Stealth can either be used as a whole genre on its own, as a side mission in a larger, more robust, campaign or even just as its own unique little way of thinking. Hiding in the shadows, stalking your prey and then moving in for a quick neck snap, a knockout or a knife in the back never gets old. Then it’s a case of hiding the body in some long grass before moving on to the next target. We all know the drill.
But what happens if you mix the stealthy hiding in the shadows approach with some madcap player vs player high energy action in a party game. Well, I will tell you – it’s a meltdown for the eyeballs and a whole lot of fun. But does that party feeling last throughout?
At Sundown: Shots in the Dark on Xbox One is the game being mentioned; a top-down shooter/stealth/party game that provides a very nice original hook. You chose your warrior at the start of the game, decide which of the 6 maps you want to play in, before dropping four players into war against each other. Gameplay consists of some deathmatch and timed deathmatch options, alongside a back to basics mode where there’s one shot with a shotgun and no other skills like running or dodging. There’s also an arena mode; a point based last man standing type affair. Whatever you choose though, it all comes down to the same thing – kill the others as quickly as possible to win the game.
The trick with At Sundown is that most of the time the player is in total darkness. There are areas of light, like lampposts or sudden shards of lighting that illuminate the whole player area for a split second, but on the whole, staying in the dark, keeping hidden and sneaking up on your opponent is the way to go. Of course, you can’t see where the bloody hell you are unless you have calm Jedi-like skills, however, when you use a weapon, get killed or press the A button to briefly see where you are, then that’s when you – and everybody else – knows your location. It’s a brilliant idea that works well, and when playing with friends it ensures that At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is a brilliant laugh to play.
The weapons available come with a good mix, from the steady shotgun spraying out bullets in the darkness to the sniper gun that can shoot through walls to give you that extra edge. Certain maps also bring laser walls that you can’t pass through without running or actioning a fast dodge. There are also some wonderful power-ups to risk picking up, and these are great temptations – a huge laser gun that can take everyone out with one arc of power is always worth the risk, whilst there is also an ability where all your enemies become visible for a short amount of time. That is when the killing can begin.
Gameplay wise and everything is short, sharp and fun in its execution, but there are a few little problems. See, it becomes really hard to work out where you are on the very small maps, especially when you die and there is chaos going on all around you. Then you have spawn points, and because of the small maps the chances are high that you will be wiped out again pretty quickly. The modes on offer are a bit limited as well, with the local play being the place where the most fun is to be had. Online gameplay is present, but it’s a bit quiet at the moment and you might well need all of your friends to purchase the game to allow you to really get the most enjoyment out of it. It would also have been nice to have some kind of single-player campaign running us through the maps. Thankfully, leveling up is done by either completing a game or by winning… unlocking rewards like more training missions which is not a bad incentive. But I’ve been left wanting more.
The cool noir comic book vibe works wells throughout both the menu system and the maps as well. Characters are nicely drawn and when the action takes place it all seems to work well, even though – like mentioned – it can be confusing at times. I do however very much love the lighting effects and the special weapons; especially the laser and other little details that appear.
I have enjoyed my time with At Sundown: Shots in the Dark, playing with a friend and chalking up wins and losses in this madcap game of stealth, skill and pure luck. Learning tactics, grabbing special abilities while fighting and luring your enemies to their destruction will always take a while to get stale. What is more problematic is the lack of game modes and variety of things to do; this is certainly a game that will need a strong community to allow it to work online and I hope this is achieved. That said, the addition of online leaderboards or leagues may well be needed to prolong the longevity of At Sundown.
But at the end of the day, if you’ve got some friends online, or four controllers and a bunch of mates on your sofa, then you’ll be in for some fast-paced stealthy fun with At Sundown.