Despite what The Terminator may say, AI will never reach the sheer level of bastardry that mankind is capable of. What am I basing that on? Specific world events? Man’s overall inhumanity to man? No, I’ve come to that conclusion after a preview of Behaviour Interactive’s Meet Your Maker, which wrapped up its open beta as part of Steam Next Fest.
Meet Your Maker sees you blasting and dodging your way through various user-created FPS levels before crafting your own. When you’ve completed a level, or “outpost,” as the game calls them, you’re asked to rate the level using one of four buttons. There’s Fun, Brutal, Ingenious, and Artistic, which, to Behaviour, probably seemed like they’d cover all bases. But there’s one button seriously missing – “Oh, you bastard!”
Because while there are plenty of professional games that have kicked my bottom, the sheer level of sadistic creativity displayed by some of Meet Your Maker’s levels is absolutely astonishing. I’ve lost count of the number of times I swore out loud as my character got skewered by another trap.
The aim of each level is ultimately the same – collect a glowing red MacGuffin, then escape the map with it. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, there’s an awful lot of gray and brown on display, giving it a real Quake / Quake 2 feel. Aside from letting you know you’ve beaten the level, collecting the MacGuffin also gives you the energy to craft your own outpost.
You can choose which outpost to tackle, and they’re grouped into three categories, Normal, Dangerous, and Brutal. As a newcomer to Meet Your Maker, I decided to tackle a few of the Normal levels, thinking I’d be in for an easy ride. I was very, very wrong.
Five minutes later, things were getting very sweary. Why? Because those categories don’t take account of the aforementioned bastardry. To be fair, the first couple of deaths were my fault; I just didn’t think to scan the ceiling for traps. I got shish-kabobed and that was that. Back to the beginning of that user-created Outpost.
Then I started running into multi-traps. That’s not the name of a specific in-game item; rather it’s that some enterprising players thought to pack traps together in a bunch. So, dodging and then destroying a spike wall, I heard the sound of an arrow trap firing up. I ducked aside and destroyed it, feeling thoroughly satisfied for myself. Then, stepping forward, I was plunged into corrosive acid as the floor dissolved. Cue more swearing.
Still, at least it’s just a case of learning where the traps are, right? You’d think so, but the moment you pick up that MacGuffin, a second wave of traps and/or monsters materializes. There was a particular special moment, about three outposts in, when I escaped outside only to be ventilated by a new arrow trap.
Yes, someone had gone to the trouble of putting traps on the outside of the building, assuming (correctly) that my guard would be down when I saw sunlight. And again, that was from one of the “Normal” levels. I later leapt into one of the Brutal levels and ended up facing six enemies at once. But you know what? At least I knew what to expect.
Meet Your Maker’s post-level rating screen may have a “Fun” box, but very few of the levels I played could be described as that. Your average game designer wants to make their game, or their part of a game, entertaining. That’s not the case with Meet Your Maker’s level designers, who are trying to straight-up murder you (which offers its own benefits), and it shows.
And yet, as soul-crushingly swear-inducing as a lot of the levels I tackled were, I couldn’t put Meet Your Maker down. Yes, I had to earn enough resources to buy my own Outpost, but that wasn’t what was driving me. It was equal parts hate and the gleeful anticipation of vengeance upon other players.
I started seeing each death as a lesson, making mental notes as to how that Outpost’s designer got the drop on me. That arrow trap that killed me as I stepped outside the fortress, bounty in hand? You can bet that’s going to be part of my own Outpost. Heck, maybe I’ll build four. Now where did I leave my writing pad?
That said, actually crafting your own Outpost is a little daunting. Instead of starting with a clear, flat surface, as in Minecraft, there are already blocks in place. And you can’t erase those, so you have to work around them. That did, initially, put me off.
But I’m well on the way and I’ll have a pile of notes (possibly written in crayon) ready to go for Meet Your Maker’s April 4 PC, PlayStation, and Xbox release date. And if I can make at least one person turn the air blue as they’re annihilated by a deviously placed trap, it’ll all have been worth it.