Preview: Wrack brings the FPS genre back to its roots
There's a lot to love about first-person shooters that aren't afraid of going back to the genre's groundbreaking '90s roots. It's one thing to try and develop the FPS genre by adding crazy gameplay elements or adding a party atmosphere with robust online multiplayer options. It's a completely different story when a developer flat-out refuses to do either of those things in favor of sticking to the basics. That is what Final Boss Entertainment has decided on with Wrack, ensuring you get a raucous, rambunctious, retro-soaked FPS.
Taking place in a futuristic setting, the world has ... You know what? I'm not even going to bother with a detailed explanation of the game's plot. The fact of the matter is that Wrack has kept it old school even when it comes to the plot. All you really need to know is that there is a dire situation with weird alien creatures and robotic enemies; and you have guns. Just like that, an FPS reminiscent of classics like Doom, Quake, Serious Sam, Duke Nukem, and even Turok is born. Feel free to squeal with pure, unadulterated excitement.
Simplicity is sometimes a good thing, and that couldn't be truer as far as Wrack is concerned. You start out with a huge sword that is perfect for close-up encounters with enemies. I'm not sure how enemies will be at later stages of the game, but your sword can pretty much cleave right through all grunt-type baddies, with the exception of bosses. It's difficult not to feel like a badass when you can go up to enemies who are shooting at you and make them explode into chunks of flesh, blood, and scrap metal with a simple slash of your blade.
If you're wondering about the guns, don't worry, because there are quite a few for you to get trigger-happy with. The first gun you collect is a basic pistol. It's not exactly powerful, but it's pretty accurate and gets the job done, especially when facing lower-level bad guys. When you pick up the shotgun, however, things get especially cathartic. I don't know if it's the shotgun’s loud bang or the way the shells blast right through enemies, but this weapon is an absolute joy to use, especially if you're in a room where you're noticeably outnumbered.
Later on (thankfully not too much later), you also pick up a pulse gun, which is awesome to use. Seeing your energy shots fire right into huge robot dudes is rightfully amazing, and from the moment you pick it up, it's impossible to refrain from using the pulse gun like a madman. There are also other guns for you to go nuts with, but I won’t spoil the fun in discovering them for yourself.
Wrack is not a game that you're just going to breeze through. While the first level was pretty easy to complete, things quickly got a lot tougher, even on the normal difficulty. In the second stage I was frequently surrounded by large groups of enemies, and I encountered huge brutes with the ability to kill me in one blow. The second level was a bit more maze-like, requiring me to explore a bit to continue on my way, and also had more enemies.
In addition to the main campaign, Wrack includes a few extras to keep you busy. There are score and time attack modes, as well as achievements and collectibles to pursue. If you don't care much about speedrunning or accruing points, the alternate modes will not appeal to you, but they're there for players who enjoy them. There's no multiplayer mode, either — this is a straight-up FPS, which honestly isn't a problem at all. If you desperately need multiplayer in your shooters, you know what games to play.
Despite the vintage aesthetic, the graphics in Wrack are anything but old-looking. The game features 3D cel-shaded visuals that work well and provide a nice shift for the genre. Everything has a clean look with bold outlines, giving the game a bit of a comic book flair. It makes for an interesting graphical direction that is in line with the not-so-serious tone of the game.
Even though Wrack doesn't look like an older game, it sure sounds like one. You’ll be pleased to hear the rad rock themes that play on as you shoot holes into things. As far as the sound department is concerned — especially in terms of the tracks you'll hear— Wrack is filled with awesome, electric, Doom-y goodness that isn't afraid to be loud and in-your-face.
Wrack is the type of shooter that fans of an older generation are likely to eat right up. There are difficulty spikes from time to time and there's a whole lot of shooting, but not much else. If you grew up on shooters that were all about kicking ass and exploring absurd sci-fi themes, this game will be right up your alley. If you're into the modern FPS with all the bells and whistles, Wrack probably won't be for you, but you should give it a try anyway.
You can currently download the Early Access version of Wrack on Steam for $14.99. The game is due to be released on September 30.