Metrocide, a top-down stealth-action game by Flat Earth Studios, began its journey at the Cyberpunk Game Jam in early 2014. The developers ultimately decided on turning it into a fully fledged title rather than entering it into the contest, and their efforts over the past year have resulted in an unforgiving game of brutal beauty.
Let’s talk about the most noticeable aspect of the game straightaway: its difficulty. This game is absolutely merciless, and to anyone stepping in not ready to learn, it will be a trail travelled that is littered in frustrated tears. The developers of Metrocide have been reported as doing this purposely, and they’ve really gone all-out: fall foul of merely one of the litany of hazards in the game (including cops, security cameras, gang members and vigilantes), and you’re back at square one.
However, the Flat Earth team have succeeded in making this challenge feel rewarding instead of impossible or frustrating. Players who are fans of stealth-action games can find multiple ways to carry out assassinations with various weapons, tactics and the reliance on their own wit. In many cases, the challenge itself, oddly enough, is the reward. In that sense, the game captures the fun of the genre almost as well as the Metal Gear Solid series; an impressive feat.
After spending some time in Early Access, the full release features more balanced gameplay as well as additional bonus modes that allow the titular assassin, T.J Trench, creative manners in which to assassinate targets. For us, the learning curve was a steep one but rewarding once we figured out police drones are bad. There are a few glitches here and there, but nothing game-breaking; certainly nothing that pushes Metrocide beyond redemption.
Flat Earth Games are a relatively new studio, but we have to give kudos to them for understanding the essence of a stealth game and what makes it fun: the creeping, planning and rush of adrenaline from the escape. Metrocide tests the player’s ability to properly assassinate their target and escape unscathed. While the kill itself is over in one hit, the main action comes from escaping or hiding the bodies to avoid detection. For the slightly wicked among us, the creative manners of body disposal was leagues of fun (we promise we’re not deranged killers). In short, Metrocide’s gameplay is brutal but crafted lovingly from the inspirational sources of Grand Theft Auto, Hotline Miami and Syndicate.
Another noteworthy attraction is the game’s art. A common argument about pixelated games is that, while many are trying to recreate the beautiful nostalgia of many of our youths, most do not quite reach that potential. Some games; Shovel Knight, for example, reach for their own unique style and make it their own. Metrocide is a game that manages to feel like it could be from the days of the SNES just as much as it feels like something fresh and new. The cyberpunk genre gives it a gritty, noir sense of a bleak future. Grays and blacks are used heavily to set a tone of a colorless, rotting city. While used sparingly, the occasional flash of a neon palette adds that touch of a seedy, Las Vegas feel that completes the overall atmosphere.
The attention to details in certain areas, including alleyways, sewer grates and many of the buildings, adds a polished, detailed imagery that most simplistic games cannot manage. Overall, it goes hand in hand with the bleak feel of the game and sets the mood instantly. Much like a good dystopian game should, Metrocide presents a sense of intrigue with the unspoken world-building around it. While there are clues and case notes, it leaves a lot up to the imagination of the player. How did the world end up this way? Why must our main character scrape cash together by assassinating the scum of the underworld? Does that make his actions morally justifiable? We’ll save the philosophy for later, of course.
Flat Earth Games set the bar high for Metrocide. All aspects of the game have been scrutinized and retouched constantly to deliver a rewarding experience to expectant players. The essence of stealth, challenge and an adventure into a grim, cyberpunk future are all present and proudly crafted. Metrocide will impress fans of the stealth genre and those looking for a challenge. And remember: drones are not friends.