Due Process is a tactical, team-based multiplayer first-person shooter inspired by SWAT, Rainbow Six and Counter-Strike. After I wrote about its first trailer, the developer's invited me along to a testing session so I could play it for myself. It is, as the trailer asserts, "alpha as fuck." It's also tons of fun.
"I'm going to kick it."
There's a thud of a door being kicked open from the other side of the building. The gunfire, between two of our team and the criminals inside, begins immediately. "Blow it, blow it, blow it."
Five seconds in.
I hit the clacker to detonate our wall charge, creating a hole in the side of the building that two of us rush inside. As soon as I'm clear of the blast smoke I spot an enemy looking straight at me. We exchange fire.
Ten seconds in.
I get the better of the defender, headshotting him and causing his blocky temporary model to collapse into its constituent primitives. At almost the same moment, my teammates do the same, each killing one counter-part on the opposing team. "ATTACKERS WIN" appears on screen. In total, the assault last just twelve seconds.
The planning, however, took three minutes.
This is the balance Due Process is trying to strike: the planning of old Rainbow Six (or perhaps of the looming Rainbow Six Siege) combined with the immediacy of Counter-Strike. It is already thrilling, even in the feature-light, white-boxed build I played with the dev team earlier this week.
As the attackers in this particular scenario, we started inside the back of a van parked adjacent to the building we needed to breach. One wall of the van is lined with equipment: assault rifles, pistols and ammo for both, plus grenades, flashbangs, nightvision goggles, riot shields, wall charges and door charges.
In order to make a plan, the four of us opened our map view - at this stage simply a camera placed above the procedurally-structured levels - and doodled on top of it while discussing tactics. A circle over the door we'd kick down first, an arrow to represent the route two of us would advance down with the use of a riot shield, an X to mark the spot where I'd place the wall charge.
There was some discussion. Which wall should we blow? Explosives can only be placed on thin walls, and we had the option of attacking from the west or the north. Should we rush for the power switch near the door and plunge the building into darkness, and if so should we take the nightvision goggles or rely on the flashlights mounted on our assault rifles?
When we'd made up our minds, we moved into position and executed it flawlessly. It doesn't always go so smoothly, but the actual combat - from the first breach to the last crumbling body - is always over in a panicked flurry of gunfire and particle effects.
As if to demonstrate the highs and lows of success and failure, the next round proves considerably more difficult. We respawn back in our van, only this time there's no wallcharge: equipment is persistent across rounds, and we used it during the last attack. The teams will swap and be re-stocked after three rounds, but for now we need to adapt our tactics.
So will our enemy. This newly generated building has two doors, both on the north side. Without a wallcharge those are our only route inside, and the predictability of our angle of attack gives the defending team a better opportunity to plan. In later versions, those tactics might involve moving couches and fridges into position, to block entrances and create cover. For now they're limited to a smaller selection of guns, whatever they can steal from killed attackers, and the inherent advantage of having an entrenched position.
Doors have different properties indicated by their colour - some can be opened, some can be kicked from one side but not the other, and some require a bomb to blow open. On this occasion, we decide to kick in one at the same time as we blow the other. One of my teammates takes the door charge and, hands full, asks me to take the clacker. If I press the button before he plants the charge, or when someone is still too close to it, I'll kill them.
I don't do that. Instead I wait and then hammer the button at the right time. The clacker is programmed to work after a random number of button presses, creating a fun, movie-like experience of frantically hammering an explosive device until it works. When it does and the door blows open, an alarm begins to ring and we rush inside. It's pitch black and we didn't bring nightvision goggles; the defenders had turned off the lights.
I am killed almost instantly. Two of my teammates take out two of the defenders before themselves being killed. A third defender moves too close to a building exit and is shot by a circling UAV, a mechanic designed to stop the them from simply rushing outside. That makes it a one-on-one fight. We do not win.
There's a lot of potential in Due Process, much of it in the details. If you're a defender and you have an assault rifle with a flashlight on it, you can kill the power and then place that weapon on the ground as a standing light source while you hide in the shadows. It's a neat distraction mechanic. Right now the game also contains an opti-wand for spying through doors, though the developers say it slows the game down too much; they want a mechanic that gives you the same sneaky info, but maintains the pace of the game. They're also going to have different objectives in order to stop the attackers from taking too long planning their strategy outside; a bomb, maybe, ticking down towards disaster.
As for the art style, it sounds like the blocky character models won't stay. They mention the recent movie Dredd - a sci-fi movie largely about breaching and clearing - as a source of visual inspiration for the final look of the game.
Whatever later versions of the game contain, and whatever they look like, it's already fun. So let's get this out of the way now.