Freeware Pick: ‘The AMC Team’
The ’2.5d’ FPS will likely never die. With engines like EDuke32 (based on Duke Nukem 3D) and ZDoom (based on Doom, surprisingly enough) still being updated and refined, and the tools required to make games in these engines being so simple to use, they’re a great entry-level outlet for indie creativity and even the occasional full, standalone freeware game.
The AMC Team is one of those full games. A sprawling, wildly ambitious full-length FPS with 8 playable characters, many enemies and environments shamelessly stolen from 16 years of shooter history, and a fair few ideas of its own including some light RPG elements. Set long after the Duke Nukem series (and after the death of Duke himself), and simultaneously being sequel to three other mods by three separate developers, AMC really is ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ design at work.
Each of the 8 characters has their own starting home within the mission hub area, their own full arsenal of weapons and powerups, and even some unique areas opened up in some levels depending on who you’re playing as. 95% of the content seems to be looted from other games, with the second main campaign level featuring some enemies used frequently in Doom mods, but that also means that it seldom repeats itself. The tonal change between the first and second levels alone is massive, and I can’t wait to see what other strange directions the game goes in.
It’s obviously an amateur effort – the decision to fully voice the (many) cutscenes is undermined somewhat amusingly by the cast of gravel-voiced elite commando types being played by the same band of meek British and Swedish modders that created the levels. It provides a few laughs at first, but it does make skipping the cutscenes altogether a tempting prospect, along with disabling your characters own random Duke-esque wisecracking. Both are options, thankfully.
Still, imagination and creativity prevail in the end. Lots of neat little features on show, like your objective window being replaced by sinister babble when you’re too close to evil alien mega-brains, and one character having possibly the best grenade launcher in gaming history. Why? The alt-fire mode on it shows you a quick holographic projection of how the shot will travel, so you have no excuse to ever blow yourself up again.
Difficulty is thoroughly old-school. The core gameplay is very Duke 3D in style. That means that enemies can rip through your health bar in seconds. Anything above Normal difficulty will require very extensive saving and loading to get past the tougher fights. There seems to be a fair amount of depth, including a weapon upgrade store system, and even a research tree to invest in to upgrade gear and characters over time.
It’s seriously impressive stuff – back in the day, this would have easily commanded full price (assuming it wasn’t a freakish franken-game made of pilfered content) and been hailed as a forward-thinking piece of design. As it is, it’s a really neat little throwback, and well worth a look if you like your shooters fast and challenging. Check out the trailer (actual gameplay begins at the 1:40 mark) and download the game on ModDB.