Have You Played… NeoTokyo?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Given my recent gushing over news that the composer for NeoTokyo [official site] is providing tunes for the new Deus Ex’s new mode, I suppose now’s a good time to ask: do you know what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks I’m going on about?

NeoTokyo is a Source mod, first released in 2009. It’s a multiplayer tactical FPS (leaning and all) with such beautiful cyberpunky, Ghost in the Shell-ish style and the finest dang soundtrack and… it does not live up those. But oh, what if!

NeoTokyo sees The Man and Rebels With A Cause duking it out across a gorgeous city of neon lights, towering buildings, and the occasional warbot factory. It’s so so so cyberpunk anime, from the setting to guns and down to Tachikoma-looking bots lurking on rooftops in some places. And that soundtrack…!

Anyway, anyway. Selecting a light, medium, or heavy class, pick an appropriate gun then run off to shoot the other team. I tended to roll with the medium class, plodding around a bit but still able to cloak. Yes, of course some classes can cloak. Yes, of course other classes can still easily spot them, thanks to a rock-paper-scissors-ish arrangement of different vision enhancements across classes (light amplification, thermal vision, and motion detection). Along with your regular team deathmatch mode, it has a one-flag CTF doodad with both teams trying to control a ‘ghost’ – an android’s torso which relays enemy positions to its holder. It’s all very cool, and I didn’t play it for long.

For all its loveliness, it still another Counter-Strike-ish mod. It’s competently CS-ish, sure, but I’m not much of a CS fan and its additions tended to confuse rather than enhance the experience.

I had back luck with players, certainly. Few people communicated well, and very few used microphones (fewer players even had mics back then, to be fair). I suspect it may be a wholly different game on a coordinated, balanced, and communicative team. Warning of cloaked players, calling out technotorso targets, not blundering into friendly fire… I’m sure it could be very different. I’m sorry I never got to see that.

You can download NeoTokyo as a standalone game for free through Steam. A few people seem to be playing still. Maybe I’ll give it another go. Maybe you will too?

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  1. Don Reba says:

    I’ve been listening to the soundtrack ever since you mentioned it.

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      heretic says:

      Same same

    • 9of9 says:

      Worth pointing out that Ed Harrison, who wrote the Neotokyo soundtrack, is now working on Deus Ex Breach =)

      • Jalan says:

        You mean, worth repeating in the comments since Alice already had it covered in the beginning of the article, right?

        • Don Reba says:

          By the way, you can download NeoTokyo as a standalone game for free through Steam.

  2. Eight Rooks says:

    I haven’t played it, because I very rarely – if ever – play multiplayer-only games.

    I don’t think much of the soundtrack, either, and with people always citing it as a high point of the game, that did have an effect on me not wanting to try it. It isn’t that it’s doing anything not to my taste; nothing I’ve heard from it has struck me as being that good. It sounds far too much like the product of a stereotypical videogame composer who doesn’t really understand how dance music actually works.

    • Don Reba says:

      What videogame composer really does understand how dance music works? Can you recommend something?

      • a very affectionate parrot says:

        Yuzo Koshiro would be my pick.
        Mostly famous for Streets of Rage but Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2 has probably the raviest game soundtrack ever.

    • ProverbsofHell says:

      Actually the failure here is completely on your part since you so naively referred to the soundtrack as “dance music”. The score is cinematic, emotional electronic music.

      • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

        Yyyyeah… while I wouldn’t say you’ve “failed” (people like what they like, after all), you’ve profoundly misunderstood the albums (and possibly a great deal of contemporary music) if you assumed electronic = dance.

    • TheRealHankHill says:

      It’s an okay sound track, not anywhere as good as people laud it to be.

  3. HefHughner says:

    That article about the soundtrack – which is absolutely amazing – led me to to try the game out for the first time last week… and there was almost no one playing… One server was was empty, the other had 5 people.

    Then i tried Ghost in the Shell (the Humble E3 ticket) contains beta access and i like it, but its much more COD-like.

  4. thedosbox says:

    I tried this when it was an UT2004 mod, but lost interest when it moved to source (I get motion sickness on all source engine games).

  5. Leprikhan says:

    Neotokyo was fun for a bit, but I definitely wouldn’t consider it one of the better source mods. I remember how much hype there was around it though- it took a really long time for it to come out after the initial whisperings of its development.

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    liquidsoap89 says:

    I never ended up playing this one. I was more in to Dystopia, The Hidden and GMod.

  7. STARFIGHTER says:

    Yes! I loved Neotokyo. I was a beta tester for the Source version of the game. It was easily the best Source mod while it was new and hot, but unfortunately it lost a huge portion of its player base and after a year there was almost no one left. But while it was popular, my goodness what fun.

    I think I had a “good experience” of the game, because most of people I played with were if not good then at least experienced and knew the game well enough to be able to properly call contacts with the Ghost. It was also great fun with friends. A good Ghost carrier sounded like an air traffic controller. “Contact my north northwest thirty meters closing,” very information dense in short, clear bursts. You absolutely relied on the Ghost carrier giving you enemy movements because the enemy knew exactly where the Ghost was at all times.

    I disagree with the notion of the game being “CS-ish” though – The pacing was completely different from a CS match. Cloaking and vision modes encouraged tactical and more importantly, coordinated use of gadgets on your team. Your Heavies have smoke grenades and thermal vision to see through it, but your smoke will completely blind your Mediums and Lights. So coordination of your various gadgets becomes an extremely important part of moving around.

    It’s also very staccato – short flurries of movement and action, either cloaked or not, and then hunkering down so you don’t highlight yourself on motion trackers and so forth. Setting up ambushes, learning when to move and how to deal with an enemy that – if they get the ghost – always knows where you are.

    It was a fantastic game. Unfortunately, two things really got in the way – One, was the game not appearing on Steam until it was too late and the population was no longer self sustaining. Two – Development was glacial. I beta tested maps that felt good to play but didn’t show up for ages. New modes never materialized. Developers came and went, and mostly went. There were a couple of bugs that persisted for way too long, too – one was extremely easily abused and even unknowingly so, involving leaning to the left around corners and your character model not being visible but still having a clear shot as far as you could tell.

    Alas! Great game, but it just couldn’t sustain.

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      Grizzly says:

      Ah yes, the best ghost spotters were super neat, and I like how that simple mechanic made the game a lot more lively – voice comms were a necessity, which made the games themselves just a lot of fun to play. Good times, pity it did not last.

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      Definitely agree with your assessment. The movement options provided by NeoTokyo gave the game a much more lively feel than CS as well. I don’t think the gameplay was quite as good as Dystopia (which is a very high bar, to be fair) but the game was much more attractive, and much easier to get into.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I played it for about 10 minutes when the stand-alone version came out and then realized it was still too Counter-strike for my taste. I’m not a fan of the die and then wait for the next game. I’ve always said CS is a game where you need to bring a book.

  9. Napalm Sushi says:

    I was right in the midst of a cyberpunk craze when this was being developed and couldn’t wait for it… then it came out and turned out to barely do anything with its setting. The guns were almost aggressively ordinary and most of the genuinely cyberpunky stuff was inert set dressing. It didn’t help that it compared so unfavourably with the contemporaneous Dystopia in that regard.

    I still have great admiration for the visuals and audio but yeah, it basically felt like Counterstrike with a GiTS skin.

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      john_silence says:

      From what little I played of Dystopia it’s true that the cyberpunk theme was more than skin-deep. But my favourite was always Neotokyo. The systems weren’t as cyberpunk, but the maps oozed Ghost in the Shell – with a bit of Akira’s weirdness to it too. It was exotic and fascinating, where Dystopia felt… more familiar, right? Neotokyo’s maps are great, interesting places.

      • Napalm Sushi says:

        The superiority of Neotokyo’s aesthetic was the most frustrating thing about it. The clash of modernity and traditionalism that drove the plot was beautifully illustrated in the maps, in the soundtrack and in Pushbak’s lively faux-adverts and graffiti. I wanted to like the game so much.

  10. TheRealHankHill says:

    Yeah I played for about 3 min on the only populated server while people spammed annoying Kawaii shit on the mic and some dude tried rapping horribly. Quit immediately.

  11. Unruly says:

    Dystopia was a lot better of a game. Played the hell out of Dystopia for a long time. Got to be a pretty good hacker too. Wasn’t the best, but I did a lot better at hacking than I did at pretty much everything other than being a heavy meatshield. Didn’t stop me from running around as a light with cloak and a cortex bomb though. And I was always envious of the guys who had mastered the boltgun.

    But then they released a patch that I didn’t care for. I can’t remember everything that changed, but I remember one of the big things was the leg implants. It went from being easy to charge a boosted jump to requiring you to press 3 buttons at once, I think it was jump, sprint, and a specific charge button, and at the time I had a keyboard that maxed out at 3 simultaneous presses. Which meant that to charge a jump I had to stop moving, on top of contorting my hands to hit everything. I wanna say it was patch 1.2, but I can’t remember exactly.

    It was also a bit bottlenecky on some of the more popular maps. Made tesla spam a big problem. But damn was the game still fun.

  12. Gal Paladin says:

    The key part of finding pick-up games for this game is to join the steam group Active Neotokyo Players which will send you messages when people are getting on a server. During these you’ll generally get a much better experience as a wide variety of players of various skill level hop on almost exclusively during these events.

  13. Arglebargle says:

    Back in the day (but past the heyday) I wandered around NeoTokyo, just listening to the music and taking in the sights. Considering my multiplayer skill, probably best for everyone. Never saw another player.

    Thought it looked/sounded pretty though.

  14. April March says:

    I even downloaded it, but never played. Sadly, communicating with strangers is not a thing I feel like doing in my free time.

  15. tonicer says:

    Does it have bots now? I might give it a try on our next LAN Party if it does.