Space, The Final Death Battle. My DarkZero Review
If you are a PC gamer, then you'll probably know Shattered Horizon's developer Futuremark. They are well known for their 3DMark computer benchmark software, which determines how much of a monster your PC really is at gaming with the latest graphic technologies. Futuremark are now having a stab at making a full game. It's no wonder then that Shattered Horizon requires a DirectX 10 compatible graphics card, so you're going to have to be running Windows Vista or Windows 7 to give this game a whirl.
Shattered Horizon is a first-person shooter that is multiplayer only. There's not much setting for the game, which takes place around 40 years into the future. The basic outline for killing each other in Shattered Horizon is our civilisation has now managed to start mining resources on the Moon. After discovering a large stockpile of resources, their greed soon turns sour as the miners are involved in the largest mining accident known to man. This explosion has blown most of the Moon into fragments above Earth, causing an arc-like shape to be seen from the planet's surface. This has caused problems for rescue attempts as the debris is stopping shuttles from getting to the people stranded in space.
The two factions featured are the Moon Mining Cooperative (MMC)who are the guys responsible for the tragic accident. The MMC are wanted beings for their involvement with the catastrophic explosion and must be apprehended. This is the job of the International Space Agency (ISA), who survived in the international space station. The ISA now have orders from Earth to grab all members of the MMC and bring them to justice.
The hatred between the two results in zero gravity space battles with teams of 16 a side. This is what makes Shattered Horizon stand out when it comes to the gameplay. If you had any sort of rules or strategic planning for first-person shooters then you can chuck that out of the window because they probably won't work as well here. This is due to the total freedom you have in the game – you are no longer attached to the floor and instead are in the open blackness of space. This adds a whole new dimension to how you'd play a first-person shooter. When you enter a game for the first time, you'll find yourself getting raped by experience players that come from all directions, popping your face full of bullets. Eventually you'll get the idea of space and will be spinning, floating and thrusting on all fronts.
Debris and space stations are key elements to the surroundings of the level and to your survival. If you stop and think for a second, space isn't exactly the most secured place to be. It's vast and wide open, which means other players can spot you a mile off and will shoot you with some well placed shots. To survive you need to use the surroundings as your cover. The best way for this is to attach your character to it, giving you the ability to walk on the surface of a meteorite, or whatever other objects you'd like to attach to. This allows your character to run all the way around it, like running around a sphere. Another example would be attaching the character underneath a wing of a space station and picking people off that thrust past you. It's quite an innovative idea that works really well in the context of the game.
It needed to be a great idea that worked though because there isn't much else to do. There's only one gun in the game and it's basically a jack of all trades machine gun that can also zoom in to pick people off afar. It seems spacesuits aren't the most protective against gunfire as you die pretty quickly after a few shots.
The gun also comes with a built in grenade launcher that has three settings. The first is an electromagnetic pulse grenade that disables opponent's thrusters and cuts off their heads up display. Second is the MPR grenade that can push back enemies or detach them off rocks and satellites. You can craftily use it to push other things around too. Lastly is the ICE grenade that shoots out a cloud of ice, acting somewhat like a smoke grenade, but with super-chilly ice instead of grey stuff. It looks cool (pardon the pun) and can help you go undetected when going for a kill. All these grenades feel they are included to help you in certain situations rather than spammed to get easy kills, which has been something you see often in a game like Modern Warfare 2. The last line of attack is a one hit kill melee, but you'll rarely have chance to use it unless you are like the Sam Fisher of space stealth.
Stealth mode is an option through the ability to shut down your suit. Doing this means you move a lot slower and don't appear on the enemy's radar, so you can sneakily get in for a kill if he doesn't notice this white blob coming towards him from a distance. It also turns off the sound, making it feel more realistic in the space setting.You move around space as a deaf person basically.
Just like space, Shattered Horizon's content is quite sparse. There are three common types of game modes across four maps (although a free map pack is coming at some point, so that's good news). There's Assault, a turn based round affair that sees one team is defending control points while the other team has to take them over. However if a control point is lost, you can't take them back. It's about trying to last out till the time is over. Skirmish is the typical team deathmatch and Battle is like Assault, but being able to take over and recapture control points as many times as you like.
It's a game that could certainly do with improvements. It's obvious that the content is low, hence the £14.99 price point. Even so, four maps will only last so long until people get fed up and move onto something else. Futuremark have a good game idea here, but it could do with fleshing out a bit more. They should build up on an already good building block and concentrating on updating extra features for Shattered Horizon. With the already planned free DLC, they seem to be going the right way.
Since the game is developed by Futuremark and is DirectX 10 only, it's only natural that the game looks incredible. Textures are detailed, models look great and the lightning is phenomenal in the space setting. You'll be thrusting around and the sun will send its rays across the map, shining up the area, it looks really pretty.
You do need a decent machine to get this game running well. My PC has a Q9550 processor, ATI Radeon 4870×2 graphics card and 4GB of DDR3 RAM and I was able to max the settings out at 1920×1200 resolution with some AA to boot, so it's not too demanding, it just depends which DirectX 10 graphics card you have.
Shattered Horizon is a good game; it just lacks that extra oomph of content to really push it up to the standards of other shooters. It doesn't feature much in terms of multiplayer modes. The zero gravity gameplay features are innovative but the multiplayer game modes that come with it aren't. A space game of hide and seek tag or a mode to see who can tag the most meteorites with space graffiti would be amusing.
There's plenty of ways to improve on Shattered Horizon, be it more weapons, maybe classes, RPG style upgrades or even vehicle sections. For what is featured already, it just doesn't have enough to keep you interested for the next 6 months and that's a bit of a shame for such an interesting idea.