Betrayer is a semi-open world FPS that is crammed with ideas. It ambitiously melds familiar gun-toting action with stealth, exploration, investigation and horror, while sporting a bold aesthetic and a pleasingly understated story that you must piece together yourself. Unfortunately, few of these ideas are executed as well as they could be, and while in theory Betrayer sounds excellent, in practice it feels lacklustre.
Set during the colonisation of America, Betrayer begins with you awakening on the stony shore of a cove with nothing to your name. Come to think of it, even your name is withheld from you. Following a trail inland, it soon becomes clear that the land of milk and honey has gone sour and is covered in bees. Your first port of call, Fort Henry, is abandoned, with only twisted, Pompeii-like ashen figures remaining. Strange creatures prowl the landscape; shadows clothed in Conquistador uniforms. Even the colour has almost entirely drained from the world, with only enemies and a couple of key characters painted with violent splashes of red.
If there's one thing Betrayer nails, it's the atmosphere of this world. Those starkly distinctive black and white visuals are accompanied by an ambience that combines whispering winds with a haunting musical score. Like Amnesia and DayZ, it's one of those games that becomes more unsettling the longer you play it. Soon the sound of a British flag fluttering atop a colonial fort causes a great surge of relief, as you hurry inside for some brief respite from the wilds.
But this is only half the story. By ringing a bell inside these fortifications, the harsh white light of the daytime is replaced by a bleak, misty night where the dead lurk in the shadows. Some of these, in the form of Lost Souls, you can speak to, and help put to rest. Others can only be returned to the grave through more forceful means.
The switching between day and night is one of Betrayer's more original systems, and it plays into the key focus of the game; unravelling the mystery of why the land of the free has become the land of the dead. Very little is explained to you through dialogue, because the few people you're able to converse with know about as much as you do. Thus the only way to put the puzzle together is to scour the land by both day and night, searching for clues dotted around the environment. Scraps of diary entries from an expedition heading inland, fragments of jewellery buried in the earth, the skeletal remains of former colonists. Each find provides a sprinkling of insight into what went wrong.