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The Lighthouse Customer: Metrocide

Assassins Bleed

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, inept murder-for-hire with top-down assassination game Metrocide.

In a game where some people are victims and others are killers-for-hire, it's a little odd to complain about being the one with the gun. But this assassin is having one hell of a rotten day. Pesky eyewitnesses and annoying security cameras keep reporting me to the fuzz. Flying police drones gun me down or, even worse, issue me fines. Potential victims refuse to walk down secluded alleyways to be quietly dispatched. Can't a cold-blooded killer catch a break?

Metrocide provides us with a convincingly gloomy futuristic city. Rubbish-strewn lots, shadowy alleyways, steaming sewer vents, and pedestrians slouching their way down dark, rain-slicked streets. Muffled beats thump from all-night techno-clubs, industrial vehicles sputter through the air overhead, and police drones glide across the cityscape, issuing commands and warnings in robotic voices. It's like Los Angeles in Blade Runner, but pixelated.

Man I could so go for a trip to the off-world colonies.

Me, I'm an assassin named Tammy Jane Trench. I want out of this crummy city, and I'm going to earn my fare the only way I know how: through assassination contracts. I talk to my contact through a chainlink fence, and he gives me the name of my first target, who appears on my proximity radar thanks to his microchip implant. I find him, then start tailing him through the streets.

I follow my mark for... quite some time, actually. This isn't just a matter walking up to someone and blasting them in the face. There are civilians strolling around, everywhere, just waiting for their chance to be helpful eyewitnesses. There are security cameras sweeping the streets with pencil-thin detection beams. There are hovering police drones patrolling the skies. And, there's my mark, who unfortunately has no intention of making things easier for me by cutting through an alleyway or pausing on a secluded street corner.

After several long minutes of tailing, I finally find what looks like a clear shot. I take out my pistol. It's a crummy laser gun, requiring a a charging-up period, just long enough to make things tricky, as my mark wanders away and other citizens wander closer. I fire. My target goes down. Mission complete, except that while my gun was charging my target stepped in front of a security camera. The murder is reported, the cops are alerted, a drone arrives, it fires, and I'm just another puddle in the gutter.

I have the right to remain silent. Forever.

Okay, beginner's bad luck. I restart and pick up a new contract. Things go roughly the same, except after an extensive tailing period, I blast my target just as someone walks around the corner. We both run to the body: me to collect my victim's wallet, the citizen to identify my face and squeal to the cops. Another drone arrives, and once again I wind up a wet stain on the street.

Using the crosswalks won't keep you safe. My lack of assassin skills will, though.

On my third try, my victim walks out of range while my crappy gun is charging and my shot falls short. He spins to look at me, then runs. I chase him through the streets and he vanishes inside a building to safety. My fourth try: another eyewitness calls another drone and I'm dead. My fifth time: I gun down my mark, and a citizen predictably runs out into the street towards me. I'm ready this time, though, already charging my pistol to eliminate him before he can squeal. Turns out, the citizen has no intention of squealing. He pulls out a gun and shoots me in the face. A vigilante. A vigilante? A vigilante. Jeeeezus. This game.

Man, they'll let anyone carry a gun in this city.

The next time, I try to get ahead of my mark. The best way to follow someone, after all, is to figure out where they're going and get there first. I wait in an alleyway with my gun drawn as my mark strolls down the street. He stops just before he gets there, to read a newspaper while standing in the rain. A future where people read newspapers? This is science-fiction. Finally, he continues down the sidewalk. As he appears in front of me I pull the trigger. Oh, right, my gun needs to charge. By the time it does, he's walked past the mouth of the alley and I wind up shooting the corner of the building. He flees and hides. Sigh.

Scanned for weapons? What is this, an airport?

On my next try, I've finally managed a clean kill. I make no attempt to hide the body (you can drag bodies into the sewer, but it takes time), I just run. I head to a weapon vending machine, but I can't afford even a simple upgrade as my hit only netted me 150 bucks. Sheesh. As I'm tracking my next mark, a police drone hovers over me and stops. A robotic voice tells me to hold still, and I'm scanned for long, tense moments as my mark walks safely away. The cops detect my unlicensed gun, but rather than confiscate it they just charge me a fine, eating into my meager profits. Then, after killing my target, another vigilante dispatches me. Start again.

Hacking isn't a minigame, refreshingly. But it is expensive.

I do, eventually, get a little better at this. I manage a clean kill: though the body is discovered, no one saw me and soon a coroner drone cleans up the mess, leaving just a chalk outline. I grease another mark, and even manage to collect a wallet and dump the body in the sewer. Someone sees me, but I hack into a police terminal and scramble the ID system, which lets me slip away at a price of 400 bucks, which is unfortunately just about all the money I've earned. I just can't seem to get ahead! There are all sorts of better weapons to buy, but I don't feel like I'll ever be able to afford them.

The game contains noir comics. Lovely.

Finally, my winning streak ends. I cap a mark, then shoot down an eyewitness just in case he's a vigilante. He's not, but an eyewitness to my killing of the eyewitness is a vigilante, and he shoots me. I hate this city. No wonder I want to get out. A gal can't even do a simple job without getting killed.

I played version 0.9.4. dated October 26th, 2014. I found it enjoyable though uh... a bit hard? A bit. Metrocide is available on Steam for £5/$7.

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