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Sprawl review
Quinn Levandoski


The Future Is Grim

A Familiar Dystopia

SPRAWL is a game that's going to look very familiar to those who have played other Cyberpunk games and are familiar with the general trappings of the genre. In the far future presented in SPRAWL, technological advances have come at a great cost for the majority of the population. Corporations have more power than governments, and the majority of the population lives in squalor under the iron rule of corporate and government armed forces. Once-thriving communities are little more than crumbling megastructures, and resistance, though often futile, takes place on the web as much as in the streets.

SPRAWL is likely going to earn a lot of comparisons to 2020's fast-paced cyberpunk hit Ghostrunner, and those parallels are largely fair. Though SPRAWL's vision of the future is more concrete and less neon, more guns and less katana, they even start with an almost identical opening cinematic and narrative set-up. However, taking inspiration from a great game isn't necessarily a bad thing, and cyberpunk tropes are popular and widespread for a reason.

In SPRAWL, players step into the shoes of a deadly former special ops agent called Seven who, after being shot through the window of a high-rise apartment unit, vows to escape the desolate, decrepit walled city and find her revenge in The Spire. As one would expect, the powers that be are determined to stop Seven and unleash a veritable army of soldiers, mechs, and other nasty adversaries to take her down. Despite being mostly alone, Seven is joined by the mysterious Father, a digital voice that appears in her head and offers to help her attain retribution in exchange for freedom.

Surviving The Sprawls

While the cyberpunk story in SPRAWL is perfectly serviceable, it really only exists as a backdrop and justification to kill a lot of people. As Seven navigates nightclubs, city streets, bunkers, and more, she'll gain access to a handful of weapons - from pistols to grenade launchers and railguns - to make quick work of those who oppose her.

Gunplay is relatively solid, but I'll admit that it never really blew me away. The crux of combat revolves around two main mechanics - wall-running and a slow-motion ability. While it's possible to kill enemies with regular shots to the body, it's incredibly ammo and time-inefficient. Instead, it's necessary to create space and openings with the game's movement mechanics and slow time to line up perfect headshots or hits into other designated weak points. This is relatively easy when the game throws a few enemies out, but it's satisfyingly hectic in SPRAWL's many closed-off, arena-like combat encounters.

Mid-combat, health, ammo, and adrenaline, the resource that funds slow-motion, are dropped by enemies that are killed via weak-point/headshot kills or finished off with Seven's katana. However, with the ample amount of those resources already spread around combat areas, scavenging off bodies never really seemed as necessary as I think it was supposed to. The katana in and of itself is also fairly disappointing. I understand and appreciate that gunplay is the star of the show here, but melee strikes/finishes almost never seemed like a good idea. They're impractical and largely ineffective in regular combat, and getting up close to finish off a wounded enemy almost always resulted in me taking more damage from getting out of position. A SPRAWL sequel, should one happen, could do well to either flesh out melee combat and help it feel like a viable addition to gunplay.

Traversing And Exploring

Wall-running and mobility are essential in combat, but it's also SPRAWL's other main gameplay anchor outside of fights. In between encounters, Seven has to navigate varying environments, using her wall-running ability to get from point to point. It took me a while to get used to the way SPRAWL's controls handle wall running, but I eventually got the hang of it and was able to bounce around naturally to reasonable satisfaction. The wall running is largely run-of-the-mill compared to other games with a similar mechanic. I'd have liked to see some additional angle or implementation strategy to make the machinic feel a bit more unique, but it's still a classic movement method implemented cleanly.

My only real complaint about environmental traversal is that it's sometimes unclear where to go. The game environments are usually linear, but there were more than a few times in which I wasn't sure where I was supposed to go. At several points, the player has to branch off in a few directions from a hub room, and while some of these include visual clues (like glowing power lines), others don't offer the same help. Necessitating exploration of the nooks and crannies of the rooms may have been an intentional design choice, but I didn't find it to be a compelling one. It wasn't often, but a few times, I found myself frustrated that I couldn't find the exit to one of the larger or more maze-like areas. I always found the way forward, but I sometimes felt like the environments needed a bit more visual language to naturally point progression in the right direction.

Parting Thoughts

SPRAWL doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it instead pulls together several established and classic design and gameplay elements to deliver a well-rounded package that succeeds in what it wants to do. Combat is enjoyable and hectic, and though the melee system probably could have used a bit more depth, slowing time to line up the perfect headshot never gets old. The Sprawl may be a largely familiar cyberpunk setting, the the narrative set-up is intruding enough to hold interest. For those looking to scratch a twitch-shooter itch that works equally well for short-burst or longer play sessions, SPRAWL offers a package worth looking into.

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fun score


Gameplay is complex enough to feel good but not overwhelming, combat is fun and flows well.


Melee never felt satisfying or useful, navigation wasn't always smooth, nothing is particularly new or unique.