If at first you don’t succeed… try and die again.
As I took my first steps in this pixel-filled world I realised I wasn’t quite prepared for the scenario I had found myself in. After accepting a hit on my first target I followed them closely through winding streets, waiting for the right moment to take my shot. I find an alley on my target’s route, set myself up, and whip out my pistol as they walk by. I charge and fire my shot and they fall to the ground, so I wander forward to pick up proof of my kill. Unfortunately for me, a police drone thought this would be the perfect moment to glide overhead, catching me red-handed. With one shot I’m on the ground myself, dead, and forced to start this Metrocide all over again. The rest of my first hour or so with this title resulted in many similar outcomes.
Metrocide is a top down, retro inspired stealth-shooter which takes place in a dark and grungy futuristic city. I could probably best describe the vision of the game by simply saying it feels a lot like the original Grand Theft Auto games if they took place in Blade Runner’s Los Angeles. Between it’s bright neon lights, garbage laden streets, downpours of rain and ever present police drones, the city exudes a dreary and dangerous atmosphere.
Beginning a new game spawns you, contract killer T. J. Trench, in the first of three zones, ‘Downtown’. From there you must accept contracts, kill targets and save up your cash to buy passes in order to advance to the next zones, ‘The Docks’ and ‘Hilldale’. You’ll also be able to purchase and unlock new weapons and equipment as you take down targets, adding some variety and personal style to the way you carry out your deeds. The story doesn’t ever take centre stage and is fairly simple, but solid gameplay holds it up likely finding familiarity with a lot of people after a few minutes in game. What a lot of people won’t be prepared for is the difficulty spike they’ve added to this reliable foundation.
Police drones roam the sky, while vigilantes and security cameras dot the streets. It’s fair to say that there’s a lot of ways to get killed in Metrocide, and with the addition of permadeath it’s all too easy to make a snap judgement and end up at the start of the game again. In fact, it’s all too easy to die in general. While this difficulty adds a lot of challenge to the title, it also added a fair bit of monotony to some of the early game content, unfortunately. Advancing to new districts costs upwards of $2000, with each job paying anywhere from $200 to $600. While this may seem like a short process, the longer you play the more you’ll end up spending money on equipment, ammunition and also on bribing cops in order to save that progress you’ve made. This can lead to the game feeling dragged out and repetitive, forcing you to spend large amounts of time doing the same thing over and over and with deaths bringing you back to the same early stages you’ve progressed beyond a dozen times.
The difficulty is not all bad though, not by a longshot. In some scenarios it becomes rather rewarding, especially when you first begin to play. That process of learning through trial and error, progressing further and further into this atmospheric world each time, is where Metrocide really begins to shine.
Another high point of Metrocide is the design of the world. Even with the top down 2D aesthetic, this world feels very well realised. The atmosphere is vivid and clear from the get go, and the simple pixel art form aids in this image quite well. Add to this the music and voice work, security announcements blaring from loudspeakers, and you have the makings of a pretty well actualised video game setting. As you start each district you’re greeted by a comic panel cutscene which was quite a nice touch to the way the basic story is presented.
Flat Earth Games are well on their way to a decent hit with Metrocide. It takes inspiration from a lot of cult classic media and creates quite a well realised and punishingly fun world for players to live out their dystopic future dreams in. There comes a point where this game’s difficulty may turn a few players away, shifting from skill to frustration or repetition. All this said, it’s hard to fault the foundations and the potential for Metrocide to continue growing into a better game post release from its roots in Steam early access and feedback from players.
To say Metrocide is a difficult game would be an understatement, but it can be quite rewarding when you catch a break. With solid foundations and a gritty pixel artstyle, if you’re a fan of stealth games or permadeath, this is one to give a shot.
Metrocide was reviewed on Steam early access code provided to Respawn Ninja staff by Flat Earth Games.