Geneshift

Geneshift represents 8 years of work by Nik Nak Studios’ founder and lead designer Ben Johnson. It is a top-down shooter in the vein of the original Grand Theft Auto games but with an added layer of depth in the form of active and passive skills, character progression, and a simple but solid stealth system. It’s got guns, explosives, mutants, zombies, and fast cars (some of which have bombs installed, which I found out the hard way by pressing the fire button and wondering what that beeping noise was.)

When I first booted up the game I was a little overwhelmed. It’s a game with a simple premise but it throws a lot of UI elements and game systems at you without much explanation. But, with a little trial and error, I quickly found myself blasting baddies, buying weapons, and upgrading my active and passive skills.

Each level requires that you make your way through a variety of gun-wielding enemies to activate multiple bomb/stores (yes, they are both bombs and stores) before activating a larger nuke/boutique and defending yourself against a wave of zombies until you gather enough of their essence and return it to the bomb, causing it to explode and wipe out any remaining undead.

Progression comes in a couple forms. First you must unlock an ability by finding it in the world, once that is done you may spend points you gain from killing enemies to upgrade said skills. Each skill has both a positive and negative effects in an attempt to keep things balanced. Frenzy, for example, will dramatically increase your rate of fire but will make you visible on the map to your enemies. Self-healing will heal you but will drain your mana and slow your movement. I would need to play a lot more of the game to see if the balance really does work out, but in my time playing it all of the skills seemed useful in their own way. You also unlock weapons, cars, and chemicals by finding them in the level and can then buy them from the mine/emporium.

The game has both PvE and PvP multiplayer. I was not able to find any active PvE servers, but the PvP was fun and frantic. The only game mode I was able to play was capture the point. It took me a bit to figure out the specifics of how the store worked in MP and how exactly to capture a point (you buy a capture chemical and deploy it), but it was fun even when I was just running and driving around trying to kill the other team. The community thus far seems both friendly and informative, with my questions answered quickly and no one got too salty about getting killed.

The graphics are simple but do their job. The hard angles and vibrant colours make reading your surroundings easy, allowing fast decision making and threat assessment. The music is serviceable if not somewhat repetitive. The controls are tight, even when driving a very fast car through small alleys and crowded roads. The game also ran at a rock-solid 60 FPS on my less than stellar machine (Intel Core i7-4770k CPU @ 3.5GHz, 8.0GB RAM, GeForce GTX 760), but with graphics like these that should be expected.

With a sub-$10 price tag and a free demo this is definitely a game I would recommend for anyone who enjoyed games like GTA 1 and 2, Smash TV, True Lies, or Zombies Ate My Neighbours. Though if you’re looking for a multiplayer experience, I would suggest getting a few friends to buy it with you so you don’t have to rely on the currently sparse server population

~~S. W. Jackson~~

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