Bringing the '90s shooter experience to modern platforms
Retro shooter game DUSK is arguably one of the best attempts to bring the classic '90s shooter experience to modern platforms. The game released for PC last December and will also be making its way to consoles later this year.
The game features three distinct campaign episodes that are inspired by pioneer shooter games from the early '90s, such as Quake, Heretic, Hexen and Half-Life.
Players battle through an onslaught of mystical backwater cultists, possessed militants and even darker forces and attempt to discover just what lurks beneath the Earth.
DUSK is perhaps best described as a flawless attempt to reintroduce those elements that made the early '90s shooter games great: simple weapon mechanics, high-speed movement, a large amount of crazy enemies to kill, and a couple of puzzles and secrets in between.
The singleplayer campaign starts off relatively slow with the "The Foothills" episode. This episode largely features farms, underground sewers and bunkers, swamps, and fields filled with enemies to blast your way through.
It felt like most of these early levels serve as an introduction to the game's mechanics and weapons as they were easy to get through. This episode slowly provides more and more weapons for you to play with, including dual-wielded shotguns, machine guns, grenade launchers and crossbows.
It isn't until the second episode "The Facilities" that the game starts throwing challenging content at you. For me, it was here that the game started to become very enjoyable to play. This isn't just because of the increased complexity, but also because introductions are out of the way and now the game is able to mix and match for unique experiences.
The second episode sees the player explore military complexes and heavy industrial zones, giving a vibe that is similar to exploring Black Mesa in Half-Life.
As you continue to work your way through the singleplayer campaign, levels become more complex and enemies types will become more difficult to kill. Half way through the last episode "The Nameless City" pretty much every large scale battle will make you wonder if things can get even more insane, and the game almost always delivers.
There was something that kept me coming back to it, but it wasn't just the increased level complexity that kept it interesting. The time between introducing new weapons and enemy types felt right and extremely satisfying. Not once did I have the feeling that I required more powerful weapons to advance and this made the game really enjoyable.
Perhaps, most importantly, the game does everything it can to deliver the unexpected by throwing expectations and assumptions out the door. This is not just done through clever level design, some of which really is brilliant, but also by carefully timing boss fights and soundtrack triggers and by introducing new enemy types at key moments.
The game isn't without its issues, however. I experienced the occasional issue of not being able to figure out where to go next. This is, for the most part, caused by the key collection level design used in every retro title -- and thus also in DUSK. To advance through levels players must collect color-coded keys to open red, blue, green and yellow doors.
The occasional struggle with key collection level design made me wonder whether modern shooter games have dumbed us players down or if it were just minor issues with DUSK's level design. I still haven't made my mind up on this one, but I'm leaning towards it being a little of both.
In addition, boss fights aren't always as unique and challenging as I would have liked. The boss fight that stood out the most for me was the one where a crazed version of Arnold Schwarzenegger ran after me screaming "Come on! Kill me! I'm here!" -- a reference to the classic movie Predator.
Despite these issues, DUSK actually ticks all of the boxes necessary to deliver a superb shooter experience: the mechanics, the soundtrack, the level design, and the crazy enemy types, all come together to create an unparalleled retro throwback.
If the large amount of content of the singleplayer campaign isn't enough for you, the game also features several multiplayer modes. Although I have yet to play its multiplayer extensively, it is clear that the game draws inspiration from Quake. The team behind the game is currently also working on adding co-op multiplayer.
If you are into shooter games, DUSK is a definite must buy. The retro pixel graphics may not be for everyone, but don't let these throw you off. This indie shooter can easily give triple A studios a run for their money.
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