Thursday Review: Gunpoint

Gunpoint is an interesting game. It starts out full of character, winds up feeling a little contrived and convoluted by the end, but still delivers solid gameplay throughout. Being essentially a film-noir stealth game with more gadgets, it has the full standard gumshoe attire, and an amazing soundtrack that manages both to have a deliciously rich jazz style and a marvelous cyberpunk style for the same songs.

The core of the game revolves around the Crosslink, a tool that you use to rewire electronics on the fly, essentially allowing you to pass pretty much any security systems you encounter. Combined with other gadgets, you gain a  great deal of stealthy prowess through the course of the game, being able to fall from great heights and land safely and silently or shatter glass without making a sound.

Gunpoint has some wonderfully tense moments, and it’s got a lot going for it in its gameplay, except for some minor eccentricities. I recognize that part of the point of Crosslink is to give players a look at a sort of alternate world, and it adds a lot to the grit and style of the world in some ways, but at the same time I actually found it remarkably annoying. While it’s not super complex, some of the important techniques require a little precision; being two pixels off and not linking something can be annoying in the few places where timing really matters. It’s not immediately intuitive that one can just remove a circuit by clicking on the source object, which is very useful, but not fully explained.

However, the real disappointing moment for me in Gunpoint was with the story. It’s got a branching, dynamic story, but I’m left wondering if my play-through took me through a neglected branch or if every storyline sees the same decay; while its style is great at the very beginning of the game, Gunpoint’s writing gets less witty and more trite as one continues; to a certain degree you can’t fault a game that has intentional adherence to a certain genre for adhering too well to the genre, but the witty private-investigator dialogue gets trite to the point of absurdity. Even the other peoples’ responses generally get less “good”, and by the end of the game dialogue that I was drinking in early on got the dubious honor of being skipped. To top it off, a game that had every potential of being somewhat interesting to a wide audience got a red mark when the other characters began swearing at me in the dialogue; not only did it feel cheesy and poorly done but it meant that a game that would otherwise have been something I could recommend to a broad audience really can’t be commended to teens and young adults, who could have enjoyed the analytical stealth puzzling.

That said, Gunpoint is a beautiful, short experience. While it’s not long (I beat it in less than 2 hours), it’s got a rich and engaging story, at least for most of the game, and it has a satisfying challenge to it that many games can’t match. Everything feels hand-made and well designed, and if you’re the sort of person who can go back and replay it to see more of the content you might get more out of it than I did.

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