Retrovirus – What We Think:
Populous, Dungeon Keeper, Descent…will they see the light of day again? Well, most already have; Populous got its Reprisal. Dungeon Keeper got its War for the Overworld. Today, Descent gets its Retrovirus.
Descent was a omni-directional DOOM. You flew a small ship into an asteroid base to blow up a reactor and then high-tail it out again before the whole thing took you out too. Retrovirus takes the 360 degree combat out of space and puts it into your personal computer. The enemies you face are not enemy ships, but an out of control software virus ravaging your computer. You are not a high-tech space ship, you’re just a run of the mill Anti-Virus sub-routine. And, you don’t have to detonate a bomb and escape the blast, instead you clear the infection, delve ever deeper into the file system, and even confront the OS to clean the Registry.
It’s charming and the dialogue is sharp, clever, and often funny. The setting fits really well to the characters and script. I legitimately enjoyed listening to the Anti-Virus dispatch interact with the Web Browser, or the OS act so sure of himself that everything was fine. My only complaint was that the Email client, while endearingly dumpy, went on with his Time-Stamp collection “joke” a little too much. I have not yet fully completed the campaign, but I really cannot wait to get back into it to finish up.
The controls are rather solid. Everything is in place for you to easily and intuitively move and combat in all of the XYZ axes. The game will also orient your rotation to give you the least amount of vertigo, but this can sometimes cause the countereffect of disorientation, since it’s being done against your own actions, which can throw off your spatial awareness. The level design, however, is done well enough that a quick look around will re-orient you so you can continue along the right path. At first I found the auto-rotation really annoying, and sometimes I continued to swear at it, but it did help me keep track of where I was and where I was headed. Only once or twice did I get turned around, in my five hours of Campaign play.
The weapons are standard fare for FPS expectations; you have equivalents to pistols, shotguns, rockets, machine guns, sniper rifles and grenade launchers. They’re all there. However, Retrovirus goes a step further to do something neat with these offerings. Over time, you unlock points to spend on perks that will either give you some passive abilities, minor bonuses, or drastic changes to the way one of your weapons behaves. For example, you can change your “dual pistol” guns to become a harder-hitting single-shot revolver style weapon. Or you can change your grenade launcher to become a mine-layer instead.
Also, since you are an Anti-Virus agent, part of your toolset is that you Scan things to become more effective at fighting them. When you fight a virus you can Scan it so it will become highlighted for a few seconds and you can better keep track of it amidst the chaos, or even behind walls or other obstructions. Your bullets also linger slightly on what they strike, and those you have Scanned will proc a secondary effect as well. The pistols will detonate for extra damage. The shotgun will create a small gravity well to suck things into it. The rockets will begin to seek their targets.
Once you have mastered the controls in the campaign, and calibrated your spatial awareness for 360 combat, you can dive into the Multiplayer component which, not only has the usual Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, but also a drop-in drop-out Co-Op campaign, a Race Track based on one of the neat vistas in the campaign, and a DotA mode that I have yet to try out.
In most of these game modes you also have the perk system wherein the more kills you make, the more perks you unlock. Customizing your load-out will not only mean picking what you like for your play style, but also the order of the unlocks, as you get each one in the order that you selected them. Take heed to not change your class pre-set or custom load-out mid-match though, or you’ll lose whatever perks you gained already, something that they should warn you about, but don’t.
I played some Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch with some of the developers. They even identified some unintentional game imbalances while I was there, so they will be around to play with the community, I’m sure. The net code appeared to be solid, and I saw no issues with players wanting to host their own quality servers. Not to mention it was about as frantic and fun as you could hope for.
Retrovirus is very solid, and is being supported post-launch as well. The campaign mode got me literally laughing out loud. There is more than enough charm and depth of play to warrant a hefty four and a half stars out of this virus-laden reviewer.