Wrack Review – Fast-Paced Shoot-em-up Fun
The new release from Final Boss Entertainment, Wrack is an arcade first-person shooter with plenty of enemies, lots of speed, and goal-based levels sure to please speedrunners and adrenaline junkies. “FPS” might as well stand for “fast-paced shooter,” but don’t worry, FPS newbies – there are in-game cheats and modes to make sure you can get some enjoyment out of the game, or just get used to the pace before you try harder settings. While the game is not without some issues, overall it’s a fun experience that was hard to tear myself away from. While it doesn’t have a multiplayer mode, it does have a level editor and Steam Workshop support.
First, let’s talk about graphics: This game is pretty darned nice. The cel-shading is reminiscent of games like Borderlands, yet it has a brightness that helps lend it a uniqueness, while keeping the eyes locked on certain areas. To that last point, there’s an element of “oh, whoops” to that, since some enemies are so dark (I’m looking at you, horrifying robot spiders) that if they’re lurking in a corner, and you don’t have a wide field-of-view, you might miss them, and before you know it, you’re injured and distracted from the rest of the room. It’s a very effective tactic as far as keeping you alert goes. The enemies will move toward you pretty steadily if they have a path to you, so you have to check your corners to make sure of where openings are before you go in, guns blazing.
The comic-style cut scenes, menu, and dialogue boxes are fun, too, and are a change from the earlier menu, where it was simply a list with text and a little asterisk to indicate which menu item you were to select; now it highlights options, which is so much easier. I would warn people who have a tendency towards headaches to maybe take care, but I have photosensitivity issues, and I was able to turn the FOV down (it goes down to 60 – I had it on 70) and was mostly fine. I have a bit of eyestrain, but I was also sitting kind of close to my computer screen, so there’s that. Unless you’re super-sensitive to fast movement, you should not have major issues with this game.
The sound caught me off-guard, particularly the music. It’s kind of a techno-based sound, with an occasional deeper melody that was what sounded like a voice-mod synthesizer. It sounded like a guy singing along with the music in a really deep voice, and every time it happened, I had to smile. The music in question was composed by Robert Prince, the composer of DOOM, which is an impressive person to have in your arsenal. Seeing as how this game took 6 years to make, that kind of end result is awesome. The gun, death, and chain combo sounds are on point, and sound exactly like you’d expect them to. The shotgun blast is loud, the pistol is sharp, and the plasma gun make the “pew pew” sound we’ve come to expect. Some might call it predictable, but once a sound system like that is in place, it makes it easier to focus on other things, rather than wondering what the heck it is you’re listening to. It’s very satisfying.
Gameplay is standard for FPS – you can use either the keyboard or a controller, and aside from preference, there’s no appreciable difference. You can customize keys for maximum playability for whatever you prefer, or you can use the defaults and learn a new system that might work for you. I primarily game on a controller, and the one thing I had issues with was aiming. You just can’t get as precise with an X-box controller as you can with a mouse; I can’t, anyway, but perhaps it just requires a lot of practice. The speed is a surprise, at first, and then you appreciate it not only for the wreck-the-enemies ability it gives you with your melee weapon, but also because of the maze-like quality of the levels. If you don’t have a good sense of direction and visual memory, you’re going to have a hard time with this game. Luckily, areas are easily-recognize, and there are dead ends that very clearly tell you “hey, go the other way.” Maps have 2 “levels,” which usually involve finding buttons to open doors. There are plenty of wall-buttons to open secrets, as well, and every time you hit one, be prepared to have either a minor box fight or a winding road back to some area you’d forgotten about, so that you can reach whatever you unlocked.
Rather than being tedious, however, even the journeys back through levels to clear everything are full of surprises that aren’t just about unexpected enemies. There are secrets to be found in each level, including large “sacks” of coins (which basically serve as the points system), mega health packs, and stronger armor. Some of these secrets require you to make use of things that could kill you (like the large barrels of toxic waste which explode if you hit them), very precise platforming, and quick-saving often (F5, just like most other games) to make sure your fall into lava or large pools of green waste doesn’t cause you to have to repeat an entire level. Some secrets and bonuses appear to be completely unreachable, but most of them are – you just have to know what you’re doing. Sadly, I have not reached that point, but for this game, I’m willing to practice.
My one major quibble with this game is that while it has a quick-save function, I can’t find the quick-load, if there even is one. This means that if you get stuck (as I did a few times while playing in invulnerability mode, which I did to try to get used to the game so I could actually play it long enough to review it), you have to exit to the title screen and restart from wherever the game auto-saved, unless you had the forethought to actually quick-save at a point closer to where you got stuck. While I was getting used to the speed, I got stuck a number of times, and had to restart enough that this lack of a quick-load or quick-restart began to get really annoying. If you die, you go back to your last save point – that’s easy. But for those who are using the cheat modes (even if you’re an experienced player, you’ve got to try it – it is sometimes hilarious), going back to the title screen gets very tiresome. I hope the developers include this option in an update.
My final assessment? For those who really enjoyed games like Doom and Quake, Wrack is not to be overlooked. For speedrunners, as mentioned before, you’ve already got most of your work taken care of for you – the speed. The rest is level memorization and mowing down enemies with a variety of weapons. There’s also a level editor for the more creative types, and it’s easy enough to use that it’s almost intuitive. Aside from the quick-replay/load option that would improve the experience for some (maybe all), and the possible problems with photosensitive folks, I think Wrack is a great deal at $14.99 – and until October 7, the price has been reduced by 10% to $13.49 on Steam.