The right trousers
Gunpoint is an indie game from Suspicious Developments where you stealthily break into offices, have a choice of how you neutralise or avoid guards, use hi-tech gadgetry, can rewire most of the offices systems to work how you want it to and you get moral choices that affect the outcome of the game. It’s even got a touch of film noir in it. Oh and it’s only £6.99.
As far as ‘back of the box’ features go, that’s a pretty impressive list. It isn’t quite Watchdogs, we’re talking about a borderline pixelart 2d world here, where each level is no more than 100 meters from side to side, but within those tiny little worlds and buildings you get a mighty amount of freedom. Nearly every mission consists of trying to get to a computer that you need to hack, and then getting out again. In your way are a myriad of doors, trapdoors (who installs a trapdoor in their office, really?), security cameras and guards of varying shapes and sizes, and up until quite late in the game you don’t even get a gun to defend yourself.
Instead, you use some spring loaded trousers. It’s exactly as ridiculous as that sounds, but somehow within the fiction it’s easy to get used to them and just accept that it’s how you’re going to get around. It also leads to some spectacular moments when you’re perching outside a window, in the shadow, waiting for a guard to get close enough before you pounce, smashing through the window and holding the guard to the floor ready to punch his lights out or perhaps even kill him. It’s up to you, if you click once you’ll punch him, if you click repeatedly you can beat him to death. Mechanically there’s no difference, but it’s up to you how you want to play this character.
As the game goes on you get more inventive ways to dispatch your foes, from wiring power sockets into light switches so when you turn the lights off and they try to turn them back on they fry themselves, or even kicking doors into a room and knocking the guards out a window on the other side. The animation makes all of this a joy to behold and once you get the hang of using the mouse to jump you’ll be vaulting around smoothly and efficiently, gliding into rooms like Batman and taking everything you want without anyone seeing you coming. Or quite possibly you’ll end up accidentally leaping out of a third story window and landing flat on your face. Thankfully there’s no fall damage so both are fine.
The game’s difficulty comes from the brutal guard AI. The guards will search for you in a limited fashion (but it’s easy to predict what they’ll do), however, if they find you they’ll shoot instantly and kill you. There’s an upgrade you can buy that allows you to maybe get away with being shot at once, but generally it’s a bad idea to ever let them know you’re there. The way you achieve this feels like more of a puzzle game, you can use motion detectors to open and close doors, trapping guards so their sightlines are obscured, or you can use elevators as a kind of timer, unlocking doors for you and distracting guards at just the right points. In many of the later missions you can do quite a lot of your work before ever moving, making use of the guards’ patrol routes and various sensors to set the building up for you to have easy access to your objective. There never really felt like a ‘right’ way to progress, and each level gives you a chance to be creative in how you solve the mission.
While the main game is fairly easy to complete and even get A+ on every mission, there is an included level editor with the game that I’m sure will lead to much more challenging maps being made. There’s a lot of potential for some more timing-based challenges or labyrinths of inter-connected devices. It feels as though the campaign is slightly more focused on the story rather than difficulty and therefore the designers want as many people as possible to be able to get to the end of the game.
As you progress through the two to three-hour campaign you get to choose your missions, and even get some dialog options as you go through. These aren’t meaningless moral choices, they’re tied to how you interpret the story and there’s even a humourous option on most choices implying you’ve just been skipping all the text to get the money. After each mission you get paid and you can spend the money and skill points on various upgrades. Most of them use a power charge or two, which gets a little frustrating as rather than using them whenever the situation arises, you end up hoarding them ‘just in case’ and never spending them. The skill point upgrades are sadly just improvements to jump height and speed or how many charges you can hold, so while they’re no doubt useful, you don’t see much of a tangible improvement for each point spent.
The visuals and audio are functional rather than beautiful but it’s always clear exactly what’s going on and the game has a charm to it, especially when you roll the mousewheel and go into the hacking mode where you can see how everything is connected with coloured lines. Most of the environments look the same, but a few are recognisable as certain types of building and the final mission is more interesting and gives a bit of a grander scale to the game.
Story-wise it’s a fun little tale with double-crossing and morally ambiguous characters, the author obviously has a firm understanding of how a narrative should work and the dialog choices and achievements reflect the way that you’re playing and understanding the game. Interestingly at the end you get a little bonus that reflects how you have played the game so far. I’m sure this will lead to attempts for no-kill runs (which may be possible, I haven’t tried yet) or complete murderous rampages.
For £6.99, Gunpoint is a no-brainer. There are shortcomings, like the limited environments and anaemic upgrade system but this is easily an afternoon’s entertainment and if you’re a perfectionist or creative it could last you a lot longer. Fans of the stealth in the Batman games or the excellent ‘Stealth Bastard’ will have a blast. This is a stylish and original indie stealth-puzzler with magical trousers. How can you resist? Here I’ll help you, it’s £6.99 on Steam here.