Developer:Futuremark Platform: PC Exclusive Expected Release Date: Late 2009
Shattered Horizon is a game with a difference – and not just in the fact that it’s being developed by Futuremark, who is best known for its benchmarking software. Yes, it’s the company's first game and that alone is quite interesting, but that’s not what makes it interesting.
Instead, it’s the setting that makes Shattered Horizon such a curiosity-piquing gem, though on the face of it it might not seem that way. Shattered Horizon is set in the future, in space – hardly the most innovative and unusual basis for a computer game, is it?
Except Shattered Horizon is unusual, because it doesn’t take that simple premise and go running with it until the most predictable and trite recesses of the sci-fi genre. Instead, it stays where it is and gets as comfortable as possible. Future. Space.
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Comfortable perhaps isn’t quite the right word though, as Shattered Horizon’s core feature is a dizzying commitment to a zero-gravity setting. Every level in the game is completely without gravity and you’ll spend the first few matches getting to grips with that and learning to acclimatise to a world where even the notion of altitude has become obsolete.
Even more unusually for a multiplayer game, Shattered Horizon has a surprisingly well-fleshed out story that explains the entire set-up too. It’s all about greedy corporations mining on the moon, causing a big accident and the survivors fighting with scientists from nearby space stations for control of remaining resources amid the newly formed asteroid belt that has formed around the earth.
It’s a plot filled with acronyms and details and one which would possibly make the foundation for a at-worst tolerable novel...but in reality it’s not one which is at all important to the game itself, nor is it something that really impacts on the game design. The two teams in this team-based, multiplayer only shooter may be essentially Miners vs. Science Guys, but it may as well just be Red vs. Blue – so we won’t digress into the nuances of the narrative.
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What is important is the zero-gravity setting, which completely changes the way that you might control or play the game, creating design challenges for the development team and gameplay challenges for the players. Suddenly you have to be aware of attacks potentially coming from above and below, as well as in front, behind and the sides. You need to learn to adapt to attacking in these ways too, while also compensating for the type of weapons that would feasibly work in this semi-realistic kind of setting, as well as how those weapons handle.
So, yes, it’s very different from most other FPS games you might have played, but the good news is that it’s also remarkably similar in a number of ways and a lot of the controls and features have been simplified down a bit to help newcomers, while still providing room for advanced tactics and showing-off. The game tries to stay reasonably close to reality, but that ethic fortunately doesn’t go beyond adapting the art style and a few core mechanics, such as the grenades. This is still a shooter, not a NASA Simulator.
The other good news of course is that if you are having trouble then, in space, nobody can hear you scream...of frustration.