Despite my ragging on Mirror’s Edge the other day, it’s still the best around.
There’s barely been another game like it, before or since, when it comes to being the most exhilarating experience of jumping across rooftops. Makes you wonder what a VR counterpart would be like, but no, EA killed that dream by not bothering to make Catalyst a worthy sequel, and that’s mostly where my anger resides. The fact is that literal speedrunning like Mirror’s Edge is rare, which is why I was excited for RAZED.
This right here is technically the debut title from UK-based studio Warpfish Games, a two-man team who came up with RAZED after they made a small prototype title for Edge magazine. That prototype title was Outcry, and one look at the screenshots of Outcry will plainly show that Warpfish have had this idea knocking about for a while now. Cut to 4 years later, and does the idea still stick?
You play as uhh… shit, they don’t have a name. Let’s call ’em “Faith”, not for the gameplay connections, but because that’s what the antagonist has in you. Known as the Developer, he knows that you’re the only one who can stop his evil plans, and he accepts this, but with a twist. Giving you a pair of shoes named Lefty & Righty, they’re designed to explode if you don’t stop running. Now it’s down to you to speed through all of the levels and stop his evil plan for good.
RAZED can be best described as a bizarre mix of Clustertruck, Mirror’s Edge, and the really crap free-running levels in Black Ops 3, although the core structure is more reminiscent of Clustertruck than anything else. The first levels you come across won’t offer much in the way of diversity in free-roaming gameplay, but give it enough time and patience, and the world truly starts to open up.
You start off simple, just running across mostly untextured polygonal objects, while the game gives you a poor grade, despite the fact that you made all the shortcuts and managed to do a cheeky 360 at the end. Well, what the hell? I’m doing all this cool stuff and I still get a B? Simply remedied, as the levels are there for replaying purposes.
Given enough time and patience, you’ll be able to complete the world and unlocks more ways for you to interact with the levels, from a speed boost, to a way to grip onto vertical walls. There are a few more that you can unlock, but there’s a catch to it all, and that’s in the fact that they all use the same meter; The same meter that you need to keep up while you’re running. What this leads into is a dangerous game of maintaining not just enough speed to not explode, but also managing what to use ahead of time, and you know what? It’s brilliant.
RAZED is the closest a platformer can get to being a rhythm-action title, without explicitly being a rhythm-action platformer a la The Runner. There’s no waiting-out obstacles, there’s no waiting for the physics to do the job, there’s no time to do anything but run and act with the hazards presented before you with nothing but quick thinking and prior knowledge.
I love it! The quick retry nature of every single level isn’t an overbearing pain in the arse, and that rhythm-action comment goes even further. Let’s say you jump in the wrong spot halfway through the level, and you still survived, but a bit later on, you find yourself at an obstacle that needs the jump juice you used just a second ago. Now you don’t have enough and BAM! You’re going to have to start again. It’s moments like that, that make the trail-and-error formula work so well.
It’s nice to see a platformer return to these small scale challenges, something that I’ve missed sorely since Super Meat Boy. Levels rarely go over 30 seconds, yet they still feel long enough to be substantial challenges that satisfy the player, showing off their skills and big bollocks when they beat that particular boss level. One of the few gripes I have with the gameplay is the over-abundance of abilities the player can have.
While it’s nice to “remix” the rhythm via using a boost jump instead of a gripped wallrun or something, the amount of choices and abilities binded to the controller for such small challenges is staggering. Even early on, the game can be a clusterfu— I mean, Clustertruck with the abilities presented, and further adding cream, cherries, ice cream and root bear floats on top of the delicious cake presented already seems cumbersome.
The visual design also see-saws between good and annoying. On the one hand, you’ve got some visual pointers that help the player decide where to go, what to do etc. The trampolines are a good example, as they have a white circle around the middle, telling you “Yeah, this is where you need to land for an optimal bounce”. It sounds obvious, yes, but the little hints the game gives you along the way help a lot.
However, sometimes the maps get too visually cluttered, which is impressive, considering that most of it is abstract polygonal models. Certain blocks and towers can quite literally get in the way of gameplay, and the only thing I can think of when it comes to remedying the situation, is via the use of fixed camera angles and the use of an auto-run feature of some sort. It might seem like a cop out, but deaths will come from poor visual placements, I can guarantee it.
Also, despite the help that the visual design gives you, there are certain textures and tower placements that can immediately stop you in your tracks, and not in the way that they’re supposed to. One minute, you’ll be cruising around this level with some smooth controlling fun, the next minute you’ll be stopped dead in your tracks because you hit the wrong part of a flat floor. It’s stupefying.
Really, the pitch-perfect precision is something that should’ve been tuned a down a bit as well, as while its usage in later levels is completely justified in an increase of skill, the difficulty ramps up way too quickly. Even World 1 showcases some fairly insane jumps and 1-2 combos that require the perfect set-up with very little margin for error.
Out of the 60+ levels RAZED presents you with, I’d say about 3-4 of them were complete duds, and the bulk of them unfortunately belong to the boss levels, including the last one. The last boss level is possibly the only one that has the worst design choices in the entire game, with these bounce-pads attached to walls which you need to both use and navigate around. Some of them have spikes on the back as well, except the spikes only cover the back of the bounce-pad partly, so it’s possible to still bounce off the spike side, albeit to your immediate doom.
Also, RAZED has quite possibly the worst sound design in a video game this year. For one, you can’t completely mute the game, as putting the “SFX” slider all the way to the left only mutes select sound effects. You might be thinking that they’re only keeping the sounds that tie into gameplay notifications, but no, it’s completely random sounds, some of which are unbelievably deafening.
For two, it’s also incredibly glitchy, something which I didn’t think was possible. All too often, you’ll activate something in gameplay which causes the entire game to fragment in sound, so you’ve got ringing in your ears that sounds like a corrupted glass breaking. It’s why I was trying to mute the bloody game, and it still kept happening.
There is one final straw that this game had though, and it almost drove me to the brink of madness. The brutal gameplay, the annoying textures, the broken sound design? That was all a starter for what the game was about to prepare me for. Before every level loads up, or you back out of a level, you’re treating to some of the worst puns ever made, all revolving around shoes.
Lace Attorney? Sole Position? Insole Calibur? Please, Warpfish, these are terrible, I don’t even know how you came up with these. Sockwork Knight? What the shit, what is that even supposed to be? Dark Soles? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA–
Obviously, I am taking the piss, as this game isn’t solely (Ha-haaaaa!) based around shoe puns, nor is it based around the sound design, as it’s a rhythm-action game only in mechanics. I feel confident recommending this game to anyone who is a fan of platforming, Mirror’s Edge,and/or speedrunning. While I hope the sound design and weird bounce-pads with spikes on the end get patched to work and make sense respectively, RAZED is still a great game regardless.
In the end, despite a few hiccups regarding visual noise and literal noise, Razed is still tight as it can be. Sure, some of the problems inherent with Outcry are still prominent with here, but Warpfish have evolved and made a game that’s having just as much addictive fun as you should be. A silky-smooth experience that’s— oh damnit, restart…
This review of RAZED is based on the Xbox One version of the game. A review copy was provided.
A fun little 3-D platformer that managed to do what titles like Race The Sun and InnerSpace couldn't: Be fun.
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