New to Adult Swim and available on Steam, Desync takes everything we’ve grown accustomed to in the FPS genre and kills it dead. In a lot of first person shooters, you find a nice, slow difficulty curve as the game eases you into the story. You also find that in absolutely no time you’re a walking armory; if you have even a decent amount of skill, you can usually crunch through things with relatively little fuss. There will always be one or two levels that offer a bit more of a challenge but nothing you’re not ready for. It was with this mindset that I launched myself into the neon tinted nightmare that is Desync, and I got absolutely steam rollered.
Desync doesn’t pull any punches. It isn’t ashamed of seeing you repeatedly shot, stabbed and pummeled to death in about the first 10-minutes. Don’t expect any hand-holding tutorials here. You’ll get dropped into the first map with a basic pistol, told how to move and fire, and then you’ll die the minute the first mob of enemies do so much as sneeze at you. You’ll try again, you’ll die again and so on until you memorize the attack patterns of what’s hitting you while growing eyes in the back of your head and developing the reflexes of a spider. Then and only then you might just get through.
Each of Desync‘s maps is basically a set of connected arenas. In each of these you’ll face off against waves of assorted enemies. Having defeated each wave, you’ll be allowed to progress to the next area and so on. The thing that makes all this so blisteringly hard is that if any one of those waves happens to end you, and believe me they will, you go back to the beginning of that section and have to start all over again.
Just one of the many enemies wanting to do away with you.
Trial and error is definitely the name of the game here. In between zones you’ll be able to install upgrades you find and boost the stats of any weapons you’ve acquired. These little boosts help but at no time will you feel like you’re out-gunning anything. By all accounts, Desync does a very good job of making you feel less like the hero and more like the prey.
On top of the vicious, bloodthirsty monsters wandering about the place, the levels are stuffed with an assortment of traps. A lot of the fun that comes with this game is using the pitfalls, walls of spikes and swinging axes as means of removing your foes. You get scored on finding new and innovative ways of killing things, from something as simple as a one shot kill to nailing an enemy to a wall of pointy objects with a shotgun.
Everything feels bigger and nastier than you.
All of this is cumulated at the end of an area and you’re graded before you move to the next. I have to say that as much as I really liked this idea I was spending so much time just concentrating on surviving that a lot of the scoring I was doing was as a result of luck more than any careful planning. This being said I still got a bit of a thrill each time I did something clever.
Visually the game has a really gorgeous retro feel. Everything is made up of blocks, polygons and flashes of neon. It’s like revisiting one of those early 90’s arcade games that absolutely drew you in and completely emptied your pockets while doing it. The audio fits the style perfectly. Everything is synthesized and the soundtrack really creates a sense of urgency. In a game that’s virtually nonstop action this all fits really well.
A world of neon tinted blocks and polygons to explore.
This brings me to the plot. The story is something I haven’t really noticed. There isn’t really that much of an intro and I haven’t seen anything to develop any kind of plot thus far. Admittedly, I’m not a massive way into the game on account of its ridiculous difficulty, so this may well be something that develops later. What I can tell you is that you seem to be invading a computer program. At this point whether you’re a virus or you’re human with a Tron-esque twist is unknown.
All in all this is a really fun game if you love a challenge and you’re not easily frustrated. If, like me, you get a kick out of the small victories and feel good about getting that one step further even if it takes you 20 attempts to do it, you’ll love this game. I’d definitely also recommend this to shooter fans, but more those of old school games like Doom or Team Fortress. If you’re the kind of player, however, that likes a more measured, less frantic experience, I would probably give this title a miss. You can’t make the game any easier (trust me, I tried) and there isn’t any gamepad support for it as yet. If none of this turns you off, definitely give Desync a go.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.