Shattered horizon. A flawed gem.

What happens when you mix a company well known for 3D benchmarking software, and a potentially groundbreaking idea? A simple but hardware taxing shooter. If I am honest this game has some problems. The graphics engine is demanding, with little reason. This is a picture in the game on low and here is one on high. Much difference? Not for me at least. Quite the controversy has sprouted over the games requirements. DX10 and Vista are needed. To a lot of people this hasn’t gone down well but I am personally amazed that there are so many people on XP still (over 40% on the steam survey for Jan 2010). I mean with the whole second coming that was 7 I thought this wouldn’t be too much to ask.

The game is a simple set of team games. CTF, Point control, team death match, and so on. We have all been here before. The new thing here is that it’s done in a zero-g environment. You’re essentially a man in a spacesuit, with a jet pack, and a gun. Rather spartan in nature, but it does work in the games favour. You get none of the COD “He had a better weapon than me” issues.

But having said that, this game is rather barren on the equipment. One gun, three grenades and that’s it. This however works out in the games favour. The simple equipment and interface make things surprisingly compelling. The grenades are a nice touch. EMP can scramble your suit so you are unable to move with much rapidity. ICE are your smoke bombs and MPR are high explosive that don’t do much damage but send people pinwheeling all over.  The addition of the ‘magnetic boots’ (which can stick to rock), allowing you to attach to any surface for greater accuracy and stability. This game is all about vantage points. Find a good view of the battle, lock to a surface and let loose.

Whilst the game is fun the stuff under bonnet however detracts from the experience. The net code caused serious issues with ping, lag and rubber banding. You can get randomly kicked from games that have a upper ping limit without warning. Also the server browser throws up a common player count error. Often you will see 24/20 listed. Also as I stated at the start of this review the graphics engine is demanding for no apparent reason. Since I turned the game to low settings I haven’t looked back. However I have never come across a game with such great Alt+Tab support. Almost instantaneous.

Overall this game has serious potential and is held back by things that could be fixed without much effort. Throw in a decent server browser, rag-doll physics, a better graphics engine, a single player practice mode,  and I will love this game.

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~ by dsvella on February 26, 2010.

One Response to “Shattered horizon. A flawed gem.”

  1. Yep, it’s a flawed gem right now. The lack of tutorial (beyond a quick reference guide available in-game) is almost unforgivable, but once I got the mechanics of the game, I had a bit of fun.

    On the graphics engine front: I have little doubt that Futuremark did everything possible to achieve reasonable requirements for their vision. An exceedingly open game like SH was always going to be a resource hog, unless it looked consistently poor. Games lauded for their low requirements, such as Team Fortress 2, have many tricks available to them, including the use of automatically generated ‘visleafs’, alongside clever map design, to prevent players from ever being in both a high-detail scene and an open area at the same time, and to ensure that details are only rendered when they would be visible. In space, not only can no-one hear you scream, also no-one can stop you needing a reasonable level of detail on things very, very far away, all the time. So perhaps the very nature of the game prevents it from being a less graphics-intensive one.

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