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Should I be excited about… Interstellar Marines (PC)

Interstellar Marines has been a long time coming. Work began on this ambitious “Indie AAA” title back in 2005, and since then the game has had a troubled development. After a long wait you can now play this ambitious release, but it’s still far from finished. The truly exciting single player Deus Ex-inspired campaign hasn’t arrived yet, but the multiplayer portion is here, at least in its alpha form. What we have is a promising game engine and some very stripped back and basic FPS deathmatch gameplay.

The term “AAA Indie” was coined by Zero Point Software, and it represents their aspirations to create an indie title that’s as impressive in scope and scale as a big budget release. Their funding model allows the early adopters to help pay for the games development, with features added over time. You can pay for early access right now, and with that early access you will get a very early peek into what the developers are calling a game with only 2% of its final content.

Currently the game features two maps and only one weapon and a basic team deathmatch game type. The gameplay is brutal and quick, with death coming swiftly once an enemy has you in their sites, and respawns getting you back into the action in seconds.

The main selling point is the lighting model used in the game. One level uses a day/night cycle (complete with weather effects), while the other takes place inside with flashing strobe lights and extreme darkness. Indeed no other game has depicted darkness quite so well, at least in the multiplayer arena, and searching for enemies can be a tense affair, especially when you have to choose between using your flashlight, or turning it off so that you’re harder to find.

The weather effects are nice too, and you can raise your suits visor to see more clearly. This subtly changes the sound-scape of the game, and is a nice little touch. Similarly, you can turn on a laser site on your weapon, but again this can be spotted by your opponents. It’s a nice little risk/reward mechanic.

Despite the initial promise, Interstellar Marines is still at a very early stage, and as such there’s not much more to it than a very basic deathmatch gametype. The sound effects for weapons are irritating and flat, and the texturing work is basic, while the movement feels a little floaty. Planetside or even Dust 514 are free and far richer in features.

At this point then, Interstellar Marines has potential, but is yet to realise that potential. If the singleplayer campaign can be made to utilise the game engine and if the atmospheric environments can be refined and fully used, Interstellar Marines could be worth picking up one day.

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