end of a clip at a critical moment can be the difference between life and death.
The HUD has some problems too. While there is a system of a red segments telling you where shots that hit you have come from, it doesn’t seem all too clear all the time, and if it’s only a glancing one, it might not come up at all. There is a health bar and an ammo count system, but they could be much much clearer. Despite what can be seen on promotional videos, there’s no visual display on the gun telling you your ammo count (at least not in my copy). Also, when using grenades, of which there are six types, gauging how far they will fly before detonation is extremely difficult. You’re given a vague indication with a power/charge up ring, but you’ll need lots of trial and error before you master it.
The maps are difficult too. While the idea of floating around the place is great, the designers may have been over-optimistic, as several of the maps are very difficult to navigate. Sometimes, you can be floating around for ages before finding an enemy at all. However, this is something that does change with time, as with a limited number of maps, you can learn them quickly. Also in assault and battle games, the control points make for good points of reference, so it’s not that big a deal.
The last issue is the high system requirements. If you’re running a machine that’s more than a year old and wasn’t the peak of the performance curve, you may have a hard time trying to get Shattered Horizon to work. While independent producers understand that less can be more, bigger PC game companies still need to stop looking for bigger and better, and try to make the most of what gamers currently have. Shattered Horizon is still of the old mould. Digital Marxism is not with us yet.
In conclusion, Shattered Horizon breaks new ground in the saturated PC First Person Shooter market. It’s not just another World War 2/Clancy/futuristic frag fest — a real breath of fresh air (well, not so much fresh as recirculated). The visuals are stunning and the atmosphere creates exceptional realism. But it’s betrayed by simple faults, like an auto-assign system that can’t always count and an occasionally pacifist Artificial Intelligence. And it would be great if something so brilliant was made more widely accessible. While this might mean compromising on some of the graphics, it’s worth it to have more gamers on the scene.
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