Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Gunpoint Game Makes For Great Action Movie Moments

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 18 Jun 2013 16:00
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From what I can gather, the initial intention was for the gameplay to reflect the title by being based around pacifying guards by pointing a gun at them. This ends up being kinda slow-paced and dull and is now a largely optional unlockable ability, because frankly embarking upon a tense nervous stand-off as you slowly edge towards the door doesn't hold the same appeal as performing a jet-propelled rugby-tackle on a guard so that the two of you go flying through a plate-glass window. You know, now that I come to write this all down, this game seems to be a little bit obsessed with people flying through windows. It's like someone wanted to adapt Watchmen but had only read the first three pages.

What Gunpoint is, is a 2D engine for organically creating spectacular movie-style moments. Not with pre-animated motion-captured stunts, but just by setting up a few basic rules and letting the player do the rest, and that's something more games should aspire to. You know that standard moment in a film where character A chases character B into a room, but when character A arrives, they find the room empty? And then after they leave, frustrated, the camera pans up to reveal that character B was hiding above the door or on the ceiling all along? That's one thing you can do. Also, you can rewire the electronics to darken a room remotely, and fatally electrocute a guard who thinks the switch next to him still works the lights. Which is great if the movie moment you specifically want to recreate are from the Home Alone films.

It's also a game that demonstrates the power of little touches. One thing I really like is how your mission performance is summarized. You're told how much violence you used, how much noise you made, and how many witnesses you left. The game doesn't really judge you for what approach you went with, but there are equivalent awards for using all violence and for using no violence. Even if I fuck up the stealth I can still feel like I did a good enough job as long as I take out all the witnesses. I'm also a massive ditherer, and never completed a mission within the par time, but by taking over twice as long as seems to be necessary the game routinely gave me the 'Thoughtful' award, which I think is a really nice touch. It doesn't berate me with D-ranks or harsh red text for being a slowcoach. As long as the job is done any method is valid, right?

On the whole, it's just a shame there isn't more of Gunpoint. I got through the campaign in about two hours, and I was left feeling there could have been a few more, bigger levels that explored the freedom of the mechanics better. Quite a few levels lean more towards puzzle-platformy than stealth-platformy, requiring that electrical circuits be unlocked in the correct sequence to get to a destination by the only method available. Which is fine, but having very few really big levels with multiple paths and buildings and sandboxy electronics fun to be had is a missed opportunity. Still, it's a format that lends itself easily to additional missions and campaigns. There's a level editor built in, but a level's not the same without story context. When I tackle a dude through a window and hammer his face into the broken glass on the concrete two stories below, it helps to know they deserve it.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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