When I watched the last trailer for Meatgrinder, I felt more than a little let down. Yes, it still looked like an exhilarating PC mash-up of Doom and Clustertruck, with your protagonist murdering their way along every conveyance known to man. But there was a grappling hook? What fresh madness was this?
Grappling hooks are a blast, I’ll give you that, at least if you’ve earned them. Giving you the grappling hook right from the word go would have made Dying Light just too easy. Instead, the game forced you to exercise your parkour skills and only let you unlock the hook when you were sufficiently leveled up.
So I went into Meatgrinder with the firm belief that I’d conquer the demo with bullets and bullet time alone. All of four minutes in, the demo had made a liar out of me. I don’t care what game you’ve come from — you’re not prepared for this level of high-octane, gib-heavy mayhem.
For me, the embarrassingly early tipping point was when my brain went on strike, refusing to focus on both the next vehicle I needed to leap or grapple onto and the enemies who were trying to divorce my head from my shoulders.
I’m not convinced Doom Eternal’s platform-hopping needed to be there, but I handled it without smoke pouring out of my ears. Meatgrinder? It had me thanking the Gods of Metal for the grappling hook. Plus, I discovered I could skewer enemies with it, which was one hell of a bonus. Between that and booting enemies onto the freeway, which is more of a rush than shooting them, I was having a lot of fun.
The Meatgrinder demo is sheer, glorious mayhem to preview. You’re not going to wipe the floor with every foe, and developer Vampire Squid knows it. The game’s inspiration is, according to the developer, “classic action movies like Mad Max and The Matrix combined with retro shooters like Doom.”
But it also clearly owes a big debt to Crank. You know, that Jason Statham movie where he has to keep his adrenaline up and doesn’t butcher an American accent? Meatgrinder is much the same – keep active and your elevated heart rate will heal you; let it drop and your health ticks away. And it mostly works, with the notable exception being when I had to take on a boss vehicle.
Even when I wasn’t avoiding its rain of fire, I had to bounce around like it was some kind of post-apocalyptic game of hopscotch. You know how ridiculous Master Chief and his fellow FPS protagonists look bouncing in deathmatches? Imagine that, but for three solid minutes. I’d gone from Mad Max to Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout.
That wasn’t my only humiliating moment playing Meatgrinder in preview, but the rest were largely my fault. Did I get into a rhythm, deftly blasting enemies and then grappling to the next vehicle? Absolutely not. The demo was so frenetic, at least at regular difficulty, that thinking time was thin on the ground.
That whole “skewering enemies” thing is something I discovered absolutely by accident, because I missed the target I was aiming for. Yes, there were plenty of Matrix-style shenanigans, but I don’t want to think about the number of times I grappled onto the side of a truck and ended up dragging alongside it, burning my ass off on the asphalt. Or, for that matter, all the occasions I became a novelty grill ornament.
I’m sure someone’s going to shame me by polishing off the demo without using the hook even once, if they’ve not done so already. But I’m glad I didn’t stick to my (grapple) guns, and I’m grinning at the prospect of more road-based ridiculousness when it launches later this year. In the meantime, while Steam Next Fest might have come and gone, you can still download the Meatgrinder PC demo on Steam.