Take everything you know about first-person shooters and throw it out the window. You might ask “why?” I don’t care. No one can hear you in space. Forget about everything you’ve ever learned about FPS games because none of that really applies to Futuremark’s new multiplayer zero-g shooter Shattered Horizon. It’s a whole new playing field, and one that’s worth checking out.
You may recognize the name Futuremark, not because of their presence in the game industry, but because they are the ones who tell you your computer is a piece of junk. Futuremark is the industry leader in PC benchmarking software. Not too long ago the company opened a game studio, which announced its first game at the 2008 Leipzig Games Convention. Enter Shattered Horizon.
Shattered Horizon is a tactical first-person shooter which has gamers competing in the vastness of space, giving them six degrees of freedom. This allows players to use entirely new strategies that would be otherwise impossible. Ever read Ender’s Game?
Set 40 years in the future, Shattered Horizon deals with two factions vying for control of “the Arc,” fragments of Earth’s moon which separated from the celestial body during a mining accident. With Earth surrounded by debris, rescue or resupply of the miners and scientists proves impossible. The International Space Agency (ISA) is told to apprehend the miners responsible for the catastrophe. The Moon Mining Cooperative (MMC) must fight for their very existence. The two factions fight across strategic locations spread out around the Arc.
First, it should be noted that Shattered Horizon has no singleplayer whatsoever. It’s entirely multiplayer-based, which is why the game only costs $19.99 on Steam. There are four maps that ship with the game, and Futuremark has already promised more are on the way in the form of DLC. Players will fight through various environments, such as the remains of the International Space Station, asteroid belts, and abandoned mining establishments.
There are three game modes, assault, skirmish and battle. Assault is an attack-and-defend control point game. Skirmish is your typical run-of-the-mill deathmatch, and battle is where either team must capture and control all of the points on the map to win. Games can get pretty hectic, especially when you hit the 32-player max. Shattered Horizon has a persistent ranking system which keeps track of your stats and progression through the game. There are also a slew of achievements players can earn.
There is a lack of weapon variety in Shattered Horizon, but the gun you get can function as an assault rifle or sniper rifle. It’s also equipped with three different types of grenades: EMP, concussion, and smoke. Let me just say, it’s very satisfying to shoot someone’s oxygen tank.
When I first started up Shattered Horizon, I was expecting there to be a huge learning curve. I’ve played games like Descent, but I’ve never really played a zero-g FPS. Surprisingly the controls are elegantly simple. You’ve got your standard forward, backward, left, right, up down. You’ve got a thruster (which is equivalent to a sprint in your standard FPS), and there are also controls for rotating and sweeping to the surface of an object. There’s also a suit-shutdown control which will disable your suit entirely – HUD, game chat, aural simulation (there’s no sound in space, so Futuremark designed the space suit to simulate sound), thrusters, the ability to anchor to surfaces – all gone.
The benefit of the suit-shutdown is you appear invisible on your opponent’s radars. It’s really eerie shutting down your suit hearing only your heartbeat and breathing. Careful though, when your suit is off, recoil from your weapon can propel you out into space, and if you go too far out you’ll start to get hit by micrometeorites.
You might find yourself disoriented a lot at first, but you get the hang of it quickly. The game is actually pretty easy to pick up and play, and it caters quite well to both hardcore and more casual gamers.
One thing that might concern people is the hardware aspect of the game. Considering Futuremark is responsible for telling you you need to upgrade your video card, one might guess that the game is really demanding. The truth is, it is pretty demanding. Its minimum requirements cite that you need an 8800GT or higher with 2GB RAM, and the game flat out will not run on Windows XP (requiring DX10). However, if you’re computer was made within the last two years, chances are it will run this game without a problem (although you may need to lower some of the settings for it to run smoothly).
The game does have stunning graphics when the settings are cranked up and the lighting is very impressive. Real-time shadows appear on all objects, sunlight glimmers on metallic space debris, and light refracts through your visor. It’s a really immersive experience if your PC’s got the goods.
Shattered Horizon is fun. Plain and simple. It’s easy to quickly jump into a game, play a round, and jump out. The game has brilliant controls and breathtaking visuals. If there’s one thing that first-person shooters lack lately, it’s innovation, and Shattered Horizon excels in this regard. My only real gripe is the lack of depth within the game. There is no weapon diversity, three game modes, and a handful of maps. But with Futuremark already laying out plans for downloadable content, the $20 price tag is definitely justifiable to gamers looking for a fresh FPS experience.
how we score
Shattered Horizon articulates a whole new way of playing first-person shooters. It forces gamers to step out of their comfort zone and retool their FPS strategies in a more multi-dimensional sense. Futuremark really pushed the envelope with its first video game, and it boasts an affordable $20 price tag to boot!