Review: Gorescript

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Review copy provided by developer

If I have to choose between a game with a great look and one with a great feel, I’m going for the feel every time. I shouldn’t have to choose, of course, but the point is that mechanics are almost always the most important part of your title. A first-person-shooter needs solid movement and gunplay, along with enemies that challenge the player to make the most of them. Gorescript does just that in a big way, but as I alluded to it’s very much a choice of feel over looks.

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There’s literally no plot to Gorescript, not even an indication of why it’s called that. You are somebody with guns, and there are 18 levels floating in a starry void crawling with monsters to gib. Your course is clear, inevitable, and splattered with many shades of viscera as you weave between foes and fill them full of bullets and bolts and rockets. We’ll never know why you’re doing this, or why these things hate you so much, or why your rocket launcher is holy, and I’m pretty okay with that.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend the original DOOM had some kind of amazing plot, but it had amazing mechanics and the inspiration Gorescript takes from it is clear. Movement is just as ludicrously fast and precise here as it was then, all the way down to strafing diagonally making you run faster. The maps are striking homages to classic level design, featuring wide-open arenas, monster closets, narrow labyrinths, and hidden passages galore. Mouse aiming is fully enabled but the maps follow the old rules of no rooms over other rooms and there’s no jumping without a very hard to find item, preserving that old DOOM feel almost to a T.

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Aside from the all-too-familiar health, armor, and ammo pickups there are items to find, usually secreted away in hidden areas behind secret doors or hard-to-find passages. These go into an inventory alongside your minimap and can be used at will to give health or armor boosts or enable special effects like lifesteal on hit, double damage, or jumping. It’s a nice little extra layer to exploration that rewards you with more than just your basic resources, and they’re helpfully marked on your map by default but still require plenty of poking about to reach which alleviates much of the pace-breaking issue with secret hunting.

There are enemies as well, and while they perform their function as meaty obstructions admirably there’s an obvious weakness here. You’ll encounter a tanky, large-mawed meatball with a melee bite, a triangular eye that fires slow-moving shots reminiscent of imp fireballs, and a large three-headed critter that soaks up damage and lays down a spread of three big bolts. Together these foes form an interesting cross-section of challenges when viewed from the friendly end of your weapons. You shotgun and blaster make short work of triangles but the other two are too meaty to dispatch easily. The railgun does work if you line up multiple foes for each shot, and the rocket launcher can eat through health but works best against groups. There’s even a nice riff on a BFG that has its own firing mechanics and strategy to it.

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That’s all well and good, but those three enemies are it. For the two hours and change it’ll take you to finish the game once, throughout all of those 18 levels, there are three monsters to fight. All the great level design (and it really is great here) can’t overcome that lack of variety, which brings me to the other obvious knock against the game. You see that stone texture on the walls? That’s everywhere, forever. Plain stone walls, plain stone floors, plain stone ceilings, with occasional green or red tinges to give them a hint of variety. Your enemies, items, and weapons are similarly plain and blocky, lacking even detailed animations or destruction physics to give them character beyond their basic shapes.

The only respite you’ll find from blasting the same three enemies over and over is a gimmick boss on the 9th level and a real boss for the finale (which can be hilariously cheesed if you can jump). It works, honestly, if you appreciate the throwback gunplay as much as I did and power on to the end. But at the same time, the exclusive focus on gunplay suffers from the bland visuals and shocking lack of enemy variety. Right down to the sound design the game is split like this, with an appropriately thumping techno soundtrack and absolutely anemic weapon sounds. As long as you can get past the looks of Gorescript, though, it’ll bring back that feeling you haven’t felt since first loading up DOOM.

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