Hotline Miami is a modern classic. The synthwave soundtrack, reflex-testing gameplay, visceral combat, sheer replayability, neo-noir colorsplosion, and a mind-bending story it offers is arguably unmatched. My love for Hotline Miami is what drew me towards Project Downfall, which at first sight unmistakably looks like a first-person Hotline Miami. Had a look at the store page and I was sold. Promising to be a fast-paced FPS that tests your reflex and quick thinking, unique, trippy, retro-style visuals with a dystopian theme, and the ability to superkick enemies to death! How could I not play it? Well, 10 hours and several pulled-out hair follicles later, I’m here to give my first impressions for Project Downfall. Before we begin, let me ask you this.
Do you like hurting other people?
Project Downfall is an ultraviolent first-person shooter developed by MGP Studios in collaboration with Solid9 Studio and published by MGP Studios. It was released on Steam as an Early Access title on 15 March 2019.
Project Downfall takes place in a futuristic dystopian society with a touch of cyberpunk thrown in. At a time of great unrest due to gang wars and narcotics-related violence, you, the player character is a lowly citizen by day and a bloodthirsty vigilante by night. Since the game is in Early Access, the story is practically barebones right now. From the short snippets of lore and background information provided, it is clear that Project Downfall, like Hotline Miami, intends to send the player on a mind-bending journey that will question your very sanity. But it remains to be seen how the story unfolds.
Gameplay & Mechanics
There’s no better term to describe Project Downfall than as a first-person Hotline Miami. From the visuals to the music to the fast-paced gameplay, it’s clear where the primary inspiration comes from. The gist of the game is that you navigate small, multi-leveled missions with the sole aim of killing anyone that gets in your path with whatever that you can get your hands on. Contrary to Hotline Miami, the focus here is on gunplay rather than melee weapons from the get-go, resulting in fast-paced, yet tactical shootouts. The shooting in Project Downfall is fun, gory and aided by gameplay enhancing pills which can slow down time or boost your melee damage. But these reduce the mission score, so I only used these at times that made them deem utmost necessary. There are also a fair number of both melee weapons and firearms with each having their pros and cons. Since the player character is as fragile as the mental health of a Souls player and can die often in two or three hits, the focus here is on trial and error gameplay. You’ll die, you’ll die a lot, and sometimes, it’s just not your fault, as there are a lot of factors that chip into the success of your mission.
The major problem faced by Project Downfall is that this gameplay loop works best in a game like Hotline Miami. Take it into a first-person perspective and you’re bound to run into problems. Even though the core gameplay feature- the shooting works well, problems abound in other departments. The levels in Project Downfall feels really restrictive and not suited for the type of gameplay it offers, with the initial few levels being real letdowns in terms of length and level design. This restriction was compensated in Hotline Miami through clever level design, tight pacing, smooth controls and fast movement speed for both the player character and the enemies. In Project Downfall, however, the enemy A.I is average at best and random at worst, activating only when you get in an uncomfortable distance to them and move at a snail’s pace. However, to my understanding, It was a necessary adjustment to accommodate a gameplay loop such as this, and this led me to think whether the game would have fared much better as a traditional first-person shooter. The level design does get significantly better though. The last few levels of the 6 mission (work in progress) campaign are thoughtfully designed and presented, with a favorite of mine being the Manhunt inspired sex dungeon with an enemy that reminds me a bit too much of the iconic Piggsy. Let’s just hope that the upcoming 15 levels will be more akin to these latter levels.
The problems don’t just stop there. While the gunplay is satisfying, there is an odd sense of randomness to the shooting. For some reason, whenever you’re pointing at an enemy’s head. The crosshairs seem to jump around the left and right side of the head, instead of stabilizing at the center and thus leads to moments of frustration during intense firefights. The gunplay, like the AI can be a bit unpredictable at times. I can’t count the number of times I had to restart a level just because a bullet I thought would hit the target failed to register at all. Thanks to these glaring issues, replaying a level feels more like a chore than wanting to get better at the game. Still, there are lots of features to be added and it would not be fair to judge the game completely based on the existing build.
Visuals, Performance & Sound
Project Downfall is one of those very few games that ultimately suffer due to its excellent presentation. To fans of cyberpunk fiction, the game is visual-porn with striking overtones of red, purple, orange and pink, eye-popping neon lights, and, warm retro filters. It’s unique, eye-catching and oozes atmosphere. At the same time, it’s very hard on the eyes, especially if you’re playing in darkness or in a dimly-lit room. Sometimes, it’s even hard to pinpoint where enemies are and where shots are coming from. Add the squishy player character and you got a fine mess. As much as I love the visuals, it was much better off playing in the lowest graphical settings for the sake of my eyesight. Even then there are scenes which practically blinds you with flashes of white, red and orange. We can’t have it both ways I suppose.
As for the performance, the game ran above 60 fps at pretty much the entire time at 1080p on the below-listed specs. There were some performance issues with an older version, but those have been rectified with a recent patch.
- Intel Core i5 7500 3.40Ghz
- GTX 1070 8 GB
- 8×2 GB 2400Mhz DDR4 Ram
- 256 GB SSD
When it comes to music, Project Downfall offers a slew of retro-synthwave tracks that fit the tone of the game perfectly. It may not be top-tier grade, but it works well. The same goes for the rest of the sound design.
Project Downfall is a promising Early Access title, but one that is not problem-free. With a year or so of player feedback, most of the issues can be creatively solved to an extent and the game polished to fit the industry standard. Gameplaywise, a lot of features are still to be added into Project Downfall including more levels, weapons, boss fights, finishers, environmental attacks, etc. Even still, the asking price of $15.99 can seem a bit too steep for Project Downfall at its current state and it is advised to keep a close watch on the game, see how it evolve and pick it up when most of these issues have been resolved.