Greetings Chooms! Cough. Splutter. Sorry, something in my throat. Greetings chums! Please engage your rose-tinted cyber visors, and marvel at a theoretical version of cyberpunk stealth-shooter Foreclosed that’s actually worth playing.
It’s one that abandons weak shooting and focuses on its promising telekinetic powers. That leans into its lead’s latent Max Paynian vulnerability and noir humour instead of joyless, stony disaffect. That realises ‘cyber’ is only as interesting as the lives it affects, and that ‘punk’ can be burlesque eccentricity and burning hopefulness, not just sneering neon. Now, take them off, and let’s take a look at what we’ve actually got here. Oh.
Foreclosed tells the story of Evan Kapnos, a man whose legal identity is in danger of being seized by the state. His personality faces no such threat, because he doesn’t have one. He begins and ends as a gruff loaf of bread who meets life’s challenges with grim wit, minus the wit. “They took everything from me, but left me with nothing to lose,” he growls. We’re never shown what that ‘everything’ is, though. Kapnos appears to have no human relationships. No wants or needs, loves or fears. Nary a pet nor a houseplant.
Still, someone has to get shot, and from behind cover at that. Time to stick it to the man, who I hear absolutely hates piss-weak plinky pellet pistols. Upgrades? Kinda. A gatling pistol is worse than useless, tanking accuracy. Armour and shield piercers bump up impossible fights to just regular no fun. Explosive bullets do basically nothing. There’s no sweet spot. It’s boredom one minute, frustration the next. There’s one stagger animation regardless of target body part. I killed dozens. I was flanked twice. Plink plink.
Kapnos’ cyber magic can be a good time. Braining a suited corpo goon with a floating fire extinguisher is always brilliant. As is pretending you’re a jolly haberdasher helping them try on a new hat, which is actually a dumpster. Best and most useful of all, you can make fools float like they’ve been guzzling fizzy lifting drink, then smash them face first into concrete. Not today, Grandpa Bucket!
The stealth kill is novel. Get close enough and you can fry implants to electric sheep poop by button mashing. There’s no pop at the climax though, no fizzles or cracks or other such cereal noises. It's weightless. One later sneaking scene is palm-laceratingly painful. I actually enjoy a good insta-fail stealth section, done right. Here, poorly indicated sightlines and style-over-readability level design get in the way.
Skewed readability aside, there are occasionally some nicely creative instances of camera work using comic panels throughout. Dense criss-crosses of towering urban sprawl, monolithic, imposing government buildings... An implant doctor you meet later looks like a dairy farmer but with freaky cyber goggles, an endearingly uncanny mix of mundane and mechanized. I’d have loved to see more of this. Mostly, though, this is a joyless world without the smarts or gravitas to pull off convincing noir, nor the human stakes to pull off a convincing dystopia.
I should add that Foreclosed, from a performance perspective, is technically flawless. No stutters or hiccups. This is clearly a team that knows how to put a game together, even if the one they have didn’t hook me on any level. Then it ended after around five hours, just as it was threatening to get interesting. For those after a more engaging cyber-shooty game, I recommend reading Ed’s review of The Ascent. For cyber-story-puzzly fans, meanwhile, I recommend Mind Scanners. Foreclosed, for all its graphic novel aspirations, is paper-thin.