By Kieron Gillen on March 23rd, 2009 at 11:07 am.
A first person shooter demo. Which is just over 80Mb in size. “Wow,” you may think. That’s incredible. When most demos take up a gig, for someone to release a game of such a tiny size implies they’re the sort of developer who has side-stepped the expectations of the genre and forged their own unique experience from first principles. You can just tell it’s going to be a triumph to be filled alongside Darwinia, World of Goo and Braid. Alternatively, it could just be shit.
Let’s play it and find out, eh?
You know you’re in store for something really special when you hit the start screen. Have a look at this baby, and tell me what’s wrong.
No, not the art style or anything as stupidly subjective as that. What’s missing?
Yup, an “Options” menu. Mob Ties is clearly a one-size-fits-all-sort of game. And, yes, that also means that you can’t reverse the mouse-look. Clearly with some trepidation I started the game, wondering whether the default setting would allow me to play without spending the entire alternating between looking at the floor and ceiling. Also, whether I’d be able to work out what the controls were. Some manner of in-game tutorial, I’d imagine.
Though it seems Mob Ties is ahead of me for once, with some Valve-beating corridor-shooter eye-direction-leading skills. This is how it starts…
Now, see how my eye is guided softly towards the right of the screen by the enormous pile of guns you can pick up. And when you do so, what’s this?
Why isn’t it an elegant in-game tutorial.
Knowledge thoroughly deseminated and the fact my non-inversed mouse-controls is the default, I headed along and start by my contract – who appears to contact me via a PSP – telling me to climb through a grate. Clearly, that’s the Deus Ex influence showing. What follows is the sort of shooting which is so old-school it was actually prior to the establishment of a formal education system. Running around a maze of grey-corridors, I come across baddies – on two occasions, more than one – and shoot them with the guns the game’s so generously given me at the start. Keys are found. Doors are unlocked with said keys – though it doesn’t actually tell you have the key in question when you bump into ‘em and so on.
But the highlight was the AI. Each of the first four opponents demonstrated a hilarious flaw, as if expertly positioned by the designers to highlight the weaknesses in the game. I mean, it’s a demo. Clearly, the demo should show what the full game is about in the quickest way possible. Well done them. Anyway, here’s the ones…
1) Trundling along the air-vent, I approach the exit. A guy is running around the room, heading to the corner, full alert. There doesn’t appear to be a stealth model. If you’re within a radius of the enemy, they’re aware of your presence. However, the flip side to that…
2) Well, see this guy?
Good. Because he doesn’t see me. And I’ve been shooting him in the head with my revolver. Each slug makes him fall over identically. He stops, get back up and continues to stand there, as if entirely happy with his role in life is as a bullet depository. He knows his place.
3) I start motoring, wanting to punch people with the knuckle-dusters – which make the kung-fu impact noise every time you throw a punch, whether it impacts or not – and find if you approach an enemy, the first thing they do is load their guns. You have to admire the safety-conciousness of the henchmen, keeping their weapons unloaded in case of accidental discharge. These things hurt people, y’know?
4) The fourth one appears gets trapped behind the scenery. When I saw 1) disappearing behind something and then sidestepping out, I thought perhaps it actually had some nifty taking cover stuff. This makes me suspect it’s more the character sidesteps randomly and sometimes that happens to take them out the way.
So, I’m approaching the end of the level – or I presume I am, as there’s no sense of progress in these dull corridors – and realise something else. Despite being made in a 3D engine, the game’s as flat as Wolfenstein 3D. Do the designers not know how to construct such things? Can the engine not handle it? Nope – they were just lulling me into a false sense of security. The second level starts and…
STAIRS! Fuck yeah!
In fact, three sets of them. You wait for ages and… oh, you know. I continue onwards and discover… a cut-scene. Christ! This is amazing! Hell, they’re motoring now. Whatever next? The end of the demo. Oh, the teases. They know when to leave us wanting more.
Mob Ties Tokyo can be bought for $14.95 for the teen rated game or $19.95 for the Mature rated game. Those five dollars buy you Partial Nudity, apparently. Or just share in my joy and play the demo here.
It’s certainly memorable.