Summary: FutureMark, well known for their popular 3DMark benchmarks, is venturing into new territory with Shattered Horizon. This multiplayer shooter is perhaps best known for its system requirements -- the game supports DX10 only -- but there's more underneath the surface of this game than fancy visuals. Is it worth its $20 price tag though? Read Vandy's take inside!
40 years in the future, an explosive mining catastrophe causes billions of tons of rock to separate from the Moon and settle into orbit around the Earth. Thousands of scientists, miners, and other astronauts are stranded on the far side of what is called the Arc, an enormous field of debris surrounding the planet. With no chance for rescue or further resupply, war breaks out between the miners responsible for the incident and the scientists whose duty is to bring them to justice. In the fight for survival over remaining resources, who will prevail?
Okay, so the back story isn’t the greatest, nor does it make the most sense… All you really need to know is the International Space Agency and the Moon Mining Cooperative don’t like each other. In Shattered Horizon, the PC-exclusive debut from Futuremark Games Studio, you can take part in the conflict!
You may know Futuremark for their suite of benchmarks, or more specifically, the gaming performance tests. This multiplayer-only game is built from the engine used in the latest of those, 3DMark Vantage, and is priced to move at $19.99, only on Steam.
Speaking of which, there’s a pre-order special going on, advertising 10% off. However, looking at the store page, it lists the reduced price as $14.99, a full 25% off! Whether this is a mistake or not, you might take advantage of it if you’re looking to buy. Alternatively, you can go to Futuremark’s website to purchase the game, with discounts for beta testers and owners of their benchmark software. You still get a Steam key, but all of the proceeds go directly to them.
Set entirely in zero-gravity space, Shattered Horizon is bound to force you to retool your FPS strategies to account for the third dimension and to make you forget which way is up. But should you be reaching for your wallet or a barf bag? Turn the page to find out!
If you remember that alien spaceship level from Crysis, you have a good idea of what to expect from Shattered Horizon. You maneuver using an omni-directional jetpack, and without the force of gravity to interfere, inertia is conserved at all times. This means that, once you’ve started off in one direction, you can let go of the keys and continue floating forever. Don’t wander too far from the battle zone, though, because micro-meteorites will tear you apart! As long as you reverse direction in time, your suit will slowly patch itself back up.
Every player has the same piece of equipment: a multi-function assault-rifle. It holds 60 rounds in a magazine (you have unlimited ammo) and is normally fully automatic. Zoom in with the scope and it becomes a sniper rifle, firing 10 rounds in a super-accurate burst every couple of seconds. Recoil is a bitch in zero-G, so you might want to land on a surface to stabilize your aim and get your bearings. You’ll move slower, walking along without boosters, but that also means you’ll be stealthier because you won’t be glowing like a firefly.
Lastly, your weapon has a blade attached for melee and can spit out 4 grenades of varying types. An ice capsule projects a smokescreen effect to cover your movement or disorient someone caught in the cloud. EMP blasts can fry a suit’s electronics, disabling the HUD, weakening boosters, and eliminating audio simulation until they reboot. Finally, an MPR grenade has a concussion effect, useful for moving enemies away from you or out from behind cover. None of these does direct damage, so don’t worry about being ‘nade spammed to death.
There are three modes of play in Shattered Horizon, each with their own objectives:
You navigate in your spacesuit somewhat like you would in many games’ helicopter, except you can use the mouse to turn and roll in any direction without restraint. WASD handles forward-backward movement, as well as strafing left and right, but you also use the spacebar and the shift key to move vertically up or down. Aligning your horizon with a surface allows you to land on it, giving you steadier aim and easier cover. You’ll walk along it without booster aid, which means you’ll be slower but also more difficult to spot.
Shattered Horizon is the second game truly built around DirectX 10 (with Creative Assembly’s Stormrise being the first). As such, it requires a DX10 video card and either Windows Vista or 7 to even run it. The lighting and shaders look really good, but everything else is somewhat plain looking. The man-made structures definitely have a sterile look to them, dominated by bold, blocky shapes and bright colors. Dynamic shadows, the ying to HDR lighting’s yang, contribute positively, but features those unsightly grained edge blurs.
The game’s interface is slick and refreshing, having been designed specifically with the PC in mind. In-game, the minimalist HUD gives you the basics like radar, objective location/status, and suit integrity. Your munitions information – rounds left, type of grenade selected and number remaining – are displayed on the side of the weapon, and can be disabled by EMP. The in-game menu is shown on a wrist-mounted “combat assistant,” somewhat like the Pip-Boy in Fallout 3.
There is no sound in space, but FGS acknowledges that it’s crucial for an FPS game. So, the suit contains an aural simulation system, which utilizes elaborate arrays of sensors to reproduce any sounds in the environment that are deadened by the vacuum. This includes guns firing, boosters roaring, and grenades detonating – the idea was to create a balance of realism and accessibility. As a result, you can still use headphones to hear someone coming around the corner or up behind you, but the sticklers have a plausible reason for it being so.
Graphics are pushing the envelope. The cold and lonely reaches of space don’t lend themselves to a particularly exciting environment, but technically, things look great. The warm glow of the sun cast upon hundreds of rocks is particularly captivating.
Steep system requirements. I suppose it’s to be expected of a company famous for being on the cutting edge of tech demos. Still, you’ll need a beefy rig to run this game, and if you’re on XP or have a DX9 video card, you’re SOL.
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