We reported on the announcement of pointedly retro FPS Amid Evil a few weeks ago. This week, publisher New Blood Interactive let me play an early preview demo and, after a couple runs through the handful of levels included, I'm eager to share my thoughts on the game thus far. You can also watch a generous helping of gameplay footage below.
Developed by Indefatigable, a crew of modders previously responsible for Return of The Triad, Amid Evil feels like a bizarre experiment to recreate Heretic in the style of Quake using Unreal Engine 4, and so far it has been a shocking success. Alongside Dusk and Overload, Amid Evil is part of a growing number of old-school FPSs that really understand what made the classics work.
Amid Evil leans hard into its Quake-like aesthetic, buoyed by less grimy (yet still pleasingly pixelated) textures, a more varied colour palette and no shortage of fancy lighting effects. It looks, sounds and plays like a long-lost 1990s game ported to a modern engine, right down to the semi-abstract massive architecture and the absurdly fast player move-speed that makes traversing it enjoyable instead of a slog.
The weapons are the true stars of the show in this preview build. Indefatigable have done well making them feel as intuitive to use as any pistol or shotgun so far, but just weird enough to pass for a fantasy-themed magical artifact. The 'pistol-slot' starting ranged weapon is a wand that fires pairs of homing magic missiles, while the 'shotgun' role is filled by a magic sword that throws sword-beams capable of piercing through multiple targets. The rocket-launcher role is filled by a staff that shoots miniaturised planets, which feels a little overkill, but unquestionably satisfying.
Fans of Heretic will be happy to hear that the Tome Of Power returns in spirit. Killing enemies drops glowing souls. Collect enough (and you will, 3-4 times a level at least), and you'll receive a prompt that your next attack will activate the empowered mode for all your weapons. In this state, which lasts maybe ten seconds (unless topped up with additional souls) every weapon becomes a high-powered damage hose, often very differently balanced to its normal form. For example, the basic wand stops shooting magic missiles and instead becomes a flamethrower-like spray of disintegrating energy, leaving nothing behind.
If I had to level one complaint at Amid Evil at present, it's that the enemies sometimes don't stand out as well from the background as they could. Textured and modelled to roughly the same level of detail as the world itself, their armored metal bodies can often blend in with the backdrop. Not a massive problem, but perhaps one that could be addressed with a little rim lighting or similar to make them stand out as 'foreground' entities.
Another minor grumble is that the enemies for the demo are all colour-coded armored humanoids, something I hope the full game improves on. Beyond that, there's surprisingly little to nitpick over. This is a fast, twitchy shooter which does everything it sets out to achieve. The menus are chunky, noisy things reminiscent of the late DOS shareware era, and the game even lets you type in cheat codes in classic Doom format, just prefaced with 'AE' instead of 'ID' .
New Blood haven't announced a price or release date beyond "soon" yet, but I'll be keeping a very close eye on this one. As good as the classics? Heretical, but if the final version continues to build on the foundation I've played here, it could just be.