It’s time to practice that bunny-hop and strafe so you can slay a legion of evil cultists in this ingenious throwback to the lightning-paced shooters of yesteryear. Read our DUSK review to see why it’s one of the best games of 2018.
This past week saw the 25th anniversary of DOOM, perhaps the most important shooter of all time. So it’s almost as ballsy as it is timely that New Blood Interactive released a game that is a celebration of that era of shooters at heart. This is no desperate attempt to cash in on an established name though, because DUSK is so much more than a simple throwback. It’s a pulsating blast ’em up in its own right.
From the 90’s 3D visuals to the chugging metal soundtrack, at a glance, DUSK looks and sounds very much like it could have been part of that Golden Age of PC shooters that saw Doom Guy and Duke Nukem become genre icons. There’s no auto-healing, you begin the game practically defenseless, and you move at a blistering pace. To play just a portion of its opening level it even feels like a trip back in time. If you had to place it, DUSK could be the missing link between DOOM‘s speedy corridor-shooting, and the Gothic openness of Quake. As you delve deeper into DUSK, you will discover that it has a few tricks from beyond that era too.
The plot is secondary here, but it does at least accommodate the set dressing. It involves a satanic cult of sorts and sees you pitted against everything from bag-headed, chainsaw-wielding maniacs to invisible goat demons as you take in a surprisingly varied amount of scenery. Despite the lightness of a blatant narrative, there’s still an impressive amount of environmental storytelling that gives you an indication of what to do and what may be coming.
The environmental storytelling is unquestionably helped by some cracking level design that only improves as DUSK goes on. There’s a pleasing mixture of wide open arenas and winding corridors to each stage and while there’s a measure of backtracking and key-grabbing to be had, the design ensures that it takes on a modern Souls-esque pattern of looping back round to your starting point instead of simply trudging back the way you came.
Along the way, you’ll be doing plenty of shooting of course, and DUSK‘s shooting is pretty damn satisfying, to say the least. The speed at which DUSK plays is shown to be necessary as the enemies can materialize from anywhere and often in great numbers. What follows is a hi-octane dance of death, where you dodge and weave through a hail of gunfire, picking off each individual threat with its corresponding weapon (it’s phenomenal how naturally you end up switching between weapons for each situation).
What initially seems like an intimidating one versus many contest turns into an almost strategic evisceration of the enemy, as you corral swarms of nasties into the path of something explosive to gain a high bullet to death ratio. It’s simply sublime to experience. It’s an exhilarating reminder of how intense shooters can be, and proof that photorealistic/stylish visuals aren’t a necessity to make that happen. DUSK runs butter-smooth too, so the action rarely suffers for iffy framerate.
That gunplay lesson the game gives you in the early stages really comes in handy later as the levels become more eccentric and wild. At one point you end up firing your way through a violent interpretation of an Escher painting and it’s as bonkers as it is effective. The opening chapter ends up feeling a tad ordinary by comparison as things get crazier and crazier up until a highly satisfying final boss encounter that acts as a fine payoff for the deliciously hellish six or seven hours you’ve gone through.
If there’s anything close to a downside then it’s clearly the multiplayer mode. It’s not to say that it’s anything terrible. While the main game is a grisly tour-de-force fusion of old and new, the multiplayer is almost completely a throwback with little in the way of a modern flourish to it. It’s functional, enjoyable, and sadly that’s all there is to it. It seems daft to suggest a competent yet unspectacular multiplayer offering sours a cracking single player campaign, but it does take the shine off ever so slightly.
What matters most is that DUSK is still a fantastic shooter despite this. It channels the twitchy, quick feeling of PC shooters of 20-odd years ago and somehow makes it play like it never went out of style by peppering in a few novel touches. In an age of photo-realistic visuals and painstakingly-modeled guns, DUSK is proof positive that good old-fashioned shooters can still be relevant and thrilling decades after their heyday. Especially when handled as efficiently as New Blood Interactive has managed.
DUSK review code for PC provided by the publisher.
DUSK is out now on Steam PC.