Once I played nice with it, it was an extremely rewarding experience, to say the least.
I need to say this first: I've only played through the tutorial. But that tutorial has more gameplay and storytelling in it than entire games, or entire series of games ever manage to fit.The voice acting was phenomenal, the gameplay was both seriously tactical as it was dangerously simple. As soon as I found my car keys and left the house, my character stopped and glanced at his SWAT diploma. What I expected was another run-of-the mill "here's how to jump!" bullcrap. Oh how I was wrong.
Not only did the game expect my actions (such as not letting me enter the weapons training guns-blazing), but it guided my actions without it coming off as derogatory or preventative. The game didn't feel like a controlled setting, forcing me, the player, to re-learn things I didn't need to. The game honestly felt like it should have felt: a swat entrance exam. The game's basic mechanics are quite honestly like the most tactical, yet most simple gameplay mechanics I've ever come across in all of my years of gaming. The inventory system is a much-needed system that wasn't implemented in the last game version. I was seriously surprised on how difficult this tutorial was; but it wasn't the game's fault. It was mine and mine alone.
And it is on this level, dear readers that Underhell stands firmly, and proudly alone.
All decisions in the game are based on your performance as a swat officer. I've never felt so terrified and nervous playing a game my entire life. Just choosing my own gear made me feel like at any moment, my next few steps would be my last, due to a seemingly harmless mistake in judgement. Did I mention the tutorial level is impossible to be shot in? Because it is.
At every step I was surprised on how powerful I felt, yet how discretionary every action I took felt. How much medicine, disinfectant spray or medical kits should I carry? How much armor am I willing to take instead of some of the medical supplies? How much food should I bring; although the instructor character does indeed say that in-game combat is seldom more than a day, being well nourished was critical to my body's performance and survival. Never since Deus Ex have I felt this powerfully and terrifyingly in control of my own destiny.
The weapons course was as swift as it was brutal, just like the weapons I was carrying. Every shot I fired could have been a mistake. Every shot had to count. Take into consideration the emotions I was feeling: I could kick mere crates apart, I could carry armor, and yet if I couldn't fire one lousy shot my life, and indeed the lives of every character around me wasn't simply in danger, it was over. Combine this with the two different methods of illumination (nighvision and flashlight), the battery and food system, and the fact that there is no crosshair and guns aren't fixed to the screen. You aren't playing a game. You're playing with death.
I felt completely and instantly in control of the game's outcome the instant I held that gun. Not even in the original game, nor in any game I've played in the history of my life have I become so terrified of an in-game weapon. The bottles were swift and horribly extinguished. For once, I felt a tinge of sympathy for that child who played shooting games all day and wept for days through fear of the real weapon he put his hands on as part of a test against video game violence.
I've never felt so terrifyingly and painfully powerful.
Adding insult to injury, the game then introduces you to a friend you cannot distinguish due to the amount of armor he is carrying. The fact that my brothers in arms, who my character has sworn to protect, could instantly die from my orders and mistakes, even though I couldn't recognize their faces, even in a simple training exercise, made it almost impossible to record my voice into the microphone, but at the same time I've never felt so exhilarated and refreshed.
The weapons course was a disaster. I missed so many shots. Every moment, if it were in the field, could have meant the deaths of everyone in my squad. It wasn't because of my lack of skill and aim, nor was it due to my lack of experience playing shooter games, but it was because my own, albeit imaginary, on-screen weapon was at the same time explosively powerful as it was horrifying. And then it was over.
I had six kills. My partner had 18.
I had made it. In the first time in my history of gaming, I had felt like I had fulfilled something extraordinary in a tutorial level. My instructor friend's smile looked through the screen, tears in his eyes, as the door opened to a beautiful vista and sunset.
But not before the coup de' etat.
The final test. The final lesson. After this, all things went instantly and horribly wrong.
The final room had a man begging for his life, tied to a chair. Thinking it was a part of the exercise, I rushed to his aid and untied him. In mere seconds, the man pointed a gun and my head and yelled, "Bang. You're dead."
I was dead. I felt dead, and yet my character was still never in any real danger, nor was I, playing a mere videogame. Recoiling from my absolute terror, the instructor, and the wonderful soundtrack playing to his voice, came the words, "This is the final lesson. You can trust no one. Everyone, even hostages could be a potential threat."
This transcends the form of a mere game. This is more than just art. It is greatness. I've played only minutes of this wonderful and powerful work, a work that has taken Mxthe nearly his entire life to complete, and yet I'm already aware of what I just witnessed. I've only played a second of it, and already I know this is the greatest game I've ever played, not for it's strengths and mishaps, but because I felt a kindred spirit in a man I've never met. I've tasted a lifetime of struggle and hardship and passion in a glimpse of a game that I've never even made past the tutorial level.
I cannot believe the words that are flying out of my fingertips. I've never felt such a powerful, emotional flood coming from a mere update and expansion of a game that doesn't even have a price tag. I felt right there with my character, finally after all his years of training, having finally made it to the SWAT team. I felt like everything was deserved, even though I had my failures.
And that my friends is why I love this game even more.
The game has downfalls. There are bugs abounding around every turn if you're not careful. Crashes and glitches are probably there in my future. The game isn't complete, there are probably going to be places that aren't as fun or well-paced as the others, and the fact that it's made by one person means that not everybody is going to enjoy it the same way I do.
But it's because this game has a heart and soul of a man who has worked nearly half his life to make something great, something that I honestly never experienced, something fresh and uniquely fulfilling to play even on it's tutorial levels, even though he isn't being paid for it. He's not doing this for the fame or money, he is doing it for the sake of doing something he believes in. And that, my friends, is exactly what I want to do with my blog.
Dream on, everybody. And Get Randominated.