In my days at high school, one of the moments I remember fondly was turning my end-of-term computer classes, where assignments were already done and free time was ample, into fairly large LAN parties. This was all thanks to some kid who’d managed to stuff the demo of Quake 3: Arena onto a USB and spread it around the school. It was mayhem. We spent so much time frantically setting up rooms and jumping into team deathmatches that it soon became the norm.
The matches I remembered most were ones in “The Longest Yard”, where two main platforms and a lower platform bridged between each other; it was small-scale team warfare at its most hectic. Thinking about this game and this map not long ago, I wondered to myself, how could I go about recreating the experience in a new way? That’s the fun of Gunscape, the newest project from Sydney-based Blowfish Studios.
Seen as more of a toolbox of parts that the user can take advantage of, the opportunities are near endless to create wacky first-person shooter levels that can be played by everyone. While the majority of your time will be spent in Free-for-All and Team Deathmatches, the game also contains a useful Campaign mode, which doubles up as a tutorial for the in-game controls. Having dived into a bunch of the campaign levels early on, it’s easy to see that the single player mode is not the mode that deserves the most attention. Getting past Nazi soldiers guarding pre-historic animals in vaults which house computer modules to shut down an AI code? Sounds like the most headache-inducing idea for a game in a while.
The in-game controls feel quick yet tight, in much the same way as the old-school shooters do. In fact, a lot of the great FPS titles of yesteryear come into play here. From Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake to Turok and Team Fortress 2, Gunscape acts as a melting pot of many great titles. The game plays off that blocky, low-res style that many of those shooters utilised in the 90’s to full effect, but doesn’t feel graphically lacking in any way. This is extremely beneficial because it serves Gunscape’s retro feel immensely. From the deathmatches to arguably what you’ll be spending most of your time in – the level creation mode – the game functions on the Minecraft-esque, block by block style of level foundation. It’s simple enough, but as you throw in the wide array of themes, props and weapons, it makes the retro style all the more entertaining.
The level creator is where I spent way too much of my time, messing about with the blocks in order to scope out my arena for deathmatches. Your controller triggers are your main source of design, making adding and removing stage designs a hell of a lot easier. I did find certain parts of the stage creation to be a little frustrating, however, such as calibrating the jump pads and teleporters, and the loading times between creating and testing a map. At times, this wasn’t conducive to what should be a simple and easy experience, but in the end I was able to create something I found was to my liking.
Remember that Quake map I mentioned earlier, The Longest Yard? I tried recreating that to the best of my memory, but with a few added tweaks. With a larger lower ground level it’s perfect for small-scale games (go look it up; it’s called RvB Arena!).
If there is one major downside to Gunscape, it’s that you’ll get way more fun playing this game with friends in tow. Searching the list of open games, there were barely any open, which made taking part in deathmatches extremely difficult and meant that I was spending my time elsewhere. I’m sure as the days go on and more people become aware of this unique title, the amount of matches will open up, but be sure to have some friends around in the meantime or you’ll be spending a lot of time looking through empty screens for a match.
Despite this, Gunscape is an idea that has been crying out for someone to bring to fruition and it’s a fantastic effort from Blowfish Studios to forge a “create-and-share” title for a massive FPS-loving fanbase. While there are obvious kinks to work out, I’m hopeful that they’ll be resolved and help bring about a growing fanbase for what seems a neat idea, formed from the love of all things retro first-person shooter.
Matt Tilby is a budding writer, college student and a huge games/sports nerd. Hit him up at @itstilby!