Primal Fears, an action/horror game by the indie developer DnS Development, came to us without a warning. The game wasn't hyped or anything and we didn't even know it existed until we got offered the chance to review it. Some money was thrown around and we managed to get 2 copies of the game up for review. The other copy was offered to me, your beloved Tero, and the other to the newest addition to the awesome circle known as GD Writers, mothking. We played the game together, keeping quiet about our own opinions about it so we wouldn't affect each others opinions. We then average the final scores at the end.
Here is my personal opinion about the game.
The world is in chaos (yet again). A weird chemical known as pharGONe has spread out and evidently turned most of Earth's population (humans and animals alike) into weird, alien-like mutants. You (and up to 3 other survivors) must fight these terrifying beasts in an effort to find out what has happened and (you guessed it) save the world. The game doesn't tell you anything about the story or what has happened; I had to check the developer website for background info. During missions (levels) you find newspapers that supposedly should enlighten you about the events that have occured but they tell you jack shit. Only thing you really know is that your character is armed to the teeth and those mutants keep coming. Assault rifle + angry attacking mutant = lovely romance? Yeah maybe in a Disney movie.
The game is played from an isometric viewpoint. You move your character around with your keyboard and aim with your mouse. The controls are very fluent and the second you start playing you feel like you've been playing it for ages. The game also supports game controllers but it's really meant to be played with the trusty keyboard/mouse combo. The game starts from Camp, which is like a safe haven for you and your possible comrades. From the Camp you can select which mission to play. These missions take place in settings from an abandoned hospital to the suburbs. At first you can only select one mission but as you gain more score by killing mutants (the more of them you kill in succession, the bigger your score multiplier gets) you unlock the next one. The missions can be replayed as many times as you choose (and sometimes you have to in order to collect enough score) and you can freely choose the difficulty setting. Maybe I'm just not really good in these kinds of games but I managed to get myself killed a couple of times in the normal difficulty setting.
The enemies vary from small, spider-like mutants to huge creatures that resemble something that have popped out of the nightmares of H.R. Giger. The mutants also vary in speed, the damage they do and the amount of beating they take before going down. The smallest ones are usually the fastest and only need a few well-placed shots to take them down but the biggest ones seem to love lead. Along with score, killing the mutants also grants you cash and they might also drop health kits which come in handy (especially when playing on any difficulty other than the easiest one). There are also money packets which grant you extra cash which can be used in the shop to upgrade and/or buy new weapons and ammunition. The shops are littered throughout the levels and there's also one in the Camp.
The weaponry in the game consists of your basic assault rifle, shotgun and such as well as some intuitive weapons like an RC car and a nailgun. The weapons don't come cheap and it's highly recommended you play through the first mission a few times to gather some cash. The weapons can be upgraded and these upgrades include things like more damage and extra ammunition. This is where the little RPG player in all of us starts thinking "Should I upgrade my previous weapon or buy a new one?". Whatever you choose to do, don't forget to buy ammunition for your weapons; I once made that mistake and I was stuck attacking the mutants with a melee attack. Needless to say the sight wasn't pretty.
Even though I enjoyed playing the singleplayer mode of the game, Primal Fears begs to be played in co-op. Co-op is the only multiplayer mode in the game and it's practically the same as the singleplayer. You and up to 3 others start in the Camp and play the game exactly the same way as the singleplayer works; you just have some more firepower and the enemy numbers increase a bit. There's nothing like shooting a big mutant in the back and luring it into a trap set up by your friends armed with flamethrowers. As fun as the co-op is, it's brought down by one huge issue: lag. We tried the co-op with mothking and we both have excellent connections but still the game lagged like hell. Every 20-30 seconds the game started thinking about it's next move. Very irritating. I hope they fix it soon.
The music in the game is excellent and suits the atmosphere perfectly. Dark, almost depressing tunes while exploring the post-apocalyptic scenery which suddenly turns into hard rock as the mutants suddenly start running (or crawling) towards you. The first time one of those huge, boss-like mutants came at me and the rock started playing I swear I screamed "Come at me bro!". Absolutely brilliant. Other sounds do their part without really standing out.
One important thing I have to mention about the game are the physics. The physics are excellently done; the smallest objects get pushed away as you walk into them, objects fall from the tables as you shoot at them and when a big mutant comes crashing in the objects fly all over the place, realistically. There are also objects in the scenery that you can use to your advantage like fire extinguishers that, when shot at, start flying all over the place damaging anything in their path (this of course includes you as well).
The graphics of the game are excellent, especially for an indie game. The textures are filled with details and the models (especially the bigger mutant ones) look terrific. Great textures and everything aside, what makes Primal Fears really stand out is the lighting and shadows. Each weapon is equipped with a flashlight that beautifully casts shadows around the scenery. This is what Doom 3 should have been. Even though the game has extensive graphical options the minimum requirements are quite hefty; a 2.4GHz dual core paired with a 9800GT/HD4850. Not what you'd expect from an indie game (not to mention the legendary 8800 is below the minimum required to run Primal Fears). My rig of course ran the game flawlessly with a steady FPS of 60.
Overally the game is fun to play. The missions are lengthy; it might even take you couple of hours to complete one. Luckily the game has checkpoints that save your progress. Although it might be a bit too difficult for some players and the co-op lag (which they'll hopefully fix) is frustrating but the great graphics, awesome gameplay and extremely low price (9€/$12/£7 at the moment of writing this) ensure I can recommend this to anyone interested in a new shooter game.
Next up is mothking.
My first expectations of Primal Fear were high. This may have been due to this being my first official review or because when I get a game to play I always expect a good deal out of them. The game met these expectations closely but didn’t blow me away. It seemed like the game was well put together but parts of the game could have still used some work.
The game played well for being an 3/4 overhead shooter. The camera angle of being partially above your character was an issue when walking down narrow alleys or hallways due to having to swing the camera behind your player to see if any danger was coming. However, the shooting was fairly well done in that what you shot something there was a reaction in some form. The guns also all had a unique feel to each one in that the shotgun felt very different from the assault rifle. The shotgun packed more of a punch than the rifle but had fewer rounds total. The rifle fired faster however, but did less damage and had more rounds. The difference made some impact on the game but for the most part I just used the rifle and just sprayed and prayed. The enemies felt like they were made of mass in that each shot would yield a blood squirt or a greenish juice. These very enemies mind you were scary in that they could quickly overwhelm you and kill you. Death just took away points from the score which you used to advance to the next level in the game so, death isn’t all that much of a problem but is a pain in that enough deaths would make it so you had to replay the level to go on. I had this issue my first time playing since I really had no clue what was going on and had no in game help to teach me the ropes. This was a good thing in that I didn’t have to waste time learning in a tutorial, but this also made a problem in that I had no idea what to do and what not to do to stay alive.
The graphics were great but not stellar. The game looked good in that you could see things fly apart and get blood on the screen when certain creatures were killed. However, some of the game almost seemed too bright for fear to be felt. The scariest thing I felt was being mauled when I was moving the camera or was opening doorway. The graphics ran smoothly even though the site said I couldn’t play the game. The game did have a really good shadow system though since every time you shined your little flashlight on something a shadow was thrown off. The only time I didn’t notice shadows was when I was using the flamethrower it seemed like the shadows weren't as big of a deal. This could have been good since it could have slowed the game down a ton but also made the flamethrower seem less terrifying as a weapon. The game also did a great job of making sure things responded to being hit by a bullet in a graphical way. One great example is how when a fire extinguisher is shot a few times it goes racing through the air like a balloon until it smashes back into the ground. Another thing was that every time you hit something metal you heard a ping as the bullet impacted or how a box with shoot things in the air upon impact.
The game didn’t fare so well in the multiplayer though. The game looked the same and played the exact same as single player just with more people on screen. The great thing was how it took your single player and dropped him/her into the multiplayer, so you got all your guns and upgrades in multiplayer. However, the game did awful from there on. The game lagged like crazy. It was lagging so badly at one point I was around no enemies and then promptly had half my health gone and a whole mess of enemies attacking me. I would normally be kicking and screaming how much I hate my internet connection and wish I could have better, but it wasn’t the connection. With Tero hosting on his amazing connection and me playing on a great connection after thirty minutes of multiplayer we called it off since it was getting unplayable. The larger issue was when I joined his game only one other game was being hosted, so it is was not like they had a huge server load. This saddened me greatly since I was really hoping it was better online than single player.
My final thoughts on Primal Fear would be play it at your own risk. I personally didn’t enjoy it a great deal at all, but I could see others having a blast with the game. I do know that until something with the servers is fixed avoid the multiplayer and just have a hand at playing by yourself. I also know that unless you are really jumpy you won’t feel much fear in the game. If you look to be scared this is the wrong game, but for a casual shooter I could see having some quick fun with Primal Fear.