Walking Heavy by GO Studio
Walking Heavy is, on the face of it, a basic isometric stealth game, elevated by its presentation. Its graphics are simple, but elegantly so, conveying a wealth of information while also creating a real sense of place with little more than square buildings and a few ambling stick figures.
The story, such as it is: after a long holiday, you’re back on the job, eliminating rival drug suppliers whose trade in a new product, “Hype.” They’ve been interfering in your boss’s good old fashioned cocaine trade. Each procedurally generated level, then, opens with your train arriving in another indistinguishable British suburb. Find your man, sort him out, and make it back to the train station before the coppers find you, and Bob’s your uncle.
Going Through the Slips
At its heart, Walking Heavy is more about stealth than violence, and the game’s title is apropos: your little stick figure will be doing a lot of walking. Thankfully, visual cues make it easy to sort out who’s who: the coppers are blue and black (depending on whether they’re packing tasers or firearms), general members of the public are gray, and your target’s a bright red.
The first half of a level: walk around, get your bearings, and keep an eye out for that red bloke. If you happen to make a drug deal or two on the side, more power to you (just hope the man in charge doesn’t find out what you’ve been up to).
Where it gets interesting is once you’ve made your hit: at that point you’ve got to hoof it back to the train station without being spotted. If a bystander – or worse yet, a police chopper – spots you, the coppers will come all the quicker. And while it’s possible to win a shoot-out with the police, you’d have to be barking to try it. Besides, your boss won’t be happy if you cause a ruckus, so you’ll get a lot less money for the job. Stick to the shadows if you can.
Odds and Sods
Between levels, you can beef your skills up, to run faster, aim better (your hands are awfully shaky, early on) even improve your odds of finding local arms dealers in case you’re low on bullets. You can also go shopping for added equipment.
In addition to the pistol you start with, you can get shotguns, UZIs, and even a grenade launcher. I found that the regular old handgun was my best option, though – less likely to draw attention. That said, you can also add all kinds of accessories, and a must-have for me was an extended clip and a silencer.
More interesting are the additional tools available: night vision goggles, a radio that cues you in to the nearest cop, even a bullet-proof vest if the job goes pear-shaped – all worthy additions to the assassin’s toolkit. None, however, significantly change the way things play out; the name of the game is still get in, do the deed, and scarper with as little trouble as you can manage.
Have a Gander
With action that eventually starts to feel a little repetitive, Walking Heavy would outlast its welcome a lot faster were it not for its unusual setting – think early Guy Ritchie films – and brilliant presentation. Outer London boroughs – or really the outskirts of any interchangeable urban industrial areas in England – are brilliantly brought to life in simple 3/4 top-down view.
Shadows swirl around squat office building and tenement housing like reverse searchlights. Miniscule parks break up the monotony of seemingly interchangeable streets and alleyways. And all of it rendered in drab, dispiriting shades of beige and gray, oppressive even without the rain, miserable looking enough once it’s pissing it down that no wonder the people who live here want a new drug.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Blade Runners
The minimalist electronic soundtrack from VHSX adds to the atmosphere, resulting in something that feels like Blade Runner filtered through London smog instead of Tokyo neon.
Nor are the sparse graphics merely atmospheric; they’re functional as well as evocative. Those swirling shadows? Those are where you need to stand to keep hidden. A circle fluidly expanding and contracting around you as you move – it turns red when you’re actively on the lam from the bobbies – designates your safe zone. If Old Bill gets inside that circle, you’re brown, mate.
Simple but tense stealth action, grimy British neighborhoods, and gritty ambient music? Can’t go wrong, and the developer is already at work adding new game modes to increase its lifespan. Give Walking Heavy a butcher’s, and you’ll be proper chuffed.
Walking Heavy is available via Steam.
Watch the official trailer for Walking Heavy below: