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Chorus Review (Xbox Series X)

Chorus Review: Putting The Harm In Harmony

Chorus review, Xbox Series X

 

Chorus is anything but your typical space shooter. Published by Deep Silver and developed by Fishlabs, the game puts players in control of Nara, a former high-ranking cult member who, after being forced to commit a horrible atrocity, joins forces with a group of rebels to destroy her former organization that holds a death-grip on the galaxy. Assisted by her sentient ship, Forsaken, she’ll explore a wide variety of striking starscapes as she wages war against her former allies, undertakes varied quests, and explores ominous temples to uncover new and more powerful psychic abilities.

With its compelling story and a thrilling combat system that mixes conventional weaponry with mystical abilities, Chorus makes a solid first impression. It’s a beautiful game, brought to life with some truly exquisite visuals and awe-inspiring dogfights that will keep your heart pounding in your throat and your hair standing on end. When everything comes together as it should, Chorus delivers moments of pure magic rarely seen in the space shooter genre. At its best, Fishlabs’ latest offering shines as brightly as a supernova. Unfortunately, however, getting to these moments of sublime shooting action can sometimes feel like wrestling your way from the clutches of a hungry black hole—at least in the game’s current state.

 

A Deadly Unison

 

Chorus Review

 

But before we get to those issues, let’s talk about what makes Chorus such an exhilarating experience. For starters, this title provides some of the most fast-paced and thrilling dogfights I’ve ever experienced in a space shooter. Piloting your sentient ship in the wide-open vastness of the cosmos feels fantastic. There’s an undeniable thrill that comes from careening through the belly of a monstrous mothership and laying waste to its core before making a hasty escape before it explodes in a massive fireball. Or barrel rolling through an array of lasers before shredding an enemy craft to space dust with your ship’s Gatling guns. This excitement is due not only to the sheer spectacle of it all but also because the enemy’s A.I. is nothing short of unrelenting. Whether you’re taking out a small recon squad of Circle cultists or bringing down an entire armada, the bogeys will be hot on your tail, blasting you with laser precision. Oh, and literal lasers, too.

You’ll start the game armed with just your Gatling gun. However, of the course of Chorus’ opening hours, you’ll also unlock a variety of missile launchers and lasers that you can use to reduce your enemies to scrap metal. Each of these weapons serves a particular purpose. For example, lasers are suitable for overloading enemy shields; missiles are perfect for hardened targets like armored ships and stationary gun turrets, and your Gatling gun is best for chewing through lightly armored vessels. As you complete missions or visit the space stations, you’ll have the chance to outfit your ship with more powerful guns, along with various upgrades for your hull, shields, and other components to help augment your existing abilities.

As fun as it is to deck out Forsaken with new fancy new tech, it’s Nara’s mystical abilities that make Chorus’ combat shine. These powers are known as Rites, and they let you perform all sorts of tricks to get the upper hand on your opponents and reach new areas, almost giving Chorus a bit of Metroid-esque flavor that you wouldn’t expect to find in this type of game. For example, the Rite of the Hunt allows you to teleport behind your opponents, putting them directly in your crosshairs for a rapid attack. Meanwhile, the Rite of the Star effectively turns your ship into a pilotable battering ram that can smash through walls and enemy craft alike. My favorite ability of the bunch was the Rite of the Storm. This ability overloads shields and stuns your enemies with a blast of raging purple plasma, leaving them vulnerable. Learning your enemies’ weaknesses and chaining together different rites to overcome whatever obstacles you face is immensely enjoyable and creates some of Chorus’ memorable moments.

 

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult

 

Chorus Review, Nara and Forsaken

 

When you’re out in the vastness of space obliterating crazed cultists, Chorus is an absolute joy. Unfortunately, when the game veers away from what it does best, Chorus devolves into an exercise in pure frustration.

The temples are probably one of the worst offenders in the game. These areas are essentially space dungeons where Nara learns new Rites. Claustrophobic and littered with frustrating puzzles that rely on you hauling ass through tight spaces (and usually pinballing around the environment as you inevitably crash into walls), they’re an absolute slog. Thanks to a particular encounter, one temple almost had me ready to turn off the game for good. Set in a small room, you have to fight off waves of creatures that you need to kill by crashing through them with Rite of the Star, which sends you rocketing towards your target. As you can imagine, this doesn’t necessarily work well in a small, enclosed space. This resulted in countless deaths as I smashed into the walls dozens of times as I desperately tried to spear these obnoxious swarms while dodging fire from every direction.

The game’s boss fights don’t fare much better. One of which forces you to repeatedly steer through the interior of its tendril-like arms as they shift and churn like a demented funhouse, all while you attempt to flee an explosion you can’t see that will destroy you upon contact. If you think that sounds frustrating, it only gets worse from here. The boss’s final form has you taking constant, unavoidable damage while effectively blinding you with a monochrome filter that makes it nearly impossible to see his attacks. I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not. I wouldn’t wish this battle upon my worst enemy. You hear that, Thomas Sczepanski from Wilmington, Delaware?

 

 

Sadly, Chorus’ problems aren’t just due to questionable design choices. During my time with the Xbox Series X version of the game, I encountered numerous technical glitches that impacted my overall enjoyment. During my review playthrough, most of the cutscenes were completely missing audio. This was due to an issue with an unresolved issue with the game’s 5.1 support, and I was ultimately able to remedy the problem by switching over to my TV’s internal speakers. Additionally, there were multiple instances of a nearly game-breaking camera bug that could prevent me from controlling my ship when new enemies were introduced, which required me to brute force my way through the environment to progress beyond these areas.

Chorus features a very minimalist HUD. While this is great for immersion, it can also make figuring out where exactly you need to go more often than it needs to be. This problem is mostly due to waypoint icons being very small and transparent, making them very challenging to see against Chorus’ busy backdrops. Finding the hangars at space stations is especially annoying, as you need to manually locate them, which can be much more difficult than it sounds considering the massive size and verticality of many of these installations.

Thankfully, developer Fishlabs is aware of these issues, and they should resolve them by the time you’re able to get your hands on Chorus. Unfortunately, however, I can’t verify that at the time of this review’s publication.

 

Chorus Shows Flashes Of Promise, But Its Often Rough Execution Spoils An Otherwise Good Time

 

There’s a solid space shooter buried beneath Chorus’ many bumps and bruises. Unfortunately, however, I’m not sure many players will be willing to dig beyond its myriad technical issues and more frustrating moments to find it. And honestly, that’s a real shame. Because with a bit more polish and refinement, Fishlabs’ latest offering could have been a space opera to remember with its unique story and exciting blend of sci-fi action and creepy occult mysticism. If you’re willing to overlook its problems, Chorus offers about a dozen hours of dogfighting action to keep you busy. But you’re going to need plenty of patience if you hope to break the Circle.


Final Verdict: 3/5

Available on: Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia; Publisher: Deep Silver; Developer: Fishlabs; Players: 1; Released: December 3, 2021; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $39.99

Full disclosure: A Chorus review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Frank has been the caffeine-fueled evil overlord of HeyPoorPlayer since 2008. He speaks loudly and carries a big stick to keep the staff of the HPP madhouse in check. A collector of all things that blip and beep, he has an extensive collection of retro consoles and arcade machines crammed into his house. Currently playing: Chorus (XSX), Battlefield 2042 (XSX), Xeno Crisis (Neo Geo)

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