It’s a good thing there are so many ways to play, too, as the entire game basically boils down to killing a lot
of enemy AI in huge, open environments. There are some basic objectives for eliminating specific enemies, placing, finding, hacking, or destroying items, investigating areas, and the like, but they’re really just excuses to explore the map and seek conflict. Whenever you leave the safety of the hub or home base within each map, you can basically fight a never-ending force of human, monster, and robot enemies, as they will continuously respawn all over the map in set intervals. This can make things rather hectic, especially if you’re going at it solo... I remember one mission in particular where it was a constant struggle to survive, let alone progress and complete objectives, even though I was using the .50-cal sniper rifle that usually kills in one shot. If you get caught out in the open by shock troopers with miniguns and/or a flying gunship with battle turrets, your only option is to run for cover because getting hit that much will prevent you from being able to return fire with any kind of accuracy.
Of course, there will be occasions where you're simply overwhelmed by the opposition and lose all of your health. That knocks you into a coma, which you will ressurect yourself from a limited number of times per mission. You still have to deal with the enemies in your vicinity though, and then when you finally get some time to rest and recover, they’re probably about to spawn again, sometimes popping into existence right in plain view. It's times like those when you're in danger of losing your mind; or at least, your character is. When put under large amounts of combat stress, particularly being low on health, sustaining injuries to your legs or bleeding out, and coming under attack from especially nasty creatures, your "sanity meter," as it were, will start to deplete. If it reaches zero, you will fall victim to one or more mental afflictions, such as paranoia, hallucinations, or even paralyzing fear. To come back from that, you must engage a maintenance routine, a kind of slap in the face delivered by your cyber-brain that knocks the sense back into you and allows you to carry on.
This leads me to the other segments of character progression that are just as important as gaining experience and leveling up in making yourself stronger: cybernetic augmentations and scientific research. Every enemy you kill will reward you with some brouzoufs, the game’s currency. You can spend this money in exchange for new weapons, powers, and abilities at their respective vendors in the hub, but you can also pay to upgrade your implants and conduct research. The latter involves paying a lump sum up front and then waiting a specified amount of in-game time for a discovery to be made, many of which are required to unlock the more powerful abilities and higher levels of cybernetics. Some innovations require you to find a randomly-dropped item from an enemy before they can be researched. What’s really cool is that you can adjust a slider in order to pay more or less, and the time it takes to complete will go down or up, accordingly.
Overall, your progress in E.Y.E
is centered on your character’s attributes, abilities, implants, what research you’ve completed, etc. You carry the same avatar through the campaign and side missions, whether playing by yourself or online with friends. All of the maps are endlessly replayable -- in fact, it’s canon to do so! Though you’re not able to save the game manually, it works kind of like an MMO in that everything you do is frequently autosaved. If you quit the game in the middle of a campaign mission, you may have to start it again from the beginning, if you did not reach a major checkpoint. I’m not sure what the highest attainable level is (I’ve seen someone who was at 50), but if you ever hit the cap, you still have plenty of work to do in accruing enough brouzoufs to fully upgrade yourself. Of course, you can always create another character and try out a different build at any time.
Graphics and Sound
Being based on the Source engine, E.Y.E won’t be setting any records for technical excellence in graphics. The inadequate draw distance is particularly glaring. On the other hand, the art style is quite dark and satirical, more than befitting of a cyberpunk dystopia. Many of the characters are fully armored in an ancient, ornate style, like a mix between the religious zealots of Warhammer 40,000 and Japanese samurai. The levels are absolutely enormous, open-ended, and for the most part are surprisingly chock full of detail. The music is a mixed bag, ranging from appropriately moody background tunes and combat soundtracks to incredibly annoying ambiance that borders on white noise. They did take some shortcuts, recycling a handful of visual and audio effects from the stock Source library, which you will recognize if you’ve played any Valve games. I can’t say that I blame them, though, seeing as how Streum funded this game entirely on their own. To quote their website, they have been “eating a lot of noodles.”