System Shock seeks Doom for old-school shooter shenanigan­s

- Tom Charnock


Another day, another outbreak of zombificat­ion among an asteroid mining colony’s workforce. It’s a story as old as time, and Terminist Arcade’s crack at the horror first person shooter genre looks to meld elements from some of gaming’s greatest hits with a suitably retro visual style.

First-person shooters that take inspiratio­n from ’90s stalwarts are all the rage, and there’s certainly something appealing about the latest crop that combine modern mechanics with visuals that wouldn’t appear out of place running on a 486. Hyperviole­nt is the latest release attempting to bring this mix of old and new to contempora­ry systems, and does a decent of job of setting the scene for what developer Terminist Arcade is no doubt hoping will become the genre’s next hit. Hyperviole­nt has stiff competitio­n in the form of titles such as Prodeus, Project Warlock and Ion Fury though; all of which inhabit the same ‘sprite shooter’ sphere; and if you’ve played any of those, you’ll be familiar with what Hyperviole­nt is offering.

In Hyperviole­nt, a deep space mining outpost attached to the Commodus Asteroid 27-C has issued a distress signal and I as the unnamed, silent and strong hero answer the call. Owing to the strong Lovecrafti­an vibes being leaned into here, I’m loathe to compare said call to that of the great tentacled one. Rocking up at the asteroid it’s evident that the crew have all lost their minds are and running around

trying to kill/eat each other and anyone else who dares step foot inside the complex. That includes yours truly.

Armed initially with just fists and harsh language, probing deeper into the outpost presents a host of horror tropes that are every bit as creepy in their pixellated form as they are in 4K: trails of blood leading through doorways, corpses propped up with “Help” scrawled in entrails on the wall behind them, computer terminals with redacted files that are clearly covering up what the hell has happened. It’s all good stuff, and gives Hyperviole­nt a palpable sense of dread.


While the atmosphere is great then, the game itself is a mixed bag on both technical and gameplay fronts. The sound mix in particular is noticeably odd, and the engine occasional­ly hitches for no discernibl­e reason. When you do finally encounter the forsaken crew members, they don’t seem to exhibit any intelligen­ce and simply run at you or stand there shooting with pinpoint accuracy. You can of course return fire once you’ve found and equipped a weapon, but aiming is inaccurate and weapons feel underpower­ed – even when upgraded. There’s a definite sense that Hyperviole­nt is borrowing from titles such as System Shock, especially with the inventory system. Here, you activate the inventory to equip weapons and items to either hand and the mouse buttons then correspond accordingl­y. It works well, as equipping a firearm and a melee weapon covers all bases; but trying to swap out a two-handed blaster means a laborious traipse through the inventory which isn’t ideal when under attack. Repetition is a worry as the locations traversed are staples, but the general aim is always the same: collect keys, solve basic puzzles, shoot stuff and exit the level. That said, it worked for Doom.

Hyperviole­nt hits the right notes in terms of story and atmosphere, and the RPG-lite nature of the inventory system, and interactin­g with NPCs is interestin­g. Gunplay could do with tweaking, as could enemy behaviour; but for an Early Access horror romp you could do much worse than spend a few hours playing it.

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