Under The Whiskey Way: Space Noir

'The city was lit up bright like a cooked goose wrapped in Christmas lights. Then I realized that geese went extinct 140 years ago and got sad'

If you think about it, space is kind of the perfect setting for a noir-influenced piece of media. I mean, it’s perpetually nighttime out there, and even in series like Battlestar Galactica where scarcity of resources was a prime concern, they always managed to have bottomless wells of whiskey handy. Give me some dingy, grease-stained sci-fi architecture and a gravel-voiced hero with a world space-weary slump in his shoulders, and you’ve got a recipe for, um… a videogame. In this case, that game is the creatively named Space Noir. Well, mostly. Trailer below.

Well, it looks nice enough, even if the main character’s only line was delivered less with acerbic noir wit and more as though the actor was trying out for the part of Grouchy Rhino Number Three in the next Madagascar movie. I worry that the story could devolve into a generic space epic given that “noir” is a very loose term in gaming these days, but we’ll see.

But what about ship-versus-ship ker-zappery? Its primary influences are Wing Commander and X-Wing, apparently, so that’s a good sign – even if Deus Ex: The Fall developer N-Fusion’s track record is a little… spotty.

“Evoking all time classics for the space combat genre including Wing Commander and X-Wing, Space Noir includes intense ship-to-ship combat, boss battles and high-octane planetary combat missions, challenging players reaction times and piloting skills. Players can customize their ship with upgradeable weapons, defenses, unlockable special maneuvers and cosmetic upgrades to traverse the galaxy within an intensely dark storyline.”

Intensely dark. That is also a Ghirardelli chocolate flavor.

Missions will also be intense, and there’ll be 35 of them. Main character Hal Markham begins the game as a drunken layabout mercenary mourning the mysterious death of his family, so at least this one seems to know its noir tropes. And then space pirates strike.

But again, N-Fusion isn’t exactly a bastion of little-known masterpieces, and – perhaps more troublingly – this one is also being developed with tablets in mind. That doesn’t have to mean it won’t be great, but history shows us that it sometimes does anyway.

Space Noir will be out this summer. I do hope they package it with a free handle of space whiskey.


Top comments

  1. Lanfranc says:

    "High-octane" missions? Do their spaceships run on gasoline?
  2. MacTheGeek says:

    In space, no one can hear you smoke.

    Space rain. Never-ending space rain.

    Of all the gin joints in all the spaceports in all the free sector, she walks into mine.
  1. Great Cthulhu says:

    That takes me back to Privateer 2: The Darkening. That game always felt very “space noir” to me. Great fun too. Not as deep as the Elites, but it has a ton of character.

    • Iskariot says:

      Yes, that one and Hard War, although the latter is not a space sim.

  2. psuedonymous says:

    It does seem to take ‘Space Noir’ to mean ‘space combat game with desaturated visuals’ rather than ‘gritty investigative thriller where you might be able to book passage on a spaceship or maybe investigate a murder one on, and you have to worry about mobsters throwing your out a poorly maintained airlock’.

    • roryok says:

      agreed. I was disappointed to see the entire trailer was just flying bits. I was hoping for something like Westwood’s Blade Runner game with a bit of Anachronox and Wing Commander mixed in.

  3. daphne says:

    TL;DR: Noir’s a powerful word, don’t you dare waste it on your distinctly average games.

    You know what, I completely agree. And I always felt like Prey 2 could do justice to the noir concept, but, uh…. apparently not.

    • phelix says:

      “Noir” is probably going to end up in the same bottomless pit of meaningless buzzwords, next to “visceral”, “gripping”, “immersive” “gritty” et al.

    • The Random One says:

      It’s OK to ‘waste’ noir on distinctly average games, as long as they’re noir distinctively average games. This particular game has a disturbing lack of morally ambiguous characters, grim clever poor detectives by the skin of their teeth, or fedoras. I mean, it doesn’t even have whiskey – we only get a guy complaining he’s not getting any whiskey! If a gruffy man with a gravely voice makes it noir I guess Nolan’s Batman is super noir – at least that took place in a dark, claustrophobic, crime-ridden urban jungle.

  4. Mechorpheus says:

    Watching that trailer the first game which came to my mind as a point of comparison was Descent (specifically the 3rd one, for better or worse) rather than X-wing. Seems to take place at least a certain amount on planets, and there’s some crazy dodging going on.

  5. DrollRemark says:

    Yeah, that’s not noir.

  6. Ergates_Antius says:

    Whisky > whiskey

  7. Saarlaender39 says:

    Nathan Grayson: “I do hope they package it with a free handle of space whiskey.”

    I’d prefer some Space Beer, if it is alright with you:

  8. Keyrock says:

    So, Star Fox but darker and grittier (because everything these days MUST be grittier)?

  9. Cinek says:

    Glow. I see glow everywhere. ;( Eyes bleed…

  10. Thirith says:

    Not that it’s overly relevant, but I remember a scene in Battlestar Galactica where either Tigh or Adama run out of whisky.

  11. Lemming says:

    It looks fun, but they may have made a mistake hanging their whole title on it being ‘Noir’. Noir is more than an aesthetic. If it’s just bang-bang shooty-shooty, it’s not really that Noir, is it? The look is there, it’s very Blade Runner, but it just looks like standard arcade-style game play.

  12. Lanfranc says:

    “High-octane” missions? Do their spaceships run on gasoline?

  13. SillyWizard says:

    The appellation’s impropriety aside…what is it with these glorified Galaga games? Is it not irksome to fans of this genre that you can’t hop out of your space-ship and run around?

  14. MacTheGeek says:

    In space, no one can hear you smoke.

    Space rain. Never-ending space rain.

    Of all the gin joints in all the spaceports in all the free sector, she walks into mine.

  15. noom says:

    I’d really like to be able to recommend M. John Harrison’s Nova Swing, as it is basically as Space Noir a novel as you might hope to find. Unfortunately, I honestly thought it was a bit rubbish, so you probably shouldn’t read it.