by Murray Lewis
reviewed on PC
JUSTIFIED PARANOIA (cntd)
Eventually, you will reach an action sequence. The stealth system is simple – if you’re in a shadow, you are hidden – but it’s hopelessly crippled by the abysmal camera, which gives you nowhere near enough visibility. The narrow field of view might have been a necessary evil on mobile devices, but it’s an unacceptable hindrance on PC. Worse still, it crosses the line into being downright unfair when you realise enemies can see you from beyond the screen. Ultimately, the stealth gameplay is a complete waste of time, and there are no negative consequences for simply butchering your way through every level.
Combat can be ranged or melee, but is very simplistic in either case. Aiming actually forces you to stand still, which leads to some awkward shuffling manoeuvres as you try to get an enemy into your line of sight. There’s a sort of cover system, but it’s almost comically useless – enemies can frequently still hit you, and half the time you can’t aim properly to return fire without exiting cover. How a developer managed to screw up a cover system in 2014 is beyond me. It’s also worth calling out the enemy AI, who will merrily ignore chums being gunned down right next to them, or even go and stand in the pile of bodies and obediently wait to meet the same fate.
There are occasional minigames, limited to opening two types of lock. Sadly, the most common of the two is also the least intuitive, with no instructions given to the player, and failure breaking the lock permanently. I encountered a frequent bug here, where I was unable to attack after cancelling a lock-picking sequence. This was by no means an isolated problem – Majestic Nights is absolutely littered with bugs and glitches: being able to use objects through walls, dead bodies talking, enemies getting stuck on doors... the list goes on.
Graphically, the game is a mixture of XIII, Borderlands, and Hotline Miami – a 3D comic-book, drenched in grimy neon. It comes together quite nicely, provided you don’t look too closely. Once things are in motion, though, it all starts to fall apart. The character models and animations are laughable, with a floaty, weightless quality that would have looked ugly back in 1998. The avalanche of glitches makes itself known here, too, with animations failing to play, and decorative objects flickering in and out of existence as you move around.
So, is it all bad? Well, no. The music is pretty good, and buying the season pass nets you the soundtrack album. It’s got that modern-retro feel popularised by games like Hotline Miami and Blood Dragon, and is well worth a listen. Take a listen to the rest of the audio design, though, and it’s back into the valley of disappointment. Most of the game is eerily quiet, with very few ambient sounds. The effects that are present all sound flat, so it seems like the audio has been overlooked. In a game that’s meant to be all about atmosphere, this is a big problem – the world feels dead.
Majestic Nights is a classic case of a game promising far more than it can deliver. While it’s based on a fascinating idea, the game itself leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. With so many flaws in so many areas, I simply can’t recommend buying the game in its current state.
It’s worth noting, though, that there are still five episodes to come, and the developers appear to be taking a healthy interest in patching the game’s many problems. Some time down the line, Majestic Nights might be a game worth picking up, but for now it’s one conspiracy that should remain buried.
Great soundtrack. Wry sense of humour. Potentially great concept.
Littered with bugs. Story leaves a lot to be desired. Lazy mobile port.