When I first learnt about this game I couldn't contain my excitement. As a games journalist who is an avid
gamer, I get excited about a lot of games - but that, in itself, is an indication gaming and its expanded quality have come in leaps and bounds, so when you're also a space/science freak (like me) and you see a HD game trailer that shows the Moon crumbling into so much dust (maybe NASA should have worked with Futuremark for their Moon bombing), it's hard not to get a little excited.
Grabbing the multiplayer romp off Steam, I certainly haven't been disappointed with what's on offer. If you're any sort of FPS player, Shattered Horizon is going to be instantly playable, and it's eerie just how intuitive it is to move in space, both through reactionary intuitiveness and solid practise. I felt right at home right away, and despite being murdered a stack of times upon my first few plays (mostly because I was gawking at the environment), I soon learned how it all works.
Despite the game's fantastical setting, it's still very much a bare-bones shooter. Everything you would expect in the way of controls and skirmish types are here. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Assault offer their premises as foundation for your conflict while you're equipped with thrusters to control your movement through space, which uses a semi-realistic sense of inertia and zero-gravity with said thrusters and magnetic boots. In saying that, there's still no up or down and you can roll while on the move through zero-G (see, "semi-realistic"). There's also a "silent running" technique whereby your suit goes quiet and you disappear off the enemy HUD. It's essentially a stealth way to approach the enemy, though hard to use given the frenetic nature of play. Floating around in the dead of space creates a very different
kind of battle experience in that you're never really focusing directly on one direction. Death comes from all around, and with the stunning level-design in place, the enemy could be hiding anywhere.
Thankfully you can use a pseudo 3D radar as part of your HUD that gives you a reasonable amount of spatial awareness, and you can use other elements such as the Earth's in-your-face scenery as a point of reference. The levels have also been crafted in such a way as to at one time be fully operational ports; replete with doors, walkways and more. These can come in handy (especially with your magnetic boots), but you're not really going to be getting too lost or disoriented (at least not after a while of play), and it's a testament to the controls, level design and overall presentation that you won't be filling your space helmet up too often with vomit (at least in the virtual sense).
As I just mentioned, the game goes to great lengths to marry the fantastical (often warranted) with the reality of your space environment. Your suit therefore "simulates" combat sounds so as to help you better orientate yourself (as we all learnt from the original Alien movie poster "In Space, No One Can Hear You scream", though this can be turned off (during the aforementioned silent running) where you only hear your own breathing and the echoes of your own gunfire in your suit. The levels themselves are based around torn portions of the Moon; now spread in sporadic orbit around the Earth, with bits and pieces of human technology thrown in for good measure. Even the International Space Station presents itself as an arena for combat, and it's all aesthetically pleasing and in keeping with our current technological look.
But herein lies the biggest issue I have with the game. There is an incredibly well-realised idea here, and idea that desperately needs to be expanded upon. the game's settings, the reasons for your team skirmishes and more are all plainly presented to you as bite-size chunks of information during match loading. And it's not that it's a bad thing to only have a base reason to float through space and kill other enemies you see hovering above pieces of shattered moon, but the little bit of info we get is more than enough to warrant full expansion.
There's no single-player game here, not even any modes with Bots to give you a better sense of how to play the game. Clearly this has been built for hardcore FPS skirmish enthusiasts, and it's not fair Futuremark keep it so under wraps. And oddly, while I could care less about anyone's platform of choice - play whatever game you want on whatever system, as far as I'm concerned, I play on them all
- I think this game would work really well in the console space through it's slightly more sluggish controls based on its overall setting.
Though in saying all of that, we might just be looking at a precursor to something more engaging and expansive. And here's hoping because despite being fairly straight-forward in how it's played, there's massive potential here. As far as game specs go, you're going to need to be rigging a DirectX 10 card right from the outset, and pushing all the settings can seriously put some weight on your hardware. But again, given the nature and ability of players populating servers (of which yes, there are Aussie ones), you're probably core enough to have a suped up rig anyway, at which point I say have at it.
Overall the product here is of high quality, and it's rare to find such a high-end game gearing to such a dedicated crowd (the last such game was really TF2). But because of the quality of the game, I also think this is Futuremark's biggest failing - Shattered Horizon should be made more readily available and expanded upon. More multiplayer modes (I'm positive we'll see more down the track through developer support), a single-player mode (even if it's light on details, it would go a long way to teaching newbs how to outmanoeuvre the dudes ripping it up right now) and potentially something in the console space (please do not take that for advocating the PC vs Console debate, I'm thinking of cash money for the developer to expand upon their great idea).
But, even sans all of the above, I can't help but love the game, even if it's to log into an empty server and just roam around the amazingly crafted levels, this is well worth your time and investment if you're any sort of FPS nut. Oh, and if you like anything spacey, it's an added bonus.