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Between The Chasm And The Quake: Putrefaction

Too cool for old-school

Putrefaction could be the name of a death metal band but it is in fact the name of a first-person shooter that just launched on Steam Early Access. The store page claims it "heavily inspired by old-school shooters from 3D Realms and id Software" and I was expecting hordes of monsters, a swift pace and (possibly) a heavy dose of interactive environmental objects.

What I've found, in an hour of playing, is a game closer in sensibility to the first Quake, the most recent Doom or oft-forgotten (and perhaps deservedly) 1997 title Chasm: The Rift. Levels - at least so far - are narrower than the best of Doom, but I'm sufficiently entertained to go back for more.

The first level is a zombiefest. They're infected folks rather than dead ones, I think, but they're zombies as far as I'm concerned. The starting weapon is an assault rifle and it chips away at them satisfactorily, causing the last bodypart hit to peel itself free and bounce across the room. Corpses have slightly elastic physics, which is great - they pile on top of one another in ways that seem as if they're striving to be meaningful. Look at this:

Problem is, that's about the most entertaining thing about the game so far. There are little scuttling enemies, like the spider-bonce from The Thing, and various shooty ones. There are keycards to collect (although only one per level so far - the "simple keycard") and I've found four different weapons. There's that starting rifle, an axe that doesn't seem to do a great deal of damage, a minigun that has that couple of seconds to SPOOL UP, as they say in the business, and a shotgun.

How's the shotgun?

Glad you asked. It doesn't quite work. It looks chunky, too chunky in fact, and it does a heck of a lot of damage, which is as it should be. But the best FPS shotguns are the ones that feel like melee weapons, the ones that you have to run up real close and splatter demons right in the face to use effectively. Putrefaction's shotgun doesn't seem to have enough spread to its projectiles, so if you aim well, you can hit an enemy with the full impact across a room. That needs to change.

And there's time for change, this being Early Access and all. The current campaign has five (short) levels and 12+ are planned for the final release, as well as new enemies and weapons. In its current state, it's not putrid but I can't really recommend it.

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