Wednesday 18 September 2013

The Chaos Engine Remastered Review (PC)

The year is 1887 and a number of very strange things have begun to occur all over the world. First of all a dinosaur is found trapped in rock just south of Berkshire. However, when examined it appears that it's a lifeform not known to man. At the same time a theatre in Paris suddenly disappears into the earth, the Statue of Liberty crashes into the heart of New York destroying everything in its path, and half the population of Bavaria are turned into wolves, stalking the countryside for innocent victims. 

Central to these strange happenings, Great Britain descends into anarchy as the landscape begins to alter and change disturbingly. Unknown to everyone the source of the disturbances is coming from the south of Cornwall where Baron Fortesque, bored of making pasties and fighting off Spanish trawlers, has decided to build a massive steam-driven engine with the power to transform matter. It grows out of control andt he Baron becomes imprisoned within the engine, transforming him into a deformed creature of evil. Now fueling itself, the Chaos Engine continues to inflict its evil curse on the world. 

Two brave soldiers (the game can be played co-operatively) must enter the grounds of the mansion and make their way to the resting-place of the dreaded engine - The Hall of Machines. Stepping forward for the task are six unique individuals: the Mercenary, the Brigand, the Gentleman, the Navvie, the Thug and the Priest. Picking the right two men for the job is essential if you're going to have any chance of getting near the evil device. 

Each character has different statistics covering speed, skill, intelligence, strength, health and weaponry and it really does matter who you choose as if you pick a strong yet stupid computer-controlled partner in single player they may well stand around while you are getting shot to pieces (though picking a weak yet smart character may leave you with too little firepower and thus end up with you getting shot to pieces also).

Whoever you choose, you must then fight your way through four worlds, split into four individual levels in order to achieve your goal. Viewed from a top-down perspective, the title takes a somewhat unique approach to the standard shooter. While action consists of going around blasting anything and everything that moves, there is a subtle strategy at work in the game mechanic. As well as blasting there are endless puzzles to solve, some of which are incredibly tricky to work out. Solving puzzles leads you to secret areas or even to a different exit from the level. 

In order to leave the current level a set number of nodes must be activated in order to activate the exit door. Doing this is easier said than done as you are usually surrounded by all manner of nasty creatures. This fills the game with an incredibly intense atmosphere that is built up in equal measure by the bleak graphical style and the outstanding industrial-tinged techno soundtrack. Graphics are fairly simple but contain subtle elements of detail that make you believe you're making your way through a truly disturbing place; this coupled with a dark and menacing colour palette is incredibly effective in creating the chaos-themed world that the title is set in. 

Something else that Elevates the game to the next level is the outstanding soundtrack. One of the most potently powerful musical creations in the history of gaming, the soundtrack beautifully accompanies the action with its continually brooding and sinister nature, hinting that you are only scratching the surface of evil and at any minute the true horror is about to greet you. Simply stunning. 

In terms of how the game actually plays, we are presented with a strange juxtaposition of styles. Although you are constantly under threat from numerous nasty creatures that all need blasting to bits, the game has a somewhat structured pace to it. Far from the breakneck speed of other top-down shooters such as Smash T.V., The Chaos Engine makes you think more carefully about what you should be doing, Go aimlessly wading in with all guns blazing and you will die, simple as that. Instead, players need to stand back from time to time and think how best to deal with the creatures. This is mainly because certain creatures take forever to kill so you need to make sure they are going to be dead before they reach you. Also, you cannot move and shoot at the same time, so you have to move up the screen then stop in order to pick off enemies (bringing even more strategy to proceedings). 

There have been some improvments made, such as the smoothing of graphics and getting the game to understand a proper 360 degree axis to allow for better movement and shooting with control pads and analogue sticks. However, this is effectively the same game as before - it's now just a bit more friendly for modern PC's. It feels old school and a touch dated but the strenght of the game is such that is remains something worth playing.Perhaps more could ahve been done but at least it can't be accused of ruining the atmosphere or feel of the game.

The Chaos Engine is one of the most original and inventive shooting games that has ever graced the planet. With a difficulty setting that starts at hard and goes to ridiculous, it's a very rare thing to meet someone who has made it all the way to the end. Regardless, it's a genuinely exciting experience and any true fan of either retro gaming or shooters should have this title in their collection. It is a strategy-tinged, puzzle-filled, full-on, adrenaline-pumping ambient shooter, and you need it, but it might seem a touch slower than you remember.


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