You're a velociraptor. Your job? Who cares, you're a velociraptor! Arcen Games herein seeks to answer geekdom's age-old question (first postulated somewhere around the second half of the first viewing of Jurassic Park): "Wouldn't it be cool as hell to be THAT thing?!" In Case of Emergency, Release Raptor (or ICERR if you prefer) will hit Steam's Early Access system before the week is out.
At least, we hope it does. The project has been stalled by repeated delays all summer, to the point where we're now looking at the sixteenth demo version. This was definitely a good thing, however, as the early builds didn't include much of what Arcen was hoping would make ICERR unique:
- You're a velociraptor in a futuristic dystopia, playable in first- or third-person.
- Tear through a combination of hand-crafted and procedurally generated levels.
- Fight robots! Rip the big ones to pieces, pounce on the little ones, don't get shot.
Now that this is all pretty much in there, it sounds like a fun rampage in the offing. Personally, I've always said I'd rather a company take the time to do it right rather than rush into a bad launch, and Arcen seems to be of similar mindset. In part, they say, the delays are because they took community feedback and various pre-release news reports to heart. Arcen also has a solid history of delivering content, to include AI War: Fleet Command, The Last Federation, and Starward Rogue.
So what's the story? Basically, humanity is at war with machines, they're losing, and they've bred velociraptors like you to help them fight back. It's a sequel to one of Arcen's lesser-known games, Bionic Dues. Seriously, if this were a comic book, I know I'd buy it, but setting all hype firmly aside at this point, how does ICERR play?
Rather well, actually. Controls are standard keyboard W-A-S-D, with left and right mouse buttons serving for biting and deflection slaps. Yes, you can actually slap laser bolts back at your enemies! Nice. Other keys let you leap, lunge, kick, and roar, so ICERR definitely presents a bit more than the full range of expected 'raptor skills. There's also joystick support at this point, a smoother control scheme likely to be preferred by speedrunners.
Because almost all those killer robots are faster than you, you'll be doing a lot of lunging, which is like a thirty-foot leap straight forward, destroying nearly everything in your path. And because currently, only Power Trip Mode is active (hits are recorded but you take no damage), you're probably just going to leap and lunge at everything until it dies.
Sound and visuals are both good, presenting a proper environmental feel in particular for the two original levels provided - Lab and Industrial. Various objects are destructible, mainly crates and canisters. When you destroy a robot, there's a satisfying explosion with wreckage flying about. Directional audio seems particularly refined, which makes locating most robots before you see them relatively easy. Voice-acting is also excellent - clear, concise, and dryly British-humorous, with enough lines to avoid repeating them very often.
The third type of level is by far the most interesting: Hunt Father Brain. You can't kill the boss of this level if any 'bots that spotted you are still in one piece, so you've got to be a clever girl about it - combine that natural ferocity with a dash of cunning. Additionally, it's a procedurally-generated hunting maze, combining elements of sewers, industrial equipment, labs and apartments. Ruined and abandoned areas often suggest a bit of history as you go.
Most of the proc-gen assets look like they came out of Second Life - which, frankly, isn't bad to start with, just a bit generic. In both the original levels, Arcen has also used common store assets, but remodeled and polished to a much higher quality. What problems there are tend to revolve around clipping, mainly regarding destructible objects and the camera. Going to first-person mode solves some of that, but Arcen is going to need to improve things like wall thickness and collision detection in the long run. On only one occasion did I encounter the classic "fall through the world" problem, which at the least was quickly dealt with when I was automatically set back to the maze start.
One more thing, which I personally think deserves some attention, is the fact that you can do on-the-fly alterations to graphics settings such as textures, performance and lighting options. In the above screenshot, our raptor (I think of her as "Gail") is even exuding her own soft light source. Most games require you to restart if you change one or more of these settings, so congratulations to Arcen for keeping it sweet and easy.
Aside from the proc-gen system providing some needed variety, replay value right now lies in trying to complete the level while getting shot as few times as possible. This does take some skill, resulting in different final-assessment messages based on your performance. All in all, In Case of Emergency Release Raptor, would seem to be a promising candidate to fulfill any long-suppressed urges you may have to rage against the machine.
Unfortunately, while this article was still going through our editorial process, (we like to make sure those i's are dotted properly!) the game released to what Arcen is saying was an underwhelming reception. So much so, that they aren't even making enough to cover their marketing expenses. Some have likened ICERR to "another Goat Simulator", making me wonder if they actually played the game or just skimmed the promo materials. A goofball physics engine, this ain't.
Arcen has therefore decided to pull the game and refund everyone their money, though at this moment it's still available for sale on Steam for about $4.50 (due to a 10% off launch discount). The game will remain free and owned by all purchasers, so if you want to grab it, I'd suggest doing so immediately. For the record, almost all the Steam-side reviews are currently positive, except for one repeating the "Goat Simulator" nonsense. We're not entirely sure what's going on behind the scenes, but TechRaptor certainly hopes Arcen continues to bring fun and unusual games to the indie scene.
In Case of Emergency, Release Raptor was previewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developers.