“Help me.” comes through my headphones. Its a whisper somewhere near my left side. Spinning around, I only see my teammate, another player going by the name of Nightmare, covering me as we clear a room in an office space. Turning back around, I see a robot running at me. I had heard it a split second before, it had made a loud roar as it activated its combat mode. It was rushing me at a pace that is faster than any player or human could run. Opening up on it with my CE6 SMG – The futuristic version of the Vector .45 ACP made by KRISS – it falls to the ground about ten feet away. The two of us are part of a team of four, going through the only co-operative mission in the game so far. Without spoiling it, it takes place on a space station, and the robots are Combat Training Robots – better known as CTRs. They move very fast, but in part because the AI is unfinished. It gives a good scare, at times, however. It doesn’t help any that the entire space station is dark, it has been abandoned and it is in partial disrepair. Lights flicker around us and it only adds to the atmosphere of the map when you can’t see your enemies until almost the last moment.
The game itself is still in pre-alpha stages. The AI is unfinished, and they are only beginning on working on building out the story campaign of which the one I was playing through in co-op mode is the very first part. In spite of this, its actually very fun, as far as shooters go. For comparison, I enjoyed the shooting and teamwork aspects of other shooters like Planetside 2, but while Interstellar Marines is unfinished, it already has the teamwork aspect down. There are no save points, and if you die, that’s it. It is a hardcore throwback to earlier shooters like Rainbow Six that make you value your life. You can’t just respawn, and it does require a level of teamwork to survive. Communication with your team is key in this game. If you fail to communicate, the bots can and will get the drop on you. In addition, there is a certain level of enjoyment to it when you pull off a difficult task together rather than alone.
If you are looking for a shooter like Battlefield 3 or Call of Duty this isn’t the shooter for you. That isn’t bad, however, and it isn’t a shortcoming, but rather a strength. The weapons handle very well, and the animations during shooting and reloading play very smoothly. The UI is rendered on the inside of your helmet, and not just on your screen – this means if you remove your helmet’s visor, your UI goes with it and only returns when you put your helmet back on.
Despite its strengths, it does have its problems. For example, the game has poor optimization right now, both client and server side. There can be considerable server lag, and I have experienced frame rate drops multiple times. The audio can be a little crowded at times, for example. There have been multiple instances where I have been trying to talk over VOIP only for it to be muddled by the sounds of robots running, gunfire, audio logs being played, and the sounds of your own footsteps – all at one time. While you can turn sound off, it puts you at a massive disadvantage when you are playing as part of a team and so that solution is not really a solution at all. In addition, the gunplay, while solid, currently favors clip dumping on a single target rather than sustained fire control over a longer period of time. Objectives in co-op mode aren’t always clear if you don’t know what you are doing, or if your team isn’t communicating with one another.
Interstellar Marines is being developed by Zero Point Software, who are based in the Czech Republic. The team is small, as is the community for the moment, but they take feedback quite well. They are an independent developer and are publishing the game currently only on Steam’s Early Access program. The principal developers are all gamers and fans of older shooters themselves, too. Games like this tend to do better when the community playing it has more people, so right now its biggest downfall is that not enough people are playing it. This is slowly changing as more people find out about it. I think that this is a perfect example of an amazing game that should be known about by more people, but it doesn’t have the budget required in order to reach the same level of awareness as other, bigger shooters do. If they work the problems out, and all signs currently point to that being the case in the future, Interstellar Marines will be a very, very fun shooter.
Zero Point Software has just released their newest Producer Diary video, laying out their plans for the near future, and what they are working on next.
If Interstellar Marines sounds like something you are interested in trying out, despite its flaws, bugs and unfinished state, it is available on Steam. You can find out more about it on their website, too.