Quick, name the greatest First-Person Shooter ever created in the history of gaming! Too slow! For those of you still thinking, let me be far from the first to declare that GoldenEye 007 stands today as one of the greatest gaming pinnacles the industry has ever reached. Quick, what, besides your friend’s greasy hands all over your favorite controller, was the most heinous kind of treachery committed during late-night, GoldenEye, multiplayer bonanzas? If you answered ‘Screen-looking’, then we are well on our way to being just the best of friends (I would have also accepted choosing Oddjob over and over again).
Screen-looking was (and still is, though rare in appearance) a capital offense, with the accused often being branded as a dirty, lying cheater. Friendships were ruined, controllers were thrown, and I’m sure somewhere along the line Mountain Dew was spilt. Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of peeking, but hey, point me to the one person who has never screen-looked and I shall hail them as the Greek God of Self Control. My point is, as much as we hate catching someone else doing it, we ourselves are guilty of the double standard. It’s in our nature to use what resources we have to our advantage, and that’s exactly what Samurai Punk had in mind with the development of their latest game, Screencheat.
As a FPS, this game competes for attention with thousands of others in a market that’s simply saturated. With that being said, Screencheat does its best to throw a nostalgic twist on what would otherwise be a humdrum chore. Upon logging in and joining a server, you find your game loading to show not one, but four separate screens; yours, and the three other members of your party. You quickly realize (if you hadn’t inferred from the title) that the point of this shoot-em-up game is to use the other screens to your advantage, literally making the antiquated tactic of screen-looking a key component of success.
But the surprise (and frustration, initially and throughout) doesn’t stop there. Though there may be three other screens to look at, you soon learn (if you neglected to read the game description) that you and every other character is freaking invisible. That’s right, the only indication that you’re about to head-butt your opponent‘s crotch with your Revolver Rifle comes from either their screen matching the part of the map you’re in, the visible firing of their weapon, or a little floating orb that appears whenever they’re forced to reload their weapon.
The sensory overload of having four screens to navigate creates a fast-paced, if not downright overwhelming environment. The movement of your character, vastly limited by a lack of sprinting ability, action rolls, leaning, and all-too-human jumps, is soon superseded by the realization of just how damn easy it is to die in the game. Of the eight weapons available, the Blunderbuss and Grenade Launcher make getting kills as simple as pointing in a direction opposite of yourself and firing, while the Candelabra is just as ridiculously unwieldy as you’d imagine. Of course, rapid, random firing comes with the consequence of becoming semi-visible every time you fire and reload, which isn’t indicated by any sort of onscreen ammo count (time to pull an Archer and start counting gunshots).
In fact, the display itself is rather desolate despite the presence of the three other enemy screens. You have no health or armor (One-hit kill, as it were in the days of the Golden PP7), no HUD, and only a single counter in the corner of your screen to show you and everyone else just how bad you’re doing. Along with this banal layout comes an in-game chat that is just as unappealing, leaving you stranded in the middle of the map as you type out vile threats and get your face shot off by random blind-fire (or quad-vision-fire, whatever). This lack of visual feedback is in no way ameliorated by the additional enemy screens, and may, if anything, leave you feeling far more vulnerable.
The music of the game, both in the lobby and on the battlefield, is the discordant spawn of sounds from Megaman, Tron, and Contra. This is in no way a dark mark, however, since the soundtrack does a great job reflecting the game’s chaotic feel with an equally chaotic beat. Voiced audio, sounding oddly akin to a teenager huffing Sulfur hexafluoride, alerts you to the start and end of a match, multi-kills, and in-game developments (King-Of-The-Hill announcements and such). Alongside a fitting soundtrack comes an equally entertaining kill message generator, letting you know upon killing (or being killed) that you just “Armageddoned” THAT1GUY_2014 or got “Tenderly Loved” by OtherGamer1722. These quirky little blurbs add to the levity of the game, and some are certainly worth killing/dying to see.
Now, before I approach that hackneyed argument we’ve all come to know and hate, let me assure you that I understand how many indie games aren’t played for their stunning graphics, and that’s not a bad thing. It simply means that the game bears the burden of entertaining players in other ways by distracting them with novel game mechanics, interesting weapons, and intricate maps. Screencheat, with graphics on par with Goldeneye 007 (which released in 1997, by the by), fails to deliver on all but the first of these. The available weapons are a tired déjà vu of every FPS made prior, and the maps bear a stripped-down, shrunken semblance to UnrealTournament 2004, being better suited for 1v1 instead of 1v3.
Even the various gameplay modes are cut from the same cloth as the hundreds of games before them, offering forms of Deathmatch, King-Of-The-Hill, and One-Shot (among others not released to Beta) as your only alternatives to pass the time. With such a limited selection, the novelty of the hunt quickly dies down, forcing you to grin and bear yet another round of manic run-n’-gunning. The blatant lack of character leveling or perk progression is also a massive letdown in today’s day and age, where many FPSs allow for a customizable perk tree, ability development, or at the very least customizable appearances and weapons.
Overall, Screencheat leaves you feeling somewhat underwhelmed and not the least bit satisfied with your decision to take a trip down cheater’s memory lane. With too heavy a reliance on the novel idea of necessary screen-looking, the rest of the game’s details resort to a default level of prosaic monotony. Sure, the first two or three rounds have you on the edge of your seat, swearing uncontrollably and reveling in the omniscient power to see through your opponent’s eyes, but once that wears off (and it will), you’re left with a cut-and-paste FPS that simply isn’t worth the asking price. The half-finished feel of the game’s interface and lack of actual features hurts more than the screen-looking helps. Call it harsh, but even dirty, cheating screen-lookers have standards, and Screencheat falls well short of them.