FORECLOSED Review: A Gripping Cyberpunk Adventure
Has a game ever given you instant Déjà vu? For me, FORECLOSED is one such title. Maybe it’s the stylish comic book cutscenes. Or perhaps it’s how the protagonist, Evan, dispenses cynical monologues over somber string melodies between violent shootouts. In any case, it’s apparent that the game’s developer Antab Studios are big fans of Max Payne. As the story progressed and more sinister conspiracies were revealed, these comparisons became even harder to shake. Sure, FORECLOSED may feature cybernetically augmented humans living in a dystopian future. But you can clearly trace its roots to the exploits of a certain pill-popping, binge-drinking, NYPD detective-turned-vigilante from the early aughts.
But don’t take that as a knock against the game. After all, it’s been nearly a decade since Max Payne 3 was released. Fans of gritty, hard-boiled shooters are long overdue for something new to sink their teeth into. And though FORECLOSED may not be quite as polished as the games from which it so clearly takes its inspiration, its sleek presentation and smart storytelling combine to create a neo-noir journey worth experiencing.
The Market Has Spoken
FORECLOSED offers a sobering glimpse into a frightening future, an interconnected world where even peoples’ identities are owned by the state and can be bought and sold like everyday commodities. Players assume the role of Evan Kapnos, who wakes up one day to learn his employer, SECURTECH, has gone bankrupt. And, as a result of the company’s debt, his identity has been foreclosed upon, leaving him unable to access his brain implants or this city’s Blockchain. It’s an interesting setup, to be sure. However, things become even more intriguing as shadowy conspiracies are introduced and the true actors behind Evan’s situation are revealed.
Eventually, Evan learns that the hardware inside of his body isn’t exactly off-the-shelf stuff. As a result, that high-tech implant in his head has made him a very attractive target to some unsavory types. On the plus side, it also lets him tap into some pretty interesting powers and hack certain objects in the environment à la Watch_Dogs. Believe me; he’ll need to make use of these gifts to escape the city and regain his identity.
The developer describes the game as a narrative-driven action-adventure. And while that’s mostly true, I never really felt my choices had much impact on the game’s narrative. That is, except for a particular choice you need to make at the very end. Still, despite its relatively rigid nature, I very much enjoyed FORECLOSED‘s story. It’s a grim and disturbing tale filled with complex characters, that explores some really gray areas of morality, and it kept me completely engaged over the course of its five-hour campaign.
Here Comes The Boom
Stealth is sometimes an option in this game. However, most of your time will be spent dispatching faceless agents who want nothing more than to put you in the ground. Unfortunately, the gunplay here is pretty barebones, which makes FORECLOSED‘s shootouts fairly monotonous. There’s only one weapon in the entire game. To make matters worse, it packs all of the punch of a wet firecracker. As you explore the world and kill enemies, you’ll earn experience that you can spend to purchase upgrades for your gun that unlock armor-piercing or explosive bullets and increase your rate of fire. But even with these upgrades, your gun never becomes particularly satisfying to wield.
You can also upgrade Evan’s implants to unlock new abilities. For example, you’ll be able to use your mind to slam enemies into the ground or suspend them in the air, leaving them open for some easy shots. Hell, you can even launch dumpsters and fire extinguishers at them, just like Jesse Faden’s telekinesis power in Control. My favorite method was stealthily hacking their implants, causing their hardware to overheat and fry their brains – good times!
Sadly, I never felt these made much of an impact on how I handled each encounter. Sure, I’d occasionally have to send an enemy’s shield flying with my mind to expose their squishy bits. But apart from that, I found simply going for headshots with the standard shot type was more than enough to get the job done. This is in part due to the game’s lackluster enemy AI. Baddies are generally content to just stand in place and fire until one of you dies. They won’t take cover and generally have little interest in self-preservation, making for unexciting, rinse-and-repeat encounters.
If there’s one thing I really enjoyed about FORECLOSED, it’s the game’s brilliant presentation. It features a gorgeous, graphic novel-style aesthetic that feels like the natural evolution of Sega Technical Institute’s 1995 Genesis brawler Comix Zone. Enter a stairwell, and the action seamlessly transitions to another panel and perspective without ever taking you out of control. Jump out of a window and crash through a skylight, and you’ll get a slick transition as Evan performs his death-defying leap onto the next frame. It’s a stunning effect, making the on-screen action look like a living, breathing comic book. Seriously: just look at the panel above if you want a good example of what to expect. Gorgeous, right?
FORECLOSED also features some top-notch music that fits the game’s cyberpunk theme as snugly as a shiny new bionic implant. Add to that some solid voice work to bring the cast of characters to life, and you’ve got a game that looks and sounds quite nice.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the environments could use an extra splash of color. With so many rust and gray-colored environments, some areas do begin to look a bit drab. However, one could certainly argue that this adds to the game’s dystopian setting.
FORECLOSED Is A Gripping Virtual Page-Turner
All things considered, FORECLOSED is a bit of a mixed bag. For a game with such a focus on combat, it’s a shame its gunplay feels mostly weightless and that the special abilities you unlock are largely underutilized. However, despite its unsatisfying shootouts, the story kept me hooked, and I couldn’t wait to see what would unfold next across its virtual comic book pages.
With more polish and perhaps a bigger budget, FORECLOSED could have been a must-play techno-thriller. As it stands, it’s a killer proof of concept that just misses the mark when it comes to nailing the fundamentals. Still, if you like the sound of a neo-noir adventure that hits like a strange fusion of Max Payne and Cyberpunk 2077, you’ll certainly find that here.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS5 (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, PC, Stadia; Publisher: Merge Games; Developer: Antab Studio; Players: 1; Released: August 12th, 2021; ESRB: M for Mature; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.