Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twenty Dollars of Awesome

Well to be honest it was $18 for me because I pre-ordered Shattered Horizon. However for those of you who didn't pre-order Futuremark's astronaut combat title, it will cost you $20. And you will be getting a bargain!

So yes, Futuremark has released their first title. If you're not familiar with Futuremark, they are known for making 3D benchmarking software that many hardware reviewers and system testers use to gauge the performance of their machines. Usually, the test renders some fairly impressive imagery that the imaginative artists have cooked up for the benchmark.

It seems that they got bored with simply writing benchmarking applications and instead created a genre morphing game. Sure Shattered Horizons, or as I call it 'Astronaut Wars', is classified as a first person shooter. However, any shooter fan jumping into this game is going to be taken for a spin (Literally) if they think they can approach it with the same mentality brought to other shooters.

Imagine a world where there is no up or down - a world where your orientation is constantly changing. Now imagine flying through that world at 40 miles per hour with an assault rifle, while you're being shot at by 15 other people who are as disoriented as you.

The control scheme in 'Astronaut Wars' is perfect. In fact it's pretty much exactly what any shooter fan would expect from a standard awsd setup. The only main difference is that when you hold the right mouse button and drag your mouse to either the right or left, you will rotate instead of pan.

The graphics are quite acceptable. The artists have spent a lot of time making space look like space. Everything has a very NASA look to it. There are lots of supporting beams connecting station modules, solar panels, airlocks, etc. If there was such a thing as space marine combat, this game has done a very believable portrayal of both the environments and space suits.

The HUD is very slick and the text that displays across your screen is actually curved along the arc of the visor. There isn't anything to bring you away from the moment. Scores are displayed on your visor, and your options menu is access on your left arms control panel (predator style).

To top off the ambient feeling of space, you have the option to power off your suit's electronics and thrusters. When powered down the suit's sound simulator no longer works, so the only thing you can hear is your own breathing.. and the occasional bullet penetrating your suit if you're not careful. The advantage of going into powered down mode, is that you appear on enemy radar as nothing more than space debris. Since there are already a fair amount of dead astronauts floating through space you can often be mistaken for one.

This is perhaps my favorite way to get behind enemy lines. I like to fire off my boosters to get up to speed and then power down. If I'm lucky I will sail right past the enemy, power back up and begin my sneaky assassination of their squad.

Even though I have great fun playing the game it's not without it's faults. Most of them are technical rather than poor design decisions.

My main issue with the game is the engine. I think it's good for companies to create their own engines.. IF you have the experience and resources to do it right. And for the most part the engine looks fine, except that I can't turn the graphics up beyond the balanced settings without suffering massive frame rate loss. This is with a GTX 295 video card, an Intel quad core CPU, and 8 gigs of ram... On balanced setting the shadows look extremely pixelated and the texturing is nothing to marvel at.

Fine so maybe they pulled a "Crysis" and made a game designed for future computers. That would be fine, except that at maximum graphics settings the visuals are nothing that the Unreal 3 engine couldn't handle and at about 40 frame per second faster. The game also crashes upon exiting, has a laughable stat tracking system, and has a bunch of other little bugs here and there.

My one other gripe with the game is on the design end. The gravity boots that you are equipped with allow you to gravitate to any surface and walk on it. By doing so you can find cool little areas to ambush the enemy and you also gain a slight boost to your weapon's accuracy. The only problem is that when you try to walk around you will loose contact with a surface if it curves too much. This is incredibly annoying and pretty much ruins your ability to walk around at all. This gives the gravity boots no more use than just planting yourself in an area waiting for the enemy. I want to be able to walk around the surface of an asteroid dammit!

That being said, it's a $20 game thats incredibly fun and innovative. The bugs and quirks won't stop or ruin gameplay for anyone. I highly recommend getting the title and getting into this multidimensional space shooter.. Primarily so I can shoot your rocket fuel tank and watch your corpse go careening off into the nearby micrometer storm :)


  1. This totally reminds me of what Ender and the battle school students were training for in "Enders Game". Although this is fighting other humans rather than aliens.

  2. There is a contest to give away the game to a lucky winner.

  3. The enemy gate is down..

  4. Have fun with Shattered Horizon!

    I got me a new game too that I've been playing: Dragon Age: Origins. Like whoa - quite an RPG.