Cyberpunk as a genre mixes a sort of noir sense of industrial-ruin or urban decay with the uplifting power of computer technology. Many cyberpunk novels display a tremendous disparity between the cultural elite—hidden in skyscrapers filled with every creature comfort and amenity, protected by bulwarks of corporation and society—and the dregs on the street—surrounded by gang warfare, violence, and the ever-present glow of venial reliefs.
Metrocide, a new indie game released by developer Flat Earth Games, manages to mix these together in an interesting way by presenting a character who barely registers as a person walking pixelated streets. He or she (gender can be chosen) looks a bit like a noir detective, replete with hat and trench coat to shrug off the never-ending rain, and carries a gun. Metrocide a single-player game that hearkens back to the heady days of early Grand Theft Auto, but situates itself in a futuristic city.
As it turns out the name of the game “Metrocide” explains exactly what the game is about: killing in the city.
The objective: escape the city before it’s “too late” by making money. Of course, you make money by shooting people (and sometimes stealing their wallets.)
At first glance the gameplay feels fairly simple: go get a contract to kill someone, shoot them dead, hide the body, return for another contract.
However, even in this pixelated urban wasteland killing someone isn’t just-so-simple. There are two control methods, WASD with ‘W’ leading towards the mouse cursor (or WASD with mouse to aim.) Moving the character around the top-down-ish pixelated streets is quick to catch onto and it’s not hard to figure out how to interact or fire the weapon. The starter gun has a warm up, however, so it takes a few guesses on how to aim the gun to hit targets (especially fleeing people.)
Getting caught is bad. Metrocide is an ironman game and you have only one life. Meaning: if the police, or a vigilante shoots you, you’re dead and need to restart.
Why might the police or a vigilante shoot you? You might ask. Well, they could see you shoot someone. The city is peppered with cameras (sweeping beams of blue that you need to avoid when killing someone or carrying a body.) Worse, if a normal citizen sees you they’ll freak out and report you. Then a police drone will patrol and look for you. Much of this game is about patiently tailing some poor sucker into a bad part of town to gun them down and throw their body in a sewer.
For the beginner this is actually a difficult task. Not to say that the learning curve is too steep—but it takes some getting used to.
In this way, Metrocide really does a good job of hearkening back to when games did not coddle users very much. The mechanics of the game stand out, they’re easy to understand, but take timing, thinking, and patience to deliver when a contract is on the line.
As the player earns more money and unlocks more things, of course, contracts get more tricky but the tricks also get better. There are more (and better) guns available, EMPs to knock out drones, even lures to get targets to leave the sidewalk (and all those pesky witnesses!) so that they can be more easily disposed of.
Metrocide is currently selling for only $12.99 on Steam and at that price it’s got the content, gameplay, and a fun noir cyberpunk atmosphere to keep most players occupied for a while. The puzzle-thinking portion of the game should keep neurons firing for a while as well and it will appeal to both new gamers and nostalgic gamers alike. It will likely appeal especially players who are not trigger happy, but thoughtful and meticulous about how they approach and resolve game-style problems.