Well beyond the Steam release date of “Beyond Sunset,” the review code finally landed in our mailbox. I have to say, when I first got introduced to the game, through the publisher’s mailing list, I was intrigued. “Beyond Sunset” sticks to old-school first-person shooter principles, without trying to project late ’90s aesthetics over modern shooter gameplay. Something we have seen quite often recently.
A thing that appealed to me from the get-go is its ‘film noir’-meets-cyberpunk setting… or should I just say ‘Blade Runner’ setting? The city is visualized with retro-fitted low-poly graphics and succeeds in exuding the atmosphere of a filthy but hightec world, riddled with above and below surface crime. The game sets the scene with a story that is woven together throughout several chapters, putting you in the role of a hitwoman hired to do the dirty jobs for a mysterious client named Yuri.
When you’re dropped into a mission scene you need to investigate the surroundings to obtain mandatory information required for your progress. There are no waypoints, and you need to use the map to find your bearings in the particular section of the city. Your investigation consists of doing side missions for people you meet or extracting intel from the cityfolk. Once you enter the premise controles by your of target’s Underworld organisation, things starting to get really intense all of a sudden, and you are greeted with tons of grunts and subsequent bullet rain of bullets.
Your opposition come in a few different forms, making them harder or easier to defeat, each with certain weaknesses to particular weapons. Some Carey shields that can be destroyed with particular weapons, adding a bit of necessary weapon swapping between enemies. In true Doom and Quake tradition, you need to obtain key cards or unlock fences by hacking the computer systems on the premises.
Running with your blade
As mentioned, you have a variety of weapons at your disposal. You start off with your katana, which you can use to slice enemies in two and reflect incoming bullets. Once on the road, you can unlock all sorts of different weapons, each varying in range. Surprisingly, the shotgun has quite a bit of range and is probably the most functional weapon in the early stages of the game. The katana stays a mainstay weapon throughout the game, as it is fast way to deal with incoming hording mobs easily. Especially combined with your abilities to slide and dash, it becomes.very effective.
Especially the run-up to the final showdown with the mission’s target is highly entertaining. Unsurprisingly, the game runs well on medium settings, and you can easily maneuver your way through hordes of enemies. There are many save points and upgrade machines along the way, conveniently placed before impactful sections.
So far, all the good news. Then we get to the showdown with the client’s targets. Unfortunately, here is where it falls apart. Once you kill the target, you are overwhelmed with grunts of all sorts, to the point that you get overrun and locked in a corner, often resulting in a game over screen. To survive, you need to stay on your toes and move around the room quickly to avoid getting locked in.
The controls failed me here too. If you use the controller, you will definitely notice that the accuracy you desperately need just isn’t there. While you can move around fairly well, the absence of (mild) aim assists makes vitally needed hits miss quite often. The keyboard controls work much better, though. With a lack of any controller assists, or rather, a controller-centric game engine design, the game is basically unplayable on Steam Deck, as a side effect. All buttons and sticks work, but there is zero refinement in the left and right stick, making it impossible to move around aim.
While the game on PC natively supports controllers, the Steam Deck seems to want to map the controller buttons and sticks over the keyboard controls and emulate mouse movement.
But there are other problems as well. Especially during these showdown sections, occasionally, new waves seem to not be triggered. As a result, you can’t do anything more than restart from the last save point. The difficulty spikes during these waves feel unbalanced, with the difficulty coming from a lack of maneuverability (due to the control issues) while 5 fire mutants hit you from all angles and through walls, finishing you off in no time. You do have a “power-kill” attack that instantly kills your opponent and gives you life and ammo bonuses, but too often, you get overrun with too many enemies while you are dealing with weapons that are either to slow or too weak to manage the hordes.
The surprising depth and story-driven approach, and the fun exploring bits of the early stages of the missions, are totally nullified by the unbalanced and horde-mowing you have to do in the payoff of each mission. I never have the idea that failure is my own fault or that the game is just hard. The overall feeling is that the game’s AI and the game’s engine let me down. The mechanics in use are just fine. But unwillingly playing purely for survival, the game, with all it’s set dressing, is just less fun. I ran into the limit of my willingness to endure the mission finales and gave up before seeing the ending.
Steam Deck footnote
As it stands at the time of reviewing, Beyond Sunset is nearly unplayable on a Steam Deck due to problems with movement and aiming due to unconfigured thumbstick use. Its status on Steam is ‘Playable with partial controller support’.
- Convincing low poly graphics
- Cyberpunk and Film Noir atmosphere
- Fun exploring and investigation bits
- lots of save points
- Mission finales unbalanced, hard and not a lot of fun.
- Hard to make progression with wave triggering bugs
- Controller support severely lacking