Interstellar Marines – Alpha Hands On Preview
I’ve always been a fan of first-person shooters. While the genre may feel like it’s getting a little long in the tooth (particularly on consoles), I still feel there’s room for new FPS IP’s so long as they’re fun and offer something a little different from other shooters. ‘Interstellar Marines’ from indie developer Zero Point Software is currently in alpha, and while it is a very early build of the game it certainly has a lot of potential, it just has to find its identity.
As I mentioned before, Interstellar Marines is in a very early alpha state, so there isn’t much in the way of in-game content or modes, just a mode where players fight for control over various points on the map, but they can also win by eliminating other players. It plays like a mix between Search and Destroy and Domination from Call of Duty, but death can be much more sudden like in Counter-Strike.
Where Interstellar Marines really wins me over though, is in the environments and clever effects that occur during matches. During matches, a number of things can happen which will drastically alter your gameplay experience. One map took place inside a huge shooting arena inside a warehouse and just as I thought I had seen everything that could possibly happen on the map, Zero Point managed to pleasantly surprise me time and time again. At one point all the lights went out, with emergency lighting providing a much dimmer arena for players to stalk each other in. You’ve also got a flashlight and laser sight to aid you, but those are visible to all players so if stealth tactics are your thing, you’ll want to learn the maps. In another game I heard a loud rumbling, which I suspected to be something that would activate the lighting fault again but instead the air condition system turned on, blowing dust across the arena in impressive waves. The dust would catch and flow across various surfaces and really looked fantastic.
Other environments have similar occurrences. Whilst not playable in multiplayer, players are able to check out multiplayer map previews. My favourite of these being designed around a crashed spaceship in a swamp. The swamp has an eerie fog about it and at times the only lighting provided is from the occasional lightning strike nearby. Once again it came down to me and my flashlight trying to find my way through the area. I can’t wait to play it in multiplayer.
Now while I’m extremely impressed with the quality of Interstellar Marines’ current state there are a few things that I’m mildly miffed by. For one thing, the levels and character models were both created by very talented designers. Talented, but not very imaginative. While I was impressed by the proficient level design and characters I didn’t feel they had their own unique look. We live in a world where iconic characters and levels can make or break a game and not once did I feel like I encountered the best that Zero Point had to offer. There was nothing as unique as Halo‘s Master Chief, Fallout 3‘s Brotherhood of Steel armour or any levels as exciting as Unreal Tournament‘s Citadel. This might sound like a crazy complaint seeing as the game is in a very early stage of development, but I feel there needs to be a little more originality in the design, as we’ve been given the obligatory snow map, colony map and shooting range map. If Zero Point manages to match their technical skill with some imagination, they’d have a sure-fire hit on their hands upon release. Like I said though, I’m more than certain that the best is yet to come.
In terms of how the game plays, I only have a few small complaints. The recoil on the SMG you begin with can be a little out of hand, considering you’re more likely to spray people from up close with it. I found the secondary gun (an assault rifle) to be much more accurate, especially when firing from a distance. Even then however, you’ll be lucky to score a headshot on someone. Another thing I found in need of tweaking is the running speed. It’s more of a jog, but once again, I’m sure that will be fixed (and it’s an easy fix).
I’ve had fun with Interstellar Marines so far, and I’m keen to see how the game plays with full player lobbies. The game began as a group of designers/friends testing what was possible from them with the Unity engine, and you can tell that they’ve made it with good intentions in mind. It’s certainly an impressive effort so far, it just needs to find a little more flair in the actual design process, because as it stands, bullets don’t damage walls and there aren’t even any dead bodies or damaged environmental features, so some environments can come across as bland. Co-op gameplay is on the way in a future update and I know I’ll be keen to see how that turns out.