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Gunpoint Review - Futuristic, Puzzle-Platforming Noir

Marshall Lemon | 3 Jun 2013 17:00
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Gunpoint's opening, in the spirit of traditional noir stories, begins with a character smashing through a third story window. It also presents us with most of the genre's familiar archetypes, including a hardboiled private detective, femme fatales, corrupt police, and a dark, rainy world. Gunpoint isn't a 1950s pulp serial however, it's a puzzle-platformer set in a future of interconnected electronics and corporate espionage. Creator Suspicious Developments has managed to fit these disparate elements together so naturally that once you're dropped into the protagonist's latest mystery you'll be having too much fun to want to leave.

You play as Richard Conway, a freelance spy who provides his services to ordinary citizens and corporate weapons manufacturers alike. Conway isn't the most financially successful spy however, barely able to afford his pair of low-grade, projectile jump trousers, or a trenchcoat that conveniently absorbs fall damage. But the night one of his clients is murdered, and Conway is named the prime suspect, he's assaulted with a deluge of new cases from individuals from all strata of society. Some clients are noble, some are selfish, and some even claim to want Conway exonerated. As you investigate each mystery however, it quickly becomes clear that all of your new cases are somehow connected to your previous client's murder, and it will take all of your skills to uncover the truth, whether in the name of justice or revenge.

Each mission follows the same formula: You must break into a secure facility, complete an objective (usually accessing a computer terminal,) and then make your way to an exit. There will also be the occasional optional objective, such as avoiding detection, using varying degrees of force, or simply retrieving laptop emails, but those can be followed or ignored to the player's liking. The real challenge comes not from the objectives themselves, but how you get to them. Each facility not only has varying levels of armed guards, but alarms, motion detectors, and electronically sealed doors that prevent you from reaching restricted areas. That's where Gunpoint's puzzle elements come in. Conway is equipped with a Crosslink, an illegal phone app that lets him hack and rewire various electrical systems. By creating a connection between a light switch and a sealed door, for example, you'll be able to reach otherwise inaccessible areas with the press of a button. The trick is that you can only connect devices on the same electrical network, and more complex buildings will have multiple networks to deal with, some of which can only be unlocked from deep inside the facility. Individual puzzles tend not to be especially taxing, with the most difficult challenges reserved for optional objectives. Thankfully, even unlocking primary objectives rarely feels boring; Gunpoint treats you like a technological wizard breezing from room to room, with no door capable of stopping you.

While the puzzle mechanics are certainly engaging, most players are more likely to get a visceral thrill from Gunpoint's platforming. With a Dropshot trenchcoat that protects you from all fall damage, and special equipment allowing you to climb walls and hang from ceilings, there are a wide range of stealth-oriented options available to you. Do you like sneaking in and out of facilities like a ghost, leaving no trace of your presence? How about systematically dispatching guards one at a time? Setting traps that will be triggered by an NPC's movements? Dramatically kicking doors off of their hinges, sending them smashing into enemies? Perhaps you'll even succeed by accident, smashing through a glass floor and letting nearby enemies fall to their deaths.

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