In space, no one can hear you scream. Or yawn for that matter and playing Greed: Black Border, from Headup Games, may make you do both in a very short space of time. The game centres around some futuristic story involving colonial marines, corrupt corporations, aliens and zombie/undead humans who all seem to be fighting over an element called Ikarium, which has the ability to offer virtually unlimited energy. All fairly standard stuff really and nothing to really dwell upon for too long.
You have three character classes to choose from: a long range plasma gun merc type, a middle range marine with a mini-gun and a close quarters grunt toting a flame thrower. Each have their own unique abilities and tech tree to spend experience points on. Picking the right combination of tech upgrades is important as you are thrown into combat with a variety of nasties, such as drones, zombie mechanics and monstrous end of level bosses, who it seems are able to take a phenomenal amount of bullets before they finally fall – I let loose with the mini-gun on a zombie and it still managed to walk up to me and do some damage.
Luckily you have an energy shield around you, which absorbs attacks until it runs out of power, then you begin to take damage. The shield will, over time, begin to recharge, but thankfully if you’re very low and there’s enemies about you can pick up health, energy cells and visit the occasional drinks machine for a quick boost.
Key cards and other items as well as weapon and armour upgrades give you the necessary improvements to advance into the levels but of course the enemies also become more powerful, so you are forever pounding the living daylights out of them as they get closer and closer to you. Add this to a dozen or so different kinds of enemies in one room and you can quickly become overwhelmed, however, hitting the space bar will cause your character to leap to one side in a dramatic forward roll that would have brought a tear to Captain Kirk’s eye. (How you actually manage to execute a roll carrying a mini-gun and all that armour is purely speculative, but then it is only a game.)
There are a number of puzzles to solve throughout the levels which usually involve having to time your movements to avoid things like a stream of energy or dodge around a wind tunnel’s fan blades. All of these traps sap your energy, but careful consideration of the puzzle beforehand, instead of just ploughing in, can save a lot of time, so be patient, unlike me! Every so often you will come across a checkpoint, these are the only places where you can save your game and they are very few and far between which becomes frustrating when you make a mistake during a puzzle as you will have to return to the last checkpoint to continue.
The game engine works along the same lines as Torchlight and Diablo, with the nice space and sci-fi elements thrown in, and despite the, rather poor, storyline this RPG is quite nicely drawn. The graphics are dark and moody with nice looking explosions and gunfire, but I get the feeling that although Greed is quite pretty the developers got a bit bored half-way through and just kept repeating the same old scenery – which is a great shame as the game looks very good. The music and sounds are atmospheric enough to capture the tense, what’s-behind-the-next-corner Aliens-eque feel.
Unfortunately, Greed: Black Borders falls short of any long time playability. Sure the action is good and the dodging around can be quite fun, but the pace of the game is extremely slow. The multiplayer option works fine, but only if you and a friend set one up as it’s direct IP-based only and not Internet led. If only Greed could move up a gear, especially during those first few levels, it could be such a good game. Instead it rapidly becomes a monotonous dredge through a spaceship or a cave or whatever.
Greed is by no means a terrible game, it has a lot of potential and hopefully we will see some great improvements in the upcoming titles from Headup Games. But sadly it’s just not up to scratch and falls with other average games of this ilk.
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