There’s nothing that says catharsis like playing an old First-Person Shooter. In this modern age of tutorials, unskippable cutscenes, and overwrought storytelling, there’s comfort in just digging in and killing everything in sight. Lately, there has been a bit of a resurgence of this genre with reboots/remakes like Rise of the Triad and the HD versions of Serious Sam. The latest entry to this is Wrack, an original title by Final Boss Entertainment.
Wrack is a Steam Early Access game, which means it is being sold for $15 while it is still being worked on and updated. The theory behind it is that players have an opportunity to give feedback as the game is made while giving the developers funding to keep working on the project. Essentially, you’re buying a bag of seeds on the promise that they will turn into a beanstalk. This preamble is there to prepare you for the fact that with Wrack, well there’s really not a whole lot of content there. The game consists of six story-based levels, as well as a time-attack mode and score mode with those levels, and that’s about it right now.
With that said, let’s talk about the game that IS there. Wrack is an old-school FPS in the level design mold of DOOM, Quake, or Serious Sam. The name of the game here is moving fast, circle strafing enemies, and firing from the hip. One of the features of this game’s world is that it doesn’t even try to look like a place where people do anything but wait for someone to fight. Levels consist of platforms, lava pits, closets, as well as switches which can grant you access to the next meat grinder. This design choice works well enough and it’s consistent with Wrack‘s retro sensibility, although there is a distinct feeling of sameness even in this brief taste.
While story isn’t really a factor in these types of games, the developers did include some semblance of one, told in still images between levels. While the story is pretty standard fare, the developers are intent on keeping things light with lots of meta humor throughout. Objectives are pretty straightforward in Wrack; kill everything, turn switches, kill everything else. Enemies consist of machine sentries of multiple sizes, as well as security guards that look a lot like Garrus from the Mass Effect series. At this point, there were a handful weapons available. Three of them, the pistol, shotgun, and rocket launcher (introduced very late in the game), were pretty run-of-the-mill. The other two, a plasma gun that shoots in a low arc and a sword that has a swing motion you need to take into account when using, represented a bit of a step off the beaten path.
There were a couple of pervasive issues with Wrack that caused me some frustration throughout. Weapon balance felt a bit off, in that the shotgun can hit enemies from across the room and the pistol’s effectiveness is all over the place. One time I took out four enemies from across the room with four shots, while other times I had to hit a Garrus enemy who was right in front of me 10 times in the face before it went down. Consequently, I pretty much stuck with the shotgun for the entirety of my playthrough. The other problem I had was with the lava pits throughout. Falling into them was instant death, and I’d have to either restart the level or from one of the game’s sparse checkpoints; on a PC game in 2013, that’s just not acceptable.
Overall, I thought Wrack was pretty fun if you’re interested in playing something with that classic FPS vibe. it does a decent job of evoking old-school level design and movement. Unfortunately, it also carries along with it some of the more bland and annoying genre tropes of the era.
To their credit, Final Boss Entertainment is very up-front about the fact that their game is still very much a ‘work in progress’, so you know what you’re getting into. They have promised a lot more content as development progresses, so here’s hoping they fix some of this game’s issues along the way as well. It is entirely possible that Wrack will turn into a fantastic gaming experience as it moves closer to completion, and I genuinely hope it does. As of right now however, this game suffers from a lack of content and compelling features that set it apart from the crowd.
[+Fast paced and smooth] [+Dumb, funny story] [-Inconsistent weapon balancing] [-Frustrating checkpoint system] [-This might be all you get]