Spotlight – Dark City (2018 Game)

SPOTLIGHT

DARK CITY
FPSC
2018

 

The game can be downloaded for free here.

Review (as adressed to the developers)

First of all, congratulations to getting a full release out, the work in progress boards are proof that this has never been an easy task with FPSC. I see you used Xplosys starter app that allows you to bind several exes with one launcher. A decent way to avoid some of FPSC’s grotesque limitations and it worked quite well with the chapters! This way I didn’t have a single crash.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this game and in a similar fashion to Bugsys review, I will try to be as honest as possible. I find that the menue and loadingscreens are already pretty indicative of what the game is like to play. The menue is interesting, animated and makes the player want to see more, the loading screen is so atrociously badly composed that it made me want to shut the game off right then and there. But then the game started.

We play as Jack Logan, a playfully generic tough cop character with a hilariously generic name. However, the game idea is not generic and I find there are too few games like it. I remember some attempts at making black and white FPSC games, the one that won the nvidia contest back in 2006 or 7, the one by peanutbutterfingers titled “contrast” and a few more. However, so far, this is the only one that I have seen actually released which is cool. Now, using the reshade “sin city” effect was not the worst choice…but using it over an otherwise normally coloured game was.

You see, this game is maybe the ugliest FPSC game I have ever played. This is because everything is underdetailed and the black and white postprocessing effect tends to randomly tint pixels in a screaming red colour that are not supposed to be tinted that way. I feel that if, in this screenshot, only the womans dress would be red (and her afro maybe not so ridicoulusly low poly ) it would be interesting to look at, but this way its very off.
I think your aesthetic would have worked very well if you hand coloured the textures. Added stark contrasts, occasional red highlights, seeing how you use very few detail props this would take you a bit over an hour and look far cooler. If I deactivate the postprocessing effect, the scenes look incredibly low resolution and its very apparent that the art assets are largely from very different artists and time periods (another interesting point I will mention again later).
My point is that the idea is really cool but the execution incredibly unappealing.

The cutscenes are not too badly coreographed, over the top and have a solid cast of appropriately cheesy voice actors. However, the voice work is not very audible compared to the usual sound of the game. Every sound editing tool has a function called “amplify” using that would have made it a lot better as I wouldnt have to turn up the volume every time someone speaks to even hear them. I’m not going to complain about how awkward and hokey the cutscenes where, I found that to be insanely charming and it went well with the rest.

So level 1:

Inspector Tequila is beating up a legion of prisoners. Hey, this was cool. FPSC does not have the best melee features (lord knows I tried.) and I would generally advise against this type of level but being an armed cop that mows down tons of unarmed prisoners would have been in bad taste. Going all Bruce Lee on them is cool though. Here I did however notice the incredible FPSC’ness and simplicity of the levels. There is barely any decor, hallways, and if there is decor it can be incredibly misplaced. There is a “hotel” sign in a prison cell for example. I would have removed the crowbar. Its immediately apparent that its in a completely different visual style than the fists and other weapons and the fists with the kick function where hella cool. Apart from the detail that I can see the end of the arms disappear into nothingness on screen when ever I attack. Perhaps this is a widescreen issue? Tweaking the “forward” value in the gunspec would fix that. I also found it odd that the game told me to pick up more weapons…so I went ahead and picked up my fists. …okay.

Level 2 happens

John McLane ends up in a seedy motel.
Level 2 is what a teenager thinks an illegal brothel in a cheesy hotel looks like I liked the idea and a lot of the work you put into it. Gameplay wise its a corridor shooter and that was okay. A lot of animated scenes in the rooms that where very tongue in cheek kept it interested. I like how an armed cop enters a room after a fierce firefight and is invited to a threesome. The comic book tone of the whole thing paired with 60s detective novel cheese works well but I feel like you didn’t go all out with it. My complaint about the hotel is this: You clearly put a lot of effort into the custom models and animations. However, the surrounding level is just a segment made set of rooms and corridors with barely any defining characteristics or detail. You have the whole mem cap as every chapter is its own exe, you could have worked with it and make this shine. This had such a strong dissonance with me… where I thought, hehe, its cool that they thought of making this and this is boring.

Level 3 happens

Detective Callahan is bored by the generic portion of the game…and a bit confused about the UFO and why the local workers seem to not care about all the shooting.
The obligatory warehouse level was quite ugly and uneventful. Luckily the shotgun allowed it to be fast paced. This is the lowest point of the game for me.

Level 4 happens

Jerry Cotton turns the docks upside down.
For some reason, every other cop/detective type story has to take place at the docks at some point. Here I actually noticed how frequent this is. And the level is quite cool. I never got the feeling of being at the ocean but I was really impressed by all the dynamic fork lift operators, that they honk if you are in the way and all the moving cranes. Dynamic level elements are always nice to see. I was however really underwhelmed by the forklift being in my way later on that just disappeared after I shot it.
Here the game was far more interesting again than in the warehouse. The end sequence where I jump out the window was cool!

Level 5

John Spartan saves the day at the junkyard.
I quite enjoyed this level as it was interesting to navigate and there was a lot going on. The fact that you made a final showdown on top of a crane was really ambitious.
I noticed the strong difference in quality in the car models, from barely being 3d to fully realized interiors. To me as an old FPSC dinosaur, seeing the darkmatter models used in this was quite endearing but I think they will really be offputting to other players. I think the junkyard is where the game really shines. So many jokes, so much effort, a lot of stuff that made me go “hey cool”. I think the game could have used more references and absurd humour.
We kill the bad guy and the game ends. Except that it didn’t for me, I lef the crane and nothing happened, so I walked around a bit more analyzing the level. Oh! And I actually laughed out loud at Moulder and Scully.

The games biggest strengths are:
The flair, the heart and how silly it is. You could really amp this up and maybe accentuate the cartoon aesthetic more. This has potential. Polishing (or at least increasing the volume) of the voice acting and having more funny moments rather than dull grey corridors would have made this something you could easily spread outside of the FPSC scene. I really hope you made another game with similar tone, now a lot more experienced from making this game.

The games biggest weakness is:

I mean honey, its hella ugly. But that doesnt matter: What matters is the horribly stiff and awkward gameplay. I mean wow! This thing reminded me in parts of FPSC gameplay from 2006. Burnyourhonda and Bugsy are 2 noteable examples of people that made shooting and firefights in FPSC really fluid and fun. In this game I was glad whenever I had the shotgun because I could quickly fire my way through the level to see something cool happen again, like an interesting animated sequence or so. Starting with how atrocious the guns are animated. The main weapon is the colt. Its also the worst weapon, it feels like a peeshooter, how close it is to the screen feels totally off, the moving animation is really ugly and it zooms in way too much when I aim. I felt it was a really bad choice to have this weapon accompany you through almost all of the last level. The SMG had the same problem with a hilariously jittery running animation when sprinting (the benny hill theme would fit here).
I mean, you have enemies that actually gib and fall apart so some attempt was made to add to the combat (I appreciated that by the way). The only weapon that felt tolerable was the shotgun.
So yeah, different sounds, weapons positioned differently on screen, taking advantage of the airmod features and better enemy placment (there where countless moments where I could see them spawning or where the did not react to me) would go a long long way.

This is a really nice little homemade game! Having fun shooter gameplay and maybe looking more appealing would make it something that a lot of players around the world would enjoy! And you can’t beat the price

Other note: I saw a lot of really old props from FPSC’s past being used. I liked to see some of these still being in use.

So this is my review. I hope you find it interesting and are not in some way discouraged by the criticism I uttered. AND I really wanna see more from you!

Keep it up.

 

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About serygala

Who really has time to think about a summary of himself on the internet? I like art, women, gamedesign and I love coffee. Everything else is too much information.
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