To the moon and back
If this would not be a review but just a super-brief summary of Shattered Horizon, it would be best described as a “Multiplayer deathmatch in space”. I would like to think that you are here for a more detailed review than that, so keep on reading.
The game is set in Earth’s future where two opposing corporations make a living out of harvesting minerals and fuels on the moon. Both are of the practical sort: they don’t believe in wasting time taking each other to court to settle their differences peacefully. Instead, they meet in space and determine who has the right to mine these precious resources the old-fashioned way by bashing each other’s heads in. Figuratively spoken that is. Unfortunately the storyline is pretty much as thin as I just described it, so don’t expect too much in the way of narrative or plot development.
Shattered Horizon is Futuremark’s first actual game but that does not take away from the fact that the expectations for it have been running very high. If you are part of the overclocking scene, you will no doubt have heard of the companies’ benchmarking software in which they have been putting some stunning visuals to test the speed of PC graphics cards. With a background like that, people were expecting nothing short of a graphical marvel and Shattered Horizon certainly does not disappoint in this area.
The scenery is absolutely stunning, showing off the magical blue marble that we call Earth in the background in many of the game’s locations. Other objects such as space stations, pieces of space debris and asteroid belts float by at regular intervals to provide for some variation. While not all of the areas have the level of detail that we would have liked to see, most of it looks great, rivaling any other title available to date.
The downside is that the game’s hardware requirements are fairly steep. However, Futuremark is confident that most of their intended audience will be able to play the game, having gathered information on their users’ PCs through steam and banking on the fact that Windows 7 is prompting people to upgrade.
Oh boy, my feet don’t stick to the floor!
Graphics aside, one of the most distinguishing features of Shattered Horizon is the fact that everything takes place in zero gravity. Though some levels provide you with a sense of what’s up and what’s down, even in those there is no reason why you should stick to those conventions. Floating through space is tremendous fun and offers opportunities to take cover behind usually out of reach objects such as meteors.
Having flashbacks to some of the most nauseating of my gaming career while playing Descent, I wasn’t too comfortable with giving Shattered Horizon a spin. Fortunately my fears turned out to be unfounded as movement is very dynamic but not nerve-wrackingly fast.
Luckily the game favors fun over realism. It is hard enough to keep a steady aim while floating through space so imagine what would happen when firing your gun also means being thrusted backwards? It would make the game nearly unplayable, which is why Futuremark opted to keep it simple and have people fire their guns without any repercussions other than potentially killing their target.
Graphically stunning, zero-gravity brings a very refreshing twist to the genre.
Some levels seem too large and have you spend more time looking for a fight than actually fighting.