Volume on PlayStation 4
Volume is an interesting game. Coming from Mike Bithell, the man who managed to make squares super interesting characters, it was hard to pin down what to expect from this latest title. Knowing that it was going to be a stealth focused game inspired by titles such as Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions gave an inkling as to what the gameplay would be like, but how was there going to be a twist that elevates Volume above all others?
For Bithell’s latest game, the twist comes in the form of a new telling of a classic story. Volume is a modern day Robin Hood. But this doesn’t just mean you’ll be stealing from the rich and giving to the poor in a sci-fi setting. Instead, Volume changes the whole dynamic of Robin Hood’s exploits down to its very core.
Instead of robbing caravans you’ll be infiltrating locations in a virtual realm in order to teach the oppressed masses that they can take back what rightfully belongs to them. How does he teach? By live-streaming, of course. Using the eponymous Volume, Locksley (the protagonist) enters digitally recreated rooms straight from Gisborne (the big bad guy) and shows just how to get past all of his guards and obstacles.
The Volume representations are devoid of much detail, but they still manage to look beautiful in their simplicity. The minimalistic approach is clear enough to perfectly display obstacles and paths, and allows the most important things to stand out, so no confusing heists with hidden items. The only heavily detailed elements on screen are Locksley and the guards who are at the center of each heist.
Infiltration in Volume requires the player to move silently through corridors as you collect gems (there to represent things of value simply since this is just a simulation after all), in order to open up the way out. To make matters interesting there are some guards dotting each of the maps with no other mission but to put you down as quickly as possible.
These situations play out like a puzzle (or series of puzzles in later missions), where the player must figure out the fastest way to collect everything and make it out safely. There are plenty of checkpoints within levels, so even the most frustrating challenges in Volume are doable since you can repeat a checkpoint as many times as you wish until you get it just perfect. The puzzles require not only avoiding guards, but maneuvering them, as well.
The game is called Volume and it is the name of the device used to enter the simulations yes, but sound itself is one of the primary mechanics of the game. Guards are responsive to it, and you will need it to distract and guide them. It’s a clever mechanic that manifests itself in interesting ways. Whether it’s the Mute device that lets you run on noisy floors without making a peep, or the Bugle, which can bounce off of walls allowing you to make some trick shots in order to pull a guard to a specific, preferably isolated, location.
When the mechanics are all working together, they make for some truly interesting puzzles. But, unfortunately, most of the time the levels don’t require much of a second thought in Volume. When everything is tightly packed, and you really need to navigate, it’s some of the best stealth action out there. But, when there is wiggle room, the game is far too simple, and it’s a shame when some of the sequences are really worth your time. But those top-notch sequences are few and far in between.
There is a social aspect for the campaign in the form of leaderboards. Each level has a par, but you’d be hard pressed not to be able to complete every single challenge well under that time. If you happen to be the type of person who must be in the top tier of players, then that will certainly provide plenty of replay for you in Volume, but outside of that, the game is largely overly simple across its 100 stages. Created levels, on the other hand, are a potential beacon of hope.
Players can create and publish their very own levels using all of the mechanics of the game. I’ve only played a couple, but they showed some serious ingenuity and added a fresh breath of life to Volume.
They lack the premise of the game’s interesting narrative, but they make up for that by providing seriously fun missions. There are some really creative gamers out there, it turns out.
All in all, Volume is a solid game. Its new-age telling of a certified classic is intelligently done. Its gameplay shines every now and then, but is overall lacking during most scenarios. Yet still, it is recommended if you are a fan of stealth and puzzles. If the community continues its support with interesting designs for level layouts, you’re sure to have something truly special on your hands.