by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Fast paced, brutal, unforgiving combat. The early days of PC shooters were all about moving quickly, shooting monsters, and doing everything you could with your limited resources to avoid getting murdered yourself. Last year we saw a fantastic DOOM reboot, and there’s even a new Quake game on the way. Desync is a game dripping with old fashioned sci-fi style which attempts to evoke the way those games from the 90s felt while you were playing them. Plus, there’s some Bulletstorm thrown in for good measure.
Desync is a cool thing to look at. Your screen is constantly covered with digital effects and good old scan lines. The environments are blocky and colourful, yet equally dark and foreboding. The enemies too have largely simple designs, yet you know what each one does instantly when you look at it. The small, squat, sword wielding monsters will run at you and try and take a swipe. The massive shield-toting enemies will block your shots and try and get up close. The skittering bug-like creatures will run after you en masse and try and attach themselves to your face, obscuring your vision. It’s a game about learning the best way of dealing with each specific enemy, whether that be how to dodge their attacks, or which of your variety of weapons is best used against them.
Of course, multiple types of enemy will attack you at the same time, so combat almost becomes a puzzle. Each level is split up into various combat zones, and you’ll need to complete each one in turn to reach the end. The different zones will throw a handful of waves of foes at you, and it’s likely that you’ll die in the process. Unless you’re really on point with your combat, part of the game of Desync will be about memorizing which enemies spawn where and in what order during your brief combat encounter. You’ll find yourself thinking “okay this guy spawns here, and I know I can take him out with one shotgun blast. Then I can turn around and deal with those guys with the pistol, and then after that I’ll have to switch to my rocket launcher and shoot the big guy coming down the ramp on the left.” There’s a saying about the best laid plans that seems apt here.
Everything but the kitchen sync
You have a variety of tools in your arsenal for dealing with these encounters. You’ll start of with a pistol, and slowly unlock new guns throughout the game. I’m a particular fan of the Polyhedrom, a variant of the shock rifle from the Unreal games. Its secondary fire shoots a slow moving ball of energy, and you can fire your primary fire into it a few times to make it explode. It’s particularly good at taking out groups of enemies, and for dealing with the shield guys. You’ll also be using fragments found during the level to upgrade these weapons by inserting shards into them. You can boost the damage, fire rate, speed of fire, and you can also slow a weapon’s degradation. Instead of ammo, Desync instead has your guns degrade when you use them. Instead of reloading, you can quickly repair them by picking up parts dropped by enemies. You also gain access to side arms, which have to be unlocked inside the level by building up a meter by defeating enemies. You’ll also build up your Core in this way, a super ability such as a self-heal or a blast of damage that emanates out from you.
Your guns are all well and good, but they often won’t be enough to get you through combat zones alone. That’s where the Bulletstorm comparison comes in, as you’ll need to figure out how best to use your environment to your advantage. There might be lava flows, or spikes on the wall, or spear traps, or pits to blast your enemies into. Another comparison is in the specific ways you kill enemies, and the points you gain for doing so. Just about every type of kill in the game has an “attack sequence” associated with it. If you stagger an enemy, switch weapon, and then kill them, that’s a Switcher kill. If you’re not looking when an enemy dies, that’s an Unseen kill. If an enemy is lingering in the air when you finish them off, that’s a Delayer kill. You’re ranked at the end of each level not only on how quickly you did it, but it also tracks the way you moved around, and the ways in with you dispatched your foes. It’s an interesting leaderboard system where it’s almost as if you’re being ranked on style as well as skill.
Out of sync
There are some interesting systems here, but there are some problems too. The game is hard, which is great for some people, but there’s no difficulty setting for those looking for a simple game about getting stylish kills. It’s unforgiving too. Die during a combat encounter and it’s back to the start, no excuses. There’s no real story to speak of, but the way you actually enter levels by clicking on an “INTRUDE” button feels cool every time you do it. Game mechanics are very vaguely explained at the start, but you have to figure out a lot on your own. The first time you look at the computer terminals in the hub world which upgrade your weapons you will likely be lost at sea.
If circle strafing, weapon switching, and sci-fi monster killing is right up your alley, then Desync is an easy recommendation if you’re willing to deal with some obscure menus and high difficulty. It’s got a lot of style, and the combo kills feel great when you’re in the zone, but resist the temptation to get pulled in if you’re looking for a game to blow off steam. Desync will have you on edge and frustrated for a lot of the time while playing it.
Great variety of combo kills. Cool style.
Unforgiving difficulty. Obscure game systems and menus.