2084 – Early Access Impressions

2084 is a sci-fi, cyberpunk-style shooter by Feardemic with an emphasis on hacking items in the game by interacting with short quick-time events in order to progress your way through a puzzling, neon world. Today, I’ll be taking a dive into its features, its potential, and whether or not I think it’s worth getting involved with it in its current early-access state.

Firstly, the themes in the game are right up my street. This street being in the middle of a futuristic, neon-lit New York where everything is connected and the city never sleeps. 2084 feels very much like that, and during a brief glimpse into the outside world, we get to see part of where and when 2084 is set. There’s a real sense of mystery here as the player must hack their way through corridors, smashed up rooms, and narrow passageways in order to move through the world and discover, piece by piece, that everything is not as simple as it first seems. I won’t spoil any of the (relatively short) narrative experience, but I can say that it did have me genuinely wondering what was going on, and I certainly didn’t expect the cutscenes, nor their surprisingly high fidelity.

Gameplay

Unfortunately, the gameplay is just that: simple. You are quickly introduced to the few mechanics in the game, and have to make do with those few tools to move forwards. The gun is a fully automatic rifle that slows down as its charge drops, wherein the player must hack more ammunition from various blue-lit items in the game. Stations that give health and ammo can be hacked by firing a blue ball from the gun, as well as mechanisms to open doors, read story logs, and access terminals.

Hacking in 2084 is quick but rewarding.

The hacking mechanism is basic. But it scales nicely between faster paced moments and longer hacks, where significantly more button presses are required. Ultimately, the player gets as many ‘shots’ at hacking as they like, but the system is straightforward enough that soon the player will effectively breeze through hacking with a few timely keystrokes.

The player is also equipped with a grenade, which uses a significant portion of the rifle’s charge to launch an explosive projectile that can take out large numbers of targets. A well-placed grenade can clear a room almost instantly, but a badly placed one will take most of the player’s health bar with it.

Shooting at 2084's Zombie enemies.

The enemies themselves are classic zombie-types, ranging in size and speed as you might expect. They are quite creepy at first, and the sound engine does a good job of tracking them, so the player knows when they are being chased and where their pursuer might be. Over time, however, the enemies become fairly mundane, and even new enemies seem oddly familiar, such as the tiny versions of the zombies that appear at one point. This lack of variation makes gameplay feel stale quickly, and also drains the fear factor almost instantly. Once you’ve realized that zombies of all types are easy to deal with and that health packs are quite abundant, there isn’t really much to get scared about beyond the odd jump-scare.

Bosses in the game provide a welcome change to the gameplay loop, such as the larger zombie who must be hacked in order to be damaged, or the rotating cube that shoots laser beams, which the player must avoid while taking him down.  These bosses are quickly mastered. In fact, I only found myself dying a few times during the game, and often when simply surrounded by enemies and unable to move away (I may also have point-blank grenade-ed myself once.) This all adds to a feeling that the game rewards speed.

There is a simple dash mechanic that sees the player quickly blink forwards, which is primarily used for dodging enemy attacks but is also useful for dashing about 2084’s hallways. Hacking has a time limit, and small targets can be hacked during combat to refill ammunition, heal the player, open doorways, or stun enemies with electrical shocks. These quick hacks reward the player’s accuracy and speed, and were actually a really cool mechanic that made gameplay feel skill-intensive. There is an achievement on Steam for completing the game in ‘Under XXX Minutes’, which seems to suggest that a suitably equipped speed-runner could finish the game in almost no time at all.

A Church location in 2084 sci-fi shooter.

There is also an ‘Endless Mode’, which will suit fans of Nazi-zombie games and survival games nicely. It even reminded me of playing Left 4 Dead, which can’t really be a bad connection. I do feel that 2084 would suit being multiplayer in that regard, but the developers haven’t mentioned anything about working towards that, nor do they have a history of creating multiplayer games, so I wouldn’t like to get anybody’s hopes up. There is a leaderboard, however, so players could always complete against their friends and the rest of the player base to see who can live the longest.

Final Thoughts

It’s worth mentioning at this point that, despite its early-access nature, 2084 is effectively ‘feature complete’ after a shockingly low development time of 72 hours. The developers noted on the Steam page that there is a lot more work to do, but that the body of the game is mostly there. It was completed in a single week-long collaboration between the teams behind Layers of Fear and the critically acclaimed (and remarkably similar) horror adventure >Observer. Not only is this enormously impressive on its own, but the game itself is remarkably ‘complete’ after such a short span of time. Nonetheless, its somewhat under-baked nature occasionally rears its ugly head with some strange bugs, amusing physics ragdoll-ing, and some horrific frame-drops during high-action scenes, even on my relatively beefy rig.

A view of 2084's Dystopian Cityscape,

The developers have noted that they will continue to work on the game over the next one-to-two years, and that 2084 is available now because they wish to develop their own skills and cooperate with their audience’s feedback in order to better their game over time. They have already said that they plan to include new weapons, enemies, hacking scenarios, a better tutorial, and more gameplay as well as performance improvements and bug fixes. That, I feel, is actually quite honest and bodes well for the future of 2084. If Feardemic, the development team, sticks to such a promise, then 2084 could find itself turning into a thoroughly enjoyable experience for the casual player, and a seriously engaging challenge for the speed-running community.

The story mode is not particularly long, but the endless mode has some really good potential, and there is a clear interest for speed-runners here. The game certainly isn’t for everyone, and if you’re looking for a complete campaign experience, 2084 might not be for you – but for around the price of a cheap cinema ticket, I would argue that it’s a good experience that should improve as time goes on. 2084 is currently available on Steam, as part of the Early-Access program. It’s priced quite reasonably at £7.19, and at the time of this article being written, is a nice 15% off. At first, I was quite skeptical of 2084, but playing further and working my way into what is actually an intriguing story saw my impression of the game improve massively. As for whether I would suggest paying the current price to get involved with the development of the game, anyone who enjoys the cyberpunk genre and doesn’t mind a nice dash of horror thrown in will probably have a good time with 2084.

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