The first thing you see when you boot up Wrack is a disclaimer that the game is still in progress and “may suck”. If I was in an M. Night Shyamalan movie, I would say that this was an eerie foreshadowing of my experience to come. Final Boss Entertainment describe their game as an arcade-style shooter in which you battle your way through hordes of monsters at “blistering speed”. Citing Wrack’s influences as Doom and Duke Nukem, it’s obvious that they were going for an old-school feel. Wrack seems to be a mishmash of lots of different art styles and genres. The cell-shaded graphics are undeniably similar to Borderlands, as are the look of the guns, though there is nothing like the array of weaponry found in the latter title.
For the most part, the game plays like a old-school PC shooter. Multiple weapon slots house different types, and linear corridors loop into each other to form levels that are home to a handful of enemies. However, the controls are far too responsive, making it hard to play with a mouse, and impossible to play with a controller. These controls would be better suited to a twitch shooter, with fast quantities of enemies traveling at the same speeds as you, but instead the game has you face off against limited numbers of opponents, whose movement and bullets travel much slower than you. It’s nice to see a game that has no chest-high walls and a focus on running around rather than hiding, but the huge advantage in movement-speed not only makes you feel overpowered around enemies, but jars with the slower focus in combat.
Although the individual baddies look nice, and there is a lot of variety between each one, there aren’t that many different types, and after a while encounters become predictable. A way around this is to ramp the difficulty up to the game’s “BS” setting, an option I must admit I didn’t even consider as I found wrestling with the controls challenging enough.
Difficulty curves in each level are also an issue with bosses appearing at random points in the level after your ammo’s been spent on corridor after corridor of simple enemies that were dispatched with a single shot of your shotgun or a single swipe of your sword. Many of the bosses in the game require you to maneuver away from their attacks (some of them even in a fashion not dissimilar to a side-scrolling shooter), but the space provided is often far too limited, and coupled with the unmanageable controls, you more often than not get sideswiped by an attack, only to have to start the level from scratch due to the lack of adequate checkpoints. The whole experience becomes frustrating, and nothing about the game redeems it from ultimately becoming a chore.
A lack of dialogue does nothing to lighten your mood as you play. The noir-style motif played at the opening menu and tongue-in-cheek instructions and messages provided by the developer set you up for a farcical game with a good level of humor, but instead you’re presented with large amounts of silence and a disappointingly clichéd soundtrack.
Wrack boasts a modding tool that allows you to create/edit levels and mods, as well as share them amongst a community that has time and score leaderboards for that extra bit of competition. Unfortunately, a lack of a DRM means that these additions are separate to the rest of your games and probably won’t be as integrated as it would be if it was available on Steam.
Is It Worth Your Money?
The AI in the game is moronic. Walking into walls, running straight at you and generally making a fool of itself, the platforming the game requires doesn’t work in first person let alone controls that cause you to sprint when you want to creep and boxes that simply disappear instead of smashing when you destroy them. Attention to detail can often salvage a game that is left lacking in other departments, but Wrack fails across the board. In all honesty, aside from the weapon design, the game doesn’t even look that great. A harsh critique I know, but with the game still in development stage, I’d rather be harsh and have the team salvage some of the major flaws rather than allow them to release the game to a disappointed public. And who knows, maybe with a bit of TLC, the game might be worth your cash. But right now, at $9.95 for the first in a series of episodes, I’d rather not to play it.