When it comes to four-player coop shooters, Left4Dead has left quite a legacy and has been a hard title for other games to compete with. The Anacrusis, inspired by the gameplay style we have in Left4Dead takes you to a 60s themed spaceship where the population have been overwhelmed by an alien species, turning them into mindless octopus headed monsters but does it deliver enough action to be a worthy entry to the genre?
The first level of The Anacrusis gives you a healthy dose of its unique aesthetic. The retro-futuristic design is very quirky and is sure to get you excited for what is to come. Lots of orange coloured walls and design choices that are a million lightyears away from modern sci-fi. The biggest mystery is how they manage to maintain such a large quantity of carpet!
As swarms of enemies start pouring out from every nook and corner in the levels, you get a very familiar feel to the format from Left4Dead. It is quite exciting and is a lot of fun pumping endless rounds to keep the large swarms from making their way to you.
It doesn’t take long before you start to notice some rather unusual decisions that start to degrade the fun. For console players, it is common that pressing the left stick would make you sprint. If a game doesn’t have a sprint control, fine, but instead of leaving the button unmapped, it is used to ping other players. When you are in a lobby with players who are used to sprinting out of habit, you get a bunch of false pings letting you know that the player is pointing at something. It gets quite annoying after a while.
Another strange decision comes in relation to ammo, or lack thereof. You will find yourself having to backtrack across the map on a regular basis to restore ammo from one of the ammo refill stations. Ammo needs to be dropped by enemies or found more easily. When you are in a lobby with some AI characters, who have unlimited ammo and poor aim, you will burn through far more ammo than you can carry. After ripping through a large horde of enemies, you end up accidentally pressing the thumbstick as you try to sprint back to the previous ammo station.
The retro-futuristic theme is the biggest strength that The Anacrusis has and it is not used to its full potential. In fact, it almost feels wasted. Rather than give us some funky, bass-slapping soundtrack to accompany our adventure, we get some bland, modern sci-fi music that sounds too out of place for something with this retro-futuristic theme.
Another thing that is completely lost is any sort of humour. There are four characters that combined don’t make one interesting personality. Why not live up to some 1960s stereotypes for brutes, spies or the computer wizard for example. The characters are just bland and uninteresting. “Its a gooper” and whatever other elite enemy types are the bulk of what the characters will say.
Once you get over being upset about how underutilised the setting is, you will find there is little substance to the levels. You start to find you are running through the same bland, yellow and orange hallways over and over, you quickly get bored of what there is to offer. The levels lack any sort of embellishment. It feels like the ship was built, but nobody ever lived here. You explore a large shopping mall with a bunch of empty stores and perfectly clean floors. It is like nobody has ever stepped foot here before. Doesn’t give you the impression this place was brimming with life before the alien horde attacked.
The Anacrusis is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. The art team behind the graphical design of the game are not in sync with anyone else. We have a theme that is bubbling with potential, there are no other shooters with a theme like this. It is shocking how anyone behind the development of this game thought they were taking things in the right direction.
Every now and then, things get a bit of a shakeup when special characters like brutes and other high powered enemies with unique abilities. This changes the pace from just endless churning through regular zombies. The problem is that most of the time, you have no ammo so you are stuck backtracking, running away from the fun to get some more ammo.
The Anacrusis offers us a very cool and interesting premise and fails to deliver on pretty much everything other than the theme. The story isn’t interesting, the characters have no personality, the weapons are limited and you are always out of ammo. After a bit of playing, you find you are just running up and down the same repetitive hallways. The game may be in early access, but at this point, it needs a rather substantial rethink as to what direction it is going because right now, it has no direction at all.