Gunpoint is a game that I’ve had a keen eye on for a few years now. Longtime PC Gamer scribe Tom Francis and his small team of five others, have been hard at work on this labor of video gaming love for three years. The videos and screenshots that have trickled out to the internet over those long years were tantalizing to say the least. The game footage itself reminded me of a mishmash of two old-school games that I was rather fond of: Epyx’s Impossible Mission and Mindscape’s Deja-Vu and, most of all, that footage left me in a frenzied state, as if I was a tubby knuckle-dragger with an empty sack of Cheetos…the scant footage left me wanting more, more, MORE!
Guard + Spy + Crash Through Window = BIG FUN!
Typically, almost anything that I’ve been waiting on for this long never comes close to living up to my grandiose expectations. I’m quite happy (and utterly relieved) to report that Gunpoint is the exception rather than the rule here. Beyond one major, and two minor, quibbles this game is the bees fucking knees to be quite frank. The small, but detailed, graphics, the jazzy, noir-inspired music, the well-crafted storyline and puzzle based gameplay all comes together nicely to form a top-notch interactive entertainment experience.
Gunpoint weaves a fairly complex pulp/crime yarn that’ll keep you guessing until the bitter end. You are cast in the role of Richard Conway, a private dick in the fictional town of East Point. Richard is thrust into a proverbial “web of intrigue” that involves two of East Point’s biggest weapon manufacturers and, oddly enough, the East Point police department as well. The game’s narrative and dialogue mainly plays out via text messages, with various clients blowing up your phone with jobs, requests and updates. Francis’ skill as a writer shows through in these text messages, as there are many pithy exchanges that struck me as rather amusing.
For each mission you complete, you are rewarded with cash and skill points. Cash allows you to buy new espionage items and skill points upgrade your jumping abilities and item/battery charges. Pretty standard stuff.
But, to unravel this intricate web of corporate lies, deceit and double talk, Richard has a plethora of spy gadgets at his disposal; the main two being the Crosslink and the Wirejack. You can almost complete the game using only these two items, as only the very last level requires you to buy two other gadgets. The Crosslink/Wirejack combination makes up the core gameplay mechanic of Gunpoint, and it is sublime in its implementation and usage. The potent Crosslink/Wirejack combo allows you to tap into and rewire a building’s various electronic devices (switches, lights, doors, motion detectors, etc.) to suit the needs of a top-notch reconnoiter such as yourself. A quick example of how this works would be: say you needed to get into a building, but all the first floor doors are locked tighter than some douchebag hipster’s drainpipe jeans. You see on the second floor that there is a motion detector and a guard patrolling past that motion detector. Using the Crosslink, you quickly rewire the motion detector to the door, bypassing the hand panel activation of said door, and once the unsuspecting guard walks past the motion sensor again, viola’, the door springs open and you now have access to the building. Pretty damn cool, right? Let me tell you, that just scratches the surface of all the bad ass spy shenanigans you can get up to with the Crosslink system. You’ll find yourself scoping out the building layouts for exploits for a good ten minutes before you even take a step toward the building…at least, I know that’s how I played the majority of the later, more challenging, levels.
Using the Crosslink system is intuitive and super sweet.
On to my issues with Gunpoint; they are few, as I mentioned, but important to note. First and foremost, I greatly dislike how this game fucks you over with your own firearm, called “The Resolver,” which is a wicked name but a total misnomer because it doesn’t “resolve” jack shit. In fact, it complicates things greatly. Maybe that’s point, as this is more of a “use your brains,” puzzle-type game, but these kinds of design decisions and/or limitations truly irk me.
You can obtain the gun fairly early on in the game but, beyond one instance at the very end of game, you cannot realistically use it to shoot anyone and complete the mission at hand. You can use your gun to intimidate most guards at “gunpoint” (get it?) and they will back down, but get too close and they will have absolutely no qualms in blowing your dumb ass away.
If you do discharge your weapon, a countdown starts (a little over 20 seconds) and you have that scant time to get the hell out of Dodge. If you don’t, a SUPER SNIPER appears and blocks your exit from the level. There is no way that I found to kill, or get past, the SUPER SNIPER because he can see as far as the Eye-of-Goddamn-Sauron and has the aim of fucking Legolas Greenleaf on a heavy dose of Ritalin. Now, maybe I could rationalize this bullshit if it only happened when you shot and killed a guard; you killed a person and you are being punished for that dastardly act. Fine. Still kind of crap, but OK, I get it. But no, no, no…the asshole SUPER SNIPER appears even when you shoot the walls or at nothing at all! Is the game mad at me because I killed the wall? Did the wall have a Mrs. Wall and three little wallings at home, so I should feel like a terrible person for shooting the stupid fucking wall?
Beyond the jokes, this is an issue with me because it limits the options you have while playing. There are sound based puzzles in the game and the first time I encountered a sound sensor, I figured I could use the gun to set it off since there were no guards around. BANG! I fire my gun and it triggers the sensor which, in turn, triggers the door I Crosslinked the sensor to. Easy peasey. But not so fast, my good man, because I had the temerity to discharge my gun into the wall, the SUPER SNIPER countdown begins. Why? If guard fires his gun, the SUPER SNIPER doesn’t appear. How does the SUPER SNIPER know the difference between the sound of my gun and their guns? He doesn’t. The game (and by extension it’s designer) is just trying to force you to play the way it/he wants you to…by using the clattering of the elevator to activate the sound sensor instead of a gun report.
The gun play in Gunpoint leaves much to be desired…
To expand upon this SUPER SNIPER countdown nonsense, what if I want to play the game in a run-and-gun fashion? I’m a very direct person and that style of play suits me, much like Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs, who memorably quipped: “I don’t wanna kill anybody. But if I gotta get out that door, and you’re standing in my way, one way or the other, you’re gettin’ outta my way.” I guess Mr. Pink and I are shit out of luck because Gunpoint just won’t let us shoot someone who is standing in our way and complete our mission in a reasonable manner.
I had a similar issue with, Dishonored, another very cool game that punishes you unfairly for playing a certain way. Why make Corvo, the main character, an awesome-steampunk-whale-powered-ninja-man if you are going to shit all over me at the end of the game for actually using my awesome-steampunk-whale-powered-ninja-man powers? The same goes for Gunpoint: why even include a gun in the damn game if you are going to punish me for using it and, on top of that, I can really only use it the way it’s meant to be used in one spot on the final level!?
The other two issues I have are minor, so I’ll address them as succinctly as possible because the length of this review is getting way out of hand.
- I beat Gunpoint in five hours, which included a good amount of “thinking” time (i.e. studying the layout of a building for the best possible route/plan of attack before even setting foot in said building). Put simply, I wanted more because I was enjoying myself a great deal here. But, five hours is still a bit too short, even for a $10 game. There is a level editor included with Gunpoint so, hopefully, I’ll be able to play other people’s uploaded levels in the not too distant future.
- I’m going to be honest here, beyond an FPS game, I dislike using mouse and keyboard controls. There are times in Gunpoint when this interface totally failed me. Also, Conway felt too “sticky” to me at times and he wouldn’t get off the wall or ceiling when I wanted/needed him to. This could be an extension of the mouse/keyboard control scheme, but I’m not sure. Maybe I just suck?
The overall coolness and playability of Gunpoint outweighs its flaws by a longshot, though. I’m really looking forward to what Tom Francis and his team come up with next. If you are any kind of gamer, this is a game you need to buy and play immediately. And, most of all, it is the very first INDIE GAMER GUY APPROVED title!
One final note, Gunpoint has another other cool, little feature that pops up at the end of the game and, quite honestly, I’ve never seen something like this implemented in a video game before. It lets you write a blog post in the “voice” of the main character, summing up your adventure, through various point and click options. I’ll share mine with you here:
A Case of Crossed Wires
24 dead. 18 injured. 20 jobs. $13,000. The week echoed in my mind like something that happened in the last week.
They don’t let me name names on this blog, but the person behind the hit I was investigating is dead now.
He played a dangerous game: insulting my hat.
I didn’t get the trigger man. It was the only play I could stomach. Wish I could say it was the right one.
I don’t know.
I guess I picked the least shitty of two incredibly shitty sides.
Maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe all that matters is that I now have the ability to kick down doors.
Either way, I need a drink.
Gunpoint was developed by Tom Francis
For $9.99 Gunpoint will throw you out of a 30-story high plate-glass window and leave your broken ass in the pouring rain in the making of this review.
Gunpoint is available on Steam
Gunpoint is Indie Gamer Guy Approved. It is the very first game to attain this lofty title and is ranked on the Indie Gamer Guy Leaderboard. Huzzah!
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