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Tycho / on Fri, Jun 24 2011 at 12:00 am

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The Enervator

When something arrives at the office for Gabriel there is a sort of dance that accompanies it, a small one, a festival in miniature to which he is the sole attendee.  I saw this ritual peel away yesterday, peel and flake, like old wallpaper.

He had purchased a copy of The Wild Hunt specifically to pass around at work, to trundle from office to office like a reliquary and dispense its portion of the divine.  What he received instead was this monstrous thing, some kind of Goddamn larva, which could not be more antithetical to his consumer will.  We thought Tycho’s vocabulary might be more apt for the strip we wanted to make, and so we shredded reality.

Let’s talk F.3.A.R. (fa-thrir!).

It has a shooter campaign that aims to wrap up a kind of trilogy; there are, no doubt, people who are invested in the mythology on offer there.  Each you conquer a level, you are allowed to play that level as “Paxton Fettel,” a kind of ravening superghost core to the fiction.  He can hoist enemies on a cord of spectral blood, possess human hosts, and a couple other tricks.  Or, you can play in co-op and get both sets of powers, working asymmetrically toward the same goals.  You’ll almost certainly get less time out of the game this way - it’s more “efficient” - but, wow.  You’ve probably never been party to anything like it.

It’s not the only game to play around with possession, by any means:  Messiah, another game sure to date me even further, and the much maligned Geist, which was occasionally pretty cool, both have stuff like this.  What I would say is that it’s the first game with both possession and credible gunplay.  I’m playing as Point Man, which is to say I am the sort of person you control in most shooters, except I have the ability to dilate the passage of time and I can also jump up and kick you in the face.  Or the knee!  I’m not partic’lar about the location.

Where things are legitimately and irrevocably launched into outer space is when Day 1 starts going fucking insane in mutiplayer.  It’s wall to wall experiments, beginning with a playercount locked at four, the sort of thing we associate with boardgames.  Or, DOOM.  So, four players, and four gametypes, only one of which is competitive in any traditional way.

Even then, Soul King isn’t especially traditional.  The only way the word applies at all is that you are trying to kill each other to score points.  Upon this bed of jasmine rice, we ladle four terrifying spirits and a zone full of bodies to fight over.  As one of these spirits, any of the neutral bots you kill scores you Souls, and the way you become the King of them is to have the most.  You can take possession of these hapless mortals at any time, leaping out to save your own life, or to secure the drop on a foe.  Since the souls aren’t contained in this or that given body, as long as you can make a getaway, you can keep your hoard.  It’s weird, and it works.

You’ve got two explicitly co-op modes clanking around in there, Contractions and “Fucking Run.”  The first will be familiar to anyone who enjoys the odd round of Zombies in Call of Duty.  It has a twist or two, in the form of mid-round “supply runs” outside your safe zone, and there’s a lot of headroom in that concept that I’m not entirely sure this game is in a position to manifest, but it’s good.  Fucking Run is a four player race against a Wave of Mutilation that ends the round if it touched any member of your team.  I haven’t spent a lot of time with this one yet; I don’t know how bad I want to play that one avec l’estrangers.

The last mode - Soul Survivor - is them going nuts again, but to good effect.  Imagine if you could play Red Rover where one team is all evil ghosts and the other is terrified special forces types.  One player out of four is chosen to be a ghost at the beginning, and you spend the rest of the round either corrupting living beings or trying like hell not to be enspectred.  These are the same ghosts from Soul King, except this ghost and the aggressive AI enemies are of the same faction and they can (and will) be almost anywhere they want to be.

There are many unloved multiplayer attempts that are included with games out of that twisted Duty to the bulletpoint or the fickle “target demo.”  But someone loved these - they loved them as they were making them, and you can tell.

(CW)TB out.

this is edge of your seat type stuff

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