- Format: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
- Unleashed: 13th October 2015 (PS4/PC), 16th October 2015 (Xbox One)
- Publisher: KISS ltd
- Developer: RedBedlam
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.bedlamthegame.com/
- Game code provided by PR
Bedlam is a game based on a book, and while we haven’t read the book, the game has an interesting story to tell and it does it well and without losing your attention. It’s based on the novel of the same name, written by Chrisopher Brookmyre, which isn’t necessary to read before playing the game. It’s also touted as a genre-jumping FPS which to some degree it is; but as you are First Person Shooting your way through everything, perhaps sub-genre jumping is more accurate, with different variants of FPSs being the games it frequents.
It follows your journey as Heather Quinn, otherwise known as Athena, through a series of games after finding yourself waking up in a videogame. Beginning in the Quake-like “Starfire” game from the 90s, Athena jumps from game to game trying to find a way back to reality. She’s not the only one experiencing this and she’s also trying to find and help others trapped like her, while trying to avoid those attempting to keep them there.
As stories go, it’s really interesting and works well within the game and the way the levels unfold. You’re never kept in any one area for long enough – save for the finale – for the levels to outstay their or the story’s welcome. Because you are working through levels of games from days gone by, it’s easy to see why these games are a little more difficult to play through after how far games have come in the last two decades. In this respect it’s a little reminiscent of Evoland, though taking you through a brief history of FPSs rather than RPGs.
As for the moment-to-moment shooting, it all depends on which game’s weaponry you use. Most weapons are viable from the point they’re picked up all the way through to the conclusion. The only real feedback you’ll get from firing your gun will be if it hits something, and even then only really if it’s an enemy and only if it dies. Tiny blood spurts or a little bit of a knockback aren’t sufficient to make any of the weapons feel forceful or powerful – with the same applying when you get hit – but when enemies are killed, limbs are severed and ragdoll physics affect them; that’s when the weapons feel really good. There a quite a few one hit kill weapons or easy-to-headshot enemies, so it doesn’t feel that bad most of the time. But some weapons will just feel anaemic.
Enemies on the other hand have their ins and outs and the only enemies that aren’t particularly fun are the Germans from the WW2 game. Snipers can have their bullets dodged but the (presumably) hitscan weapons are not as easily outmanoeuvred as the comparatively slow laser/plasma/rockets fired at you by most of the other enemies. It means that fighting against the Axis is more of a slog than other levels, leaving you with less health and a slower pacing, as you use cover and ambush tactics to your advantage.
As for the finale – without spoiling anything – it’s probably a little too long, if only for the fact that it’s not broken down into different levels like other areas. We didn’t exactly rush through it but it felt as long as two other levels, and didn’t have quite enough story or dialogue to justify the length – which, for some, will be compounded by an ending that some might find underwhelming. We enjoyed it and think it ends in a good place, making it a good narrative-driven FPS that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
As for the visuals, it’s well stylised to the games of the times that they are emulating, with each of the weapons, enemies and objects keeping the same resolutions and look to them regardless of which game-verse they are in. Each game-verse does a good job of visual mimicry, perhaps being a little better looking to fit in more with the rose tint of nostalgia, rather than fully imitating how much of an eyesore some of these look to us now.
We came across a few minor issues here and there but nothing repeatable, save for the one on the final level of the pre-release build. It allowed enemies to walk through and shoot through some scenery in the latter half of the final level, without affording you the same ability; meaning you were essentially being killed by invulnerable enemies. So we lured them out to kill them from afar or ran past them. We will update this if it changes in the release build, but the developers are highly active at bug fixing in the Early Access forums on Steam so this should be squashed sooner rather than later.
Ultimately, Bedlam is a satisfying story that does a good job of not overstaying its welcome and keeps a good pacing to its varying levels. The voice acting is good, and helps the story tremendously – you even get to hear the whole story with Christopher Brookmyre voicing every character if you complete the game. It may not have the best weapons or the most satisfying shooting, but they’re interesting enough to serve their purpose of getting you through the game intact while enjoying the story.