Nightdive Studios seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment, and their plan for world domination via the medium of old games remade for new platforms seem to be well on track. Following on from Shadow Man: Remastered, the latest in the list to be released is PowerSlave Exhumed; it is not, as I was hoping, a game involving an Iron Maiden song, but one that first saw the light of day way back in 1996 on the Playstation and Sega Saturn. So, with gameplay from back in the day, can this new version still cut it in a world powered by the likes of Destiny 2 and Far Cry 6?
Now, as we all know, if we are going to shoot bad guys in the face, we need to have a good reason for doing so; narrative is very important. In PowerSlave Exhumed, the world is under threat from an alien race called the Kilmaat, who have broken into the tomb of King Ramses and stolen his mummy. Not his actual mother, his mummified corpse, you understand. It turns out that Ramses had a direct line to the Gods of Ancient Egypt, and by having his corpse the invaders can bring about the end of the world.
As is usual in these types of games, there is only one person in the whole world that can save the day, and that is us. Our helicopter is shot down en route to the city of Karnak, which seems to be the epicentre of the trouble, and after a brief meeting with Ramses giant floating head, we are sent on our merry way. Ramses suggests finding the six treasures of the Gods, that will help us on our quest, and armed (at first) with only a machete and a bad attitude we begin our adventure.
Visually and PowerSlave Exhumed looks just right to me; a veteran of the era that produced these titles. I have fond memories of playing the original Doom on the Playstation, spending hours each night trying to beat the game – the same strong vibes of that classic shooter emit from PowerSlave Exhumed. The way the game looks, with pixelated enemies who appear “flat” if you strafe around them, before they turn to face you (the birds are the worst for this) is absolutely period correct. One thing I find strange however is the lack of an on-screen aiming marker, but you soon get used to used to shooting without it, and you’ll be blasting the Anubis headed soldiers and stupid jumping spiders to kingdom come in no time.
The sound is as you’d expect – manly grunts as you fall off platforms, loud gunfire and shrieking birds; it all works fine. Nightdive Studios have also taken the opportunity to upgrade the visuals, and, taking their developer speak here, have utilised such modern techniques as “SMAA Antialiasing” and widescreen/HD display support. To be honest, it makes not a jot of difference to the way the game plays, and as I wouldn’t know anti-aliasing if I fell over it, I’ll take their word for it. Long story short, it looks like a game from 1996, and in this case (unlike what was found in Shadow Man: Remastered) it works just fine.
Presentation is all good, but how about the way it plays? Well, again, PowerSlave Exhumed is most definitely a product of its time, with all the baggage that carries with it. For instance, one of the things that you will have to get used to is the shooting. Your first reaction will be to try and shoot the enemies like you would in a modern game, so aiming up to hit enemies higher, and aiming down to hit foes on the ground. Luckily, this doesn’t seem to be necessary, and the early enemies, all scorpions and spiders, can be successfully exterminated by aiming in their general direction and squeezing off a few shots. Once you get your head around that, you can concentrate on trying to dodge all the attacks, attempting to stay alive. Thankfully, the controls are very responsive, and while dodging projectiles is a challenge, the way this Exhumed version of PowerSlave handles is absolutely fine.
The only fly in the ointment is found in the platforming element, which to be fair was rubbish back in the day as well. You see, these type of games had real issues with precise jumping and that has translated into the Exhumed version. Hexen was the worst offender for this, but PowerSlave is pretty bad, and with some progression tied to new super jumpy sandals, it can be a bit frustrating. Again, familiarity is your friend though and so the more you practice, the easier it gets.
PowerSlave Exhumed is one of those game remakes done right. It preserves everything that was great about the original, adds some graphical bells and whistles, and lets the kids of today see what games were like for us old folk growing up. For a taste of proper old fashioned shooting action, you could do a lot worse than to take PowerSlave Exhumed for a spin.
PowerSlave Exhumed is available at the Xbox Store