Ever wonder what would happen if a little known developer got their hands on the Unreal 3 engine and decided to make a four player duck and cover game like Gears of War? Well worry no longer because that game is here. The Scourge Project Episodes 1 and 2, available on Steam, is a 4 player co-op kill fest.
The story basically boils down to this, you are an elite squad of members comprised of 4 player characters, Stonewall, Amp, Mass, and Shade. Your immediate objective is to thwart Alpha Squad from obtaining some top secret stuff before you do. Now that we have the premise set aside, let’s get into the meat of the game starting with Single Player.
Upon the start of the single player campaign, it begins slow, allowing you at acclimate to the game. I personally used a Games for Windows controller, so didn't have much of a problem getting everything down. You also have what is called Ambrosia, which acts as a shield device, and pounds enemies if they are near, featured promptly in the upper right hand side of your screen. When in the single player game, the other three squad members that you do not control perform actions by themselves such as combat, healing you etc. You can also issue commands as to order these guys around a little bit. However, with that being said, the NPCs in single player that are on your side are dumb. I mean really dumb, the kind of dumb that would get you on the short-bus in real life.
Your single player squad will frequently be the cause of your death, which is very frustrating as if a single squad member dies you have to start back from the save point, which during some portions of the levels can be very far away. Meaning you could have just basically done a whole half a level, then run up a flight of stairs to get ambushed in the doorway, and thanks to your "teammates" they run up and do the same, quickly ending your game. Another thing about this horrible AI is that while your team mates have no trouble what so ever healing you, they won't ever heal each other. Meaning if your team mates fall in combat, it is up to you to rescue them, or risk starting the mission over because a single squad member dies. The odds of all of your squad members surviving a mission without any help from yourself is similar to winning a game of online roulette. It's highly recommendable that you do keep them alive as some of the battles will be incredibly difficult without all members being up.
It got to the point where I actually wished that I didn't have any allies at all because they seemed to be the cause of a lot of my deaths (trying to keep them from dying, waiting for them to come and heal me) and seemed to get in the way more than they actually helped. Though on occasions where 10 or so baddies were all coming after me, they were welcomed to take the cross fire. If this game were meant to be a single player game, it would fail simply because of the horrible AI. But since it is meant to be a 4 player co-op game I can forgive the weak AI.
Where the game shines, and very brightly at that, is when you are playing online with three of your friends. Designed from the ground floor to be a 4 person game, it is very satisfying taking down bad guys and exploring the levels with your friends. That is what the Scourge Project seems to be all about, and it is amazing in that aspect. Playing the co-op mode is definitely the way that you want to go if you are going to play, or have a lot of patience and get through the single player campaign with AI that is as dead as a door-nail.
Graphical and sound wise the game looks and sounds brilliant. The game is using the Unreal Engine, which also powered Gears of War, BioShock 2, and several other high profile games, and it really does a lot to enhance The Scourge Project. Shadowing effects and lighting details are amazing. The text scrawled across walls, and holographic banners are very easy to read and see from a far distance. I don't know exactly which version of the engine that they are using, but they are doing a fairly good job at using it. Texture models are solid, player models are solid as well. Item design is very unique and the world feels as though the developers were trying to make it as immersive as possible.
You can hear your footsteps change under the different environments, bullets coming at you with surround sound, ambient noises from within the games design that all do a lot to bring the game to life. With the Unreal Engine behind it, there should be no reason why this area was lacking at all and it doesn't lack. With this being the first game I have ever played or seen from Tragnarion Studios, I am greatly surprised and happy with the product that they have put out.
Because it is online for person co-op game, this game has MASSIVE replay value. I could imagine playing this game with friends for a very long time in the foreseeable future. Each person you play with will have a different play style and bring something different to the game. Plus as more chapters come out you will want to replay the older chapters to catch up on what you were missing story-wise. Not only that but the multiplayer mode powered by GameSpy has several different forms of games that you can play. They have Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and Frontiers. Plus in the Barracks you can see your friends, and your ranking.
As you play the game you will slowly gain levels for your weapons, for healing (co-op points) and several other categories that help your character progress, and grants achievements on steam. Overall this adds a lot to the game play, and makes playing on a team fun. Each mode that I have tried out online (I have not yet tried Frontiers) has been a blast to play as well.
With a relatively unknown publisher, virtually no PR, I am very satisfied with this game. It harkens Gears of War feelings, but adds a little bit of spunk making it four players. And while the single player is definitely lacking due to the poor AI. The game makes up for these short comings in the multi-player mode. Personally I cannot wait till the next chapters come out, I will be looking forward to killing some more Alpha Team that is if they dare challenge me.