We're going to have to change our ways at some point. Year after year we collectively moan about the lack of innovation in first-person shooters, and then, when a game does come along that dares to be different, we shoot holes in it for not being more like those we purport to hate, but actually can't get enough of. Hence the annual updates masquerading as franchise sequels, while the more daring and interesting shooters are overlooked and promptly forgotten about.
Angry Birds creator Rovio Entertainment has bought the gaming arm of Futuremark.
Futuremark would like you to help test four new Shattered Horizons levels please.
The moon has exploded. Needless to say, that means only one thing: astronaut deathmatch! Shattered Horizon is set in the not-quite-possible near future in which humanity has been plundering the moon for its cheese, and the resulting accident ends up blasting billions of tonnes of rock into orbit. This means that thousands of space workers are trapped up in the sky, with just a broken moon and the remains of Earth's by-then-extensive space infrastructure to live on. Two factions who were feeling a bit grumpy with each other now see this as an excuse for open hostility, and fighting in zero-gravity commences.
What we have here is a first-person shooter of the well-understood competitive multiplayer genus. That said, the species itself is one of universal movement: you're free to cruise on all axes, spinning, strafing and swooping as you see fit. There is no up and down: you're in space. Shattered Horizon's clearest accomplishment is that of making that zero-gravity control system intuitive and playable. Any FPS player will adapt to it in moments, even if it does take a while to get a hang of the combat itself. Movement is immediately comprehensible, and that counts for a lot in a game in which staying alive is a difficult task.
Combat takes place around a series of space facilities, where two teams perform recognisable FPS tasks, such as capturing various points and holding them against the enemy for a set number of minutes. Respawning brings you in at a particular point in the facility, as if you'd come zooming out of space, and then you have to navigate the facilities to make your way to combat. While you're able to move in every direction in your space suit, your acceleration is limited, so it's not entirely realistic. That, at least, stops you accelerating off into the depths of space, which would otherwise be a danger. That's not to say you're entirely free of any kind of anchor, however, since you're able to use your sticky/magnetic boots to latch onto flat surfaces and walk about.
It's odd. I feel like I shouldn't be enjoying the Shattered Horizon beta as much as I am. The reason for that is the game is based on one of those kind of ideas that shouldn't really work. The idea is this: astronaut deathmatch.