Beyond Sunset Demo Impressions: Retro Renaissance?

Cyberpunk first-person shooter Beyond Sunset
Image Credit: Metacorp

Retro-inspired first-person shooters like Beyond Sunset are nothing new. For many years, indie devs have been tapping into nostalgia. The attempts to recapture the days of Duke Nukem 3D, DOOM, and Shadow Warrior have been met with several successes and countless failures.

How do you rekindle gamers’ memories while also offering up something that isn’t a tired “DOOM-clone” or (as they’re more commonly referred to now) “boomer shooters?” Games like Beyond Sunset may be the answer.

The last fast-paced new retro shooter I played was Turbo Overkill. It combined elements of Quake, DOOM, and Serious Sam into a fun and highly replayable experience. However, it lacked depth beyond the number of ways you could creatively dispatch enemies. I honestly forgot there was a story because the gameplay overshadowed the narrative the developer used.

Beyond Sunset does the opposite. It presents a story as the driving point behind your actions.

After a short tutorial on the basics of navigation and combat, your character awakens from cryostasis to find herself in a vast storage complex surrounded by thousands of people still asleep in their capsules. Who are you? Why are you here? Are you wearing clothes? We don’t know.

OK, a mystery! That has my attention.

Our protagonist has to floaty jump her way through a small maze of cryo-pods before finding herself in a medical wing whose soul inhabitant at first is an unhelpful robot. After some minor exploration, we see a katana inside an office and a computer that allows us to read e-mails, check camera feeds, and unlock the first of many doors.

Upon exiting the office, we’re suddenly rushed by gun-wielding guards and robots that want to get all up in our business with the stabby stabs. The sword allows us to cut through our enemies quickly, but it’s easy to get swarmed by all sides, even in narrow spaces.

Being constantly on the move in combat prevents a quick death, and mastering the art of blocking gunfire with the sword. A well-timed block will send multiple rounds back at the enemy.

Further exploration brings us to our first firearm: a low-power pistol with a charge shot feature and unlimited ammo. It may not be the best, but it becomes useful against certain shielded enemies.

As we run and gun further into the corporate building, we find ourselves in a large room with several branching paths and a ringing telephone. A wall-mounted phone? In the cyberpunk future?

This old-school device shuttles us into the main narrative of the story. The caller tells us our name. It’s Lucy. The person on the phone is called Raven for now. We’re experiencing memory loss thanks to cryo-revival.

We were the prisoner of the Genemp Corporation. This naughty business wanted to cut us up because we’ve got some super cool abilities. This is precisely what happened to me when I joined the Young Conservatives.

Raven informs us that we can escape if we destroy an ice-cooled mainframe. Hopefully, she will help us figure out who we are and if we’re wearing pants.

What follows in Beyond Sunset is a game of finding switches, opening doors, and destroying the coolant system protecting the mainframe. This will allow us to access the security network via a VR headset, where you must recover a hash file.

The complex is relatively large, and navigating can be tedious, especially if you’ve not played an old-school shooter for a bit. It’s easy to overlook a TV screen for a switch you must hit to progress.

All the combat and exploration are standard, but what about the RPG elements the game’s Steam page discussed? It’s there but is very easy to overlook.

If you’re good at exploring the map, you’ll come across skill point pickups that allow you to increase one of three aspects: health, armor, and ammo. Of course, the first thing you’ll want to do is get those hit points up.

OK, that’s not the RPG elements I was hoping for. After getting the mainframe almost destroyed, I explored for a bit and found that some of the robots in the facility have optional quests.

A partially dismantled bot wants its emotions turned off so it doesn’t fear death. Another one wants a friend to stay by its side. These short breaks in the run-and-gunning offer up different rewards. However, they’re pretty easy to miss.

I wouldn’t go into Beyond Sunset expecting an RPG experience like Deus Ex. Consider these detours, at least in the demo, as a change of pace from having to do complex gymnastics to retrieve a skill point or new gun from a far-off platform.

Another way the gameplay is divergent from typical boomer shooters is by including a VR puzzle section. Once the mainframe is offline and you access the security network, you’re transported to a blocky area where you must rotate cubes to guide a beam of golden light to a specific point.

This new area is also infested with enemies in the form of disembodied heads that spit energy blasts at you. It’s a simple enough puzzle stage, but exploration offers some benefits, like additional health that is proprietary to the VR world.

Once you’ve completed this area, you get the hash file (represented by the 3D rotating hash symbol). Return to the phone, call Raven back, and prepare for a horde of enemies to appear.

Raven tells you to get to the elevators, and you two can meet in the parking garage. At this point, the game throws everything at you.

Once you find your way to the elevator, you’re home-free or at least to the end of the demo. But, of course, that isn’t the case.

The parking garage goes into lockdown, and you’re faced with your first boss. DX7 is a large bot sporting a colossal laser and annoying flying minions. Hopefully, you’ve been smart about conserving ammo because you’ll need it.

If you’re playing Beyond Sunset above the normal difficulty, this is a somewhat unforgiving boss fight. DX7’s charging slash attack could be a one-hit kill if you didn’t pour points into health and armor.

Dodging and sliding become the moves that will save you here. The old-school strategy of simply circling the boss won’t work here.

You’ll be treated to an exposition dump cutscene from Raven if you’re a winner. We learn that the story is a cross between The Terminator and The Matrix.

That’s where the demo ends.

There’s a lot of potential here. Although, it will depend on Metacorp fleshing out the RPG elements of the game. The trio of stats to increase is acceptable.

I need to get hooked on feeling involved with the world, aside from running around and shooting it up. There’s a bit of that teased in the demo with the requests from the robots, but will it evolve beyond that? We’ll have to wait and see.

No release date for Beyond Sunset has been announced, but the game currently appears at Next Fest. Be sure to check out the demo, and put it on your wishlist if you’ve been hoping for more boomer shooters like Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun.

Don’t worry; your rig will most likely be able to run the game because Beyond Sunset‘s requirements are very lite:

MINIMUM:

    • OS: Windows Vista or later
    • Processor: 2.4 GHz Dual-Core
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: OpenGL 3.3 Compatible
    • Storage: 400 MB available space

RECOMMENDED:

    • OS: Windows 10
    • Processor: Quad Core 2.4 GHz 64-bit
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
    • Graphics: OpenGL 4.0 or Vulkan Compatible
    • Storage: 400 MB available space

If you’re looking for a more mainstream RPG, check out our review of Final Fantasy XVI.

[Source: Stream]
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Mike Phalin

Longtime problematic entertainment journalist. The former workhorse for Dread Central, ScienceFiction.com, and Fanbolt.

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