As far as first-person games go, I’ve got to say I’m a big fan.
No matter whether we’re talking shooting, racing, flying or any other first-person infused adventure, there’s just something about the view-point that, for me, feels easier to engage with.
Another thing I’m a big fan of is breathing new life into long forgotten gaming gems. I’m not talking cheap and easy remasters though, but rather new approaches that are built from the ground up, and whilst the latest adventure to inject new life into a long-lost classic isn’t overflowing with fresh ideas, it is a welcome successor to the once revered Descent. That game being Overload.
For those yet to hear of Overload, it’s a game that comes from the guys over at Revival Productions and part of the reason why it looks and feels a lot like the aforementioned Descent – for those of you old enough to remember Descent that is – is because the guys behind the development are indeed the same ones that created the classic title all the way back in 1995.
In this 2019 reboot of sorts, players have a little more depth to be going on with. First of all, the game starts with the player awaking onboard the MPSV Iberia after a period of cryostasis, with the ship fast approaching Ymir, one of the moons of Saturn. The point of travel is simple. A distress signal has been received from a mining colony and you’re being sent out to find the reason why. Upon arrival it’s learned that the robots used within the mining facility have gone haywire, starting a robot revolution by turning on their operators and reigning destruction on the mining facilities. It’s left to you to be going around and destroying each and every one of them, along with the reactors in the mining facilities in the process.
Overload is played from a first-person viewpoint, however players are actually in control of a 3D spacecraft, and as someone who has spent a lot of time with games such as Everspace and Elite Dangerous in recent years, from which piloting a spaceship are the big gameplay factors, it’s fair to say the developers here have mastered the feel of flying your ship through zero-gravity. It all feels tremendous, with a weightless and natural aura as you glide through the various tightly woven passageways of space within each of the facilities. And that’s without mentioning the inclusion of three axes of rotation and movement.
What’s more is the combat is just as smooth as the movement, and no matter whether you start on the Trainee difficulty level and just fancy blowing every enemy in sight, or fancy cranking things all the way up through the six difficulty levels to the Ace or Insane difficulties, the combat feels enjoyable.
A big reason for that is down to the level design, with Overload’s 15 levels bringing large maze-like passageways and branching corridors for players to explore. With enemies and secrets to be found everywhere, it still manages to retain enough of a claustrophobic feel to bring tension to each combat scenario. Even in the early levels there will be doors shutting behind you, and attacks coming from multiple directions, ensuring that you lose all sense of direction. This is just one of the many things that brings a sense of physical depth to each of the level designs.
Sadly, it doesn’t take long to see that many of the stages do look similar, with the same textures repeated frequently, however with environmental hazards such as lava also appearing, there is at least a sense of change as you progress.
Helping push this title along is a wonderful pumping soundtrack that goes on in the background. I’m a big sucker for quality soundtracks – to the point I even have a Spotify playlist for my favourite ones – and Overload’s soundtrack is definitely one that will be joining that list. See, it comes with a sci-fi theme that fits the game perfectly; it’s not one that overpowers things, and it’s not one that flickers by in the background unnoticed, it’s just right and is deserving of praise.
To help you along with each mission, you can apply upgrades to your ship with things such as Armour Toughness, Smash Damage, Maximum Ammo, Flight Speed, and several others in place alongside numerous weapons to ensure you remain capable of handling the various enemy types in later levels. Applying these upgrades isn’t exactly the most enjoyable thing to do however, with nothing but a very basic screen showing what you’ve actually applied, but there is an auto-upgrade option available which works to ensure you can avoid being bogged down with sorting out the physical capabilities of your ship and are instead able to get stuck into the missions.
Having these upgrades applied are important to progression however as at the end of each level you’ll often find yourself getting caught up in a mess should you not have a decent ship to hand. You see, once you’ve destroyed a reactor, which is usually the overall objective in most missions, you’ll then need to escape from the intricate maze-like structure before it explodes. Unless you’ve destroyed everything that’s in your path or have remembered the way back to the exit off by hand, you’re going to at least need a few of the upgrades to ensure you don’t end up being caught in the blast and forced to start over.
If you’re after something a little different than simply hunting down enemies and reactors however, Overload on Xbox One does also have a few other modes that you can enjoy, with both Challenge and Multiplayer opportunities present.
Challenge Mode tasks players with destroying a set number of enemies and getting the largest score possible whilst doing so. To ensure you have plenty of fun in the process, most powerups and weapons are available from the off and are littered around the large infrastructures of each mission waiting for you to pick them up. The goal here, besides utter destruction, is to do well enough that you gain a respectable position on the leaderboards.
Multiplayer on the other hand is something I haven’t yet quite been afforded enough time with, simply due to the fact that a lack of players sees any online option restricted. Should you get into a game, then there are three distinct modes to multiplayer, with Head to Head bringing a 1v1 matchup, Anarchy providing 3 to 6 players the chance for a free-for-all battle, and Team Anarchy allowing two teams of up to 4 players the chance to fight for supremacy. Unfortunately you will need to prepare for a lengthy wait for any real fun though, probably crossing your fingers until the multiplayer is populated enough. What I have been able to get involved in though has at least provided something a little different, with Overload online proving just as fluid and smooth as the single-player experience.
The final thing I want to mention before we wrap things up is of course in regards the fantastic visuals. Even back in 1995, Descent was a game that did well visually, and with brilliant lighting and shadow effects, Overload brings that once great game to the modern era beautifully. The explosions alone are satisfying enough for an indie experience.
Overall though and Overload is an enjoyable game. It won’t be for everyone, with the winding passages feeling too claustrophobic for some, but if you enjoyed the space shooter of the ‘90s and are feeling nostalgic, this is definitely a game that brings a unique experience to Xbox One. It does suffer slightly from repetitivity, but if you get involved with everything on offer you’ll find enough to keep you going till the end, and plenty of reason to smile as a gem is dusted off once more.