The ultimate love/hate relationship
The Doom II mod scene is alive and well more than two decades after the game’s release. Today’s title, Unloved, began life as such a mod, where it has enjoyed the status of a community favorite for a number of years. Now, the same developer has unshackled himself from the confines of the Doom II engine and remade his magnum opus as a new game in Unreal Engine 4. Has the leap from modification to commercial product been a successful one?
The game’s story is… well, I’m not sure what it is, exactly. It appears that you (and your friends) are trapped within some nightmarish world where time, and indeed reality, appears to have folded in on itself. Assorted abominations are out to murder you, but fortunately you’re equipped with all means of devastating firepower. You have to find seven vials and fill them with your blood in order to activate an elevator that will allow you a temporary respite from this purgatory.
Each level is randomly generated from a number of pre-designed rooms, corridors, and other bits of infernal design. No two playthroughs are quite alike, especially since players are given a fair amount of power in determining how the level will take shape. Parameters are available that determine a map’s length and theme, including an option to haphazardly fuse several themes together. This is a personal favorite option of mine, as it adds to the game’s surreal quality. However, it’s sometimes quite easy to get lost, with countless turns and identical-looking rooms all over. It does work in keeping the horror atmosphere going, though.
As mentioned above, the objective is to find seven vials and leave a bit of your blood (and health) in them in order that the level’s exit elevator may unlock. Thing is, actually reaching the vials is an undertaking, as three doors need to be unlocked first, with their respective keys – in the form of crests – hidden within the claustrophobic, labyrinth. In your search, you’ll come across weapons and ammo, with assorted upgrades for each. There’s not a tremendously varied arsenal on show, but the standard archetypes are accounted for: a weak pistol, a very satisfying double-barrel shotgun, a submachine gun, a railgun, and a devastating nailgun. In addition, there are alternate firing modes, rounding off the selection rather nicely.
Unloved features a persistent leveling-up system which encourages repeated playthroughs. There are rewards for unlocking chests, finding photograph fragments and ink bottles, fulfilling certain conditions, and completing the levels, especially on higher difficulties. Using these, players may unlock additional perks, change their appearance, and add special bonuses to their stats, and even reveal more of the game’s world and back story. There’s also four different modes to choose from: the standard “ultra violence” mode, a survival mode, a faster-paced mode and even a mode where time only moves when the players move, just like SUPERHOT. Some of these modes work better than others, but they nonetheless help to keep the experience varied and fresh. This, coupled with the multiplayer-friendly nature of the game, means that Unloved is a real treat for those who like to tinker and mix different options and scenarios.
Then there’s the presentation. It’s pretty horrific, with a dreadfully dark atmosphere, a foreboding ambiance, and some truly disturbing enemies. However, I’m not sure I care for the extreme darkness, nor the amount of on-screen artifacts, but they certainly do help give the game a gritty feel. It’s disturbing as hell but you won’t want to look away.
Though it has a few issues, Unloved is a morbidly addictive experience . There’s (ironically) a lot of love put into it, and you’ll keep coming back to it again and again, not just to hone your skills but for the macabre ambiance as well. If you fancy yourself a bit of a horror hound and you love violent FPSes, then you definitely need to take a look at this one. Check it out at its Steam page and be sure to rope some of your mates into it with you.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Paul Schneider ; Developer: BlueEagle Productions ; Players: single-player, multiplayer (online and LAN) ; Released: 29 September, 2016.
Full discloure: this review is based on a review copy of Unloved given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.