Kickstarter Demo Hands-On: Retrovirus

Show of hands- Who here remembers Descent?  It was an FPS from the early days of the genre, released only a year and a half after Doom blew everyone’s doors off, and in its way it was every bit as innovative.  Descent was a true 3D, six axes of freedom shooter that wasn’t afraid to really explore what a gravity-free environment could offer, and for those able to resist vertigo and keep their bearings, it offered fantastic shooting action that easily held its own against the Dukes and Dooms of the day.  Descent II was even better than the first, Descent 3 lost the magic, and then the series faded away.  Forsaken made a small splash on N64, and since then, it’s either been guys on foot or ships in space.

Then the Retrovirus Kickstarter came along, promising a new, professional game to breathe some life into this nearly-forgotten FPS offshoot sub-genre, and honestly, the response has been a bit anemic.  With a few days left on the clock, however, a demo has been released to give anyone interested a taste of exactly what it is they’ll be backing.  As it turns out, even in an alpha state Retrovirus is looking very sharp, although obviously still with some work to be done.

You can get the basics of the game by checking out the link above, but the important part is that you fly a nimble fighter through corridors without worrying about things like “gravity” or complicated ideas like “up” and “down”.  Sure, you can turn auto-level on, and broken wiring shoots out sparks that arc to the ground, but it’s not really your problem.  Memorizing complicated 3D level layouts and shooting baddies is the important bit, and while the early sections were a bit light on  attackers, the last section of the third and final demo area began to feel nicely populated.  A particularly fun combat detail is the way bullets leave behind a small bubble on whatever they hit that fades after a few seconds, but using your scanner causes the bubble to explode.  There’s a satisfying rhythm in dodging, popping off a stream of machine gun fire, and then sending a scan pulse down the corridor to knock enemies flying.

It’s still ultra-early, and there’s a few things in the alpha that need some polish (no auto-map, for example), but the whole point of the Kickstarter is to get the funds to polish the rough edges into shiny smoothness.  Retrovirus is already looking pretty shiny as-is, and its potential is huge.  Go and check out that demo, and if you like what you see, throw a few bucks on the pile.  The gravity-free FPS deserves a revival, and Retrovirus could go a long way towards making that happen.