A lot of games try to capture a comic book style. Its been a thing since 1995's Comix Zone ended up doing it nearly perfectly. The latest crack at this style comes from Liberated, one of the many games available in Steam Game Festival's demo showcase. The black and white graphics and comic book style did a good job drawing me in, but does that make for a fun game?
The demo skips around a bit, mostly to make sure you avoid spoilers, but the plot appears to involve two different individuals. Taking place in the future, cameras watch people and the government keeps an eye on those who don't act social enough. You'll play two different characters, one a hacker who finds themselves swept into the fight against the system, and the other a cop trying to uphold the law. While I didn't get to see much of the actual story, it certainly seemed like the kind of tale that would easily draw me in.
The gameplay segments play like a 2.5D shooter. You aim with the right stick, shooting at human or robot targets. Interestingly, there's no ammo system. No matter your weapon, you never have to worry about running out of bullets. You do not, however, have a bottomless magazine. Reload times are lengthy, and with no UI to help count bullets for you, you have to pay quite a bit of attention to how many shots you've used. It works pretty well, making combat encounters rather intense.
However, in the brief demo, I ran into several instances that felt like they were made to get you killed. On two separate occasions, enemies spawned behind me, or while I was on ladders. In either case, they killed me before I could react. It felt like I was only supposed to know about these threats after they killed me, and often I only got past them by respawning and having a gun pointed at where they spawned before they did.
There's also occasional clunkiness that needs ironing out. One jump saw my character get trapped in an endless fall animation. Upon resetting the checkpoint, I promptly got stuck in the exact same jump. Several times I suddenly had my character get stuck on the ground when there wasn't anything to get stuck on, and I had to do a little jig or jump to get free. Liberated is still a work in progress, so these sorts of things are expected and can hopefully be ironed out for the final release.
A couple of times, things happen that don't involve hiding and shooting. One hacking segment saw me have to pick numbers and use hints to see where they belong in a password. Another saw me platforming and riding elevators to move boxes around so I could make jumps. None of this was bad, in fact, I thought they were rather pleasant breaks from the shooting. I'd like to see what other unique situations Liberated can come up with over the course of its campaign.
All of this combines with a great comic book style. You'll move between panels during cutscenes, with chapters being different books. The way a new book is basically thrown in front of you, giving you a cover and a vague idea of what will happen in the chapter, is rather fantastic. The entire game being in black and white also helps sell the comic look further, and I loved getting to see where Liberated would bring me next.
Liberated certainly needs some work, but everything appears to be here for a unique 2.5D shooter. I love the little snippet of the world that I got to see, and I'm excited about its full release. Hopefully, the issues with getting stuck and iffy spawns can be cleaned up by that time.
TechRaptor previewed Liberated on PC via Steam with a copy downloaded as part of the Steam Game Festival. The game has a release date of Q2 2020.