Preview: Metrocide

Recently, I got the chance to go hands on with the early launch version of Metrocide, a cyberpunk stealth game by homegrown developer Flat Earth Games. For the purposes of this preview, I’ll be focusing on the early stages of the prologue.

Upon starting the game, you’re thrown right into the thick of it. A cutscene (given in comic panel format) reveals that your character, T.J. Trench, has gotten into a spot of trouble and has to flee the city. To do that, you’ll need to find Trench’s contact and buy travel papers. But those papers cost money, and without any, you’ll have to make cash by doing what contract killers do best.

So I embarked on my first contract. Easy enough, I thought, find the target and take them out without alerting civilians, or doing it in view of a security camera or the police. After tailing the target around for a while, we chanced upon a quiet street and I killed them. Moments later, I myself get shot dead, the victim of a vigilante. And so I had to return to my contact and pick up a new contract.

Vigilantes weren’t my only problem. I learnt fast that I had to tail my targets until the absolute perfect moment before even thinking of taking them down. There was a chance they’d be spooked and flee, and I couldn’t exactly shoot at them during a chase; having a gun out slowed me down. Other times, civilians would identify me and police would soon arrive on scene, forcing me to hide out in another part of the city until I was notified that they had left.

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Now, I should probably point out that while I’m generally a console gamer, I have played a couple of PC games. That being said, it took me quite some time to get familiar with the controls for Metrocide. Having movement mapped to the WASD/arrow keys is a straightforward concept (literally), which in many games really limits the ability to traverse the environment. While Metrocide makes use of that mechanic, your character’s orientation is also based on wherever the cursor is placed relative to them, so pressing W/UP would send your character towards the cursor. Through that, you have a greater degree of freedom to move about, but it can be frustrating to see your character move in a completely different direction if you forget to move the cursor.

It wasn’t all too frustrating, though. Given the game’s use of a top-down perspective meant I could easily get a bearing on my surroundings. It afforded me the ability to spot potential escape routes, or police and cameras. This came in handy the many times I alerted someone, and was forced to flee until the police departed the area.

To cap off, you’ve really got to hand it to Flat Earth for developing a game that forces you to not go in all guns blazing. Instead, it pays off to be very patient and be able to think fast and commit things to memory. At times, I found myself calculating what I would have to do several steps ahead of where I was, drastically changing my plan as the world adapted and the situation deteriorated.

Metrocide is due for official release later this year, and will be available on both PC and Mac.