Flawed Games Can Still Be Enjoyable!
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The ‘Boomer Shooter’ genre has ramped up in recent years. The golden era of DOOM, Unreal Tournament, Quake, and Wolfenstein was an incredibly happy time for many, and they are still being played to this day. No wonder so many indie developers have risen to the occasion, releasing a slew of titles designed to feed off that particular nostalgic drug. Even someone like me, a guy who doesn’t play shooter games often, got interested in them all.
There are plenty of great ‘boomer shooters’ out at the moment. Dusk, Amid Evil, Ultrakill, Prodeus, Project Warlock, and HROT are to name a few, but there are so many out there, that it can be an oversaturated market. It seems every few weeks, another one sprout up like a growing sunflower in the overgrown forest. Many people have asked: Do you know Valve’s amazing Half-Life series? Why haven’t we seen imitations and recreations of those? We have remakes like Black Mesa, but few others have taken to the challenge…until now, at least.
ADACA is a solo developer’s passion project, and it’s best described as a weird blend between Half Life’s physics-based, narrative-focused gameplay as well as STALKER. Releasing at the end of July for 25USD, it’s gaining momentum amongst gamers. It’s gathering quite the fanbase, and after spending some time on the game, I’m a member of that group! While I generally stay away from the first-person shooter genre, there are occasions when I ended up sucked into it. Shooters with lots of customization, immersive sim-style shooters, and games like Half-Life will always lure me in. Some examples of these are the STALKER franchise, Arma 3, Ravenfield, Cyberpunk 2077, and Ready or Not, all games I’ve put many hours into.
I want to extend thanks to the developer Siris Pendrake for the review code. The game also comes with a demo to test before purchasing, so if anyone is on the fence, it’s a good idea to try the demo. Demos are returning to the gaming scene more often, and while there are arguments for how useful they are, I appreciate their existence. Especially on the PC, performance and working out how the games will function can be a game of potluck. Demos are fantastic for testing. Nobody wants to pick up a game, only to find it doesn’t work!
It’s refreshing to play something that’s a modern take on the Half-Life games, but ADACA goes many ways beyond that. It packs quite a lot into its package, and the result is a game full of depth and different systems. Included in the current release are as follows:
1) Campaign: An episodic, linear story mode (containing two chapters at the present time of around twenty levels total)
2) Zone Patrol: A non-linear, open world mode exploring a separate space, full of alternate missions and quests with a semi-roguelike experience
3) A large, sandbox map to tinker with the game’s many mechanics, tools, and weapons
4) An endless battle mode
That’s a hefty chunk of content especially for a shooter, with more episodes in the story mode to come. What’s great about these modes is that they all offer something different.
The campaign takes the role of agent Jessy Thorn as he gets involved in a gritty battle for survival. ADACA blends the best parts of Half-Life and other shooters together, and the graphics while nothing amazing, do quite a nice job at standing out. It’s almost like playing in a cartoon, Playmobil world, and that’s not a bad thing. The environments and world design are very well designed, with lots of little nooks and crannies for secrets and lore. Some games don’t benefit from a low-poly world, but ADACA is one of the ones which do. It really does look quite nice at times, and the ambiance can get pretty terrifying too!
With the solid shooting mechanics, different guns available to the player, and the excellent gravity cybernetic arm, the campaign offers both a challenging and refreshing experience. Fighting feels smooth, with ways to use the world to your advantage. Grab objects with your gravity arm and throw them at enemies. Bring police to their knees and steal their weapons. There are puzzles and environmental hazards to conquer as well. While the campaign is linear in design, there are optional places to explore as well. One cool thing the game offers is alternate modifiers to give more options. Randomize weapons foes carry for more diversity perhaps. Or maybe bigger explosions? Make enemies more difficult? That’s an option too. Enemy AI seems decent, and there’s enough challenge even on easy difficulties to keep the player guessing.
Zone Patrol offers a completely different experience; bringing inspiration from the open-ended style of the STALKER series. Complete optional objectives in a large, non-linear map with lots of threats, different factions fighting each other, strange creatures, and a torrent of lore. It feels almost like a horror shooter, especially when operating at nighttime, and I got plenty of spooks! ADACA would be a great game with just the story mode, but nope! This guy has created two game modes that feel completely different from each other. Zone Patrol would be worthy of its own game, and the amount of quality ambition in this title is staggering. It’s a mode that demands exploration: there are no map markers to tell the player where they’re going, so it’s key to keep track of yourself using the in-game journal. It’s two games in one, essentially.
Sandbox and Arena modes are also present and they offer more experimentation. Try out all the different weapons to tinker with, or get into the Endless battle map and either fight or watch factions battle it out. There is something for everyone.
ADACA has a lot going for it. With its great visual and environmental design, a solid story, multiple game modes, great gunplay, and controls, there’s something that I believe should appeal to most people. As for any possible flaws, I can’t think of many off the top of my head. While the game is reasonably stable, performance can be a bit hit and miss at times. It should run fine on a wide range of hardware, but I experienced several frame drops and high usage on my GTX 1060 Max-Q laptop system, and several people have mentioned it runs hot on their machines. I found that locking the framerate to 60FPS improves things plenty.
I haven’t experienced a single crash in my experiences, just a couple of visual glitches. I had one bug early in the campaign where my character ended up stuck in lava, forcing me to restart the game, but didn’t get the bug since. I would also like to see additional save/load options for the campaign mode, with multiple save files to reduce the risk of losing them to corruption. It can happen, so I’d prefer to see more safeguards. These are just minor issues, and the developer is active in addressing problems and offering frequent fixes.
In conclusion, ADACA is a true hidden gem, and I’m happy to discover it and give it the chance it deserves. And, yes. It is playable on the Steam Deck!