First-person shooters have developed a sort of stigma over the years of being linear, cover and shoot forms of entertainment, primarily focusing on war in realistic scenarios. Soldiers of the Universe follows this mechanic almost religiously, giving new definition to the term “linear”. Infiltrating Middle-Eastern terrorist organizations across Syria and Istanbul, independent developers, Rocwise Entertainment, bring a sobering experience to the ‘duck and cover’ genre of FPS games.
Soldiers pits the player in with a colourful group of specialized comrades all with their own unique skills and dialogue. Though there’s not much dialogue throughout the course of battle, each character supposedly has their own style of play. Throughout my time with Soldiers I found myself running through the same old routine of following the completely linear path while the three members in my party blindly ran around corners into raging gunfire. Luckily for them, they’re rendered invincible, and mostly not targeted by enemy forces, thus leaving me to follow unsuspectingly into instant death encounters.
The story behind this “narrative-driven” shooter takes players through rugged and uninspired settings, holding the hands of the squad throughout the game. There are no secrets, hidden areas or objects, or any incentive to tread off of the linear questing, which is filled with un-lively, statuesque AI enemies. Gunning after the major Middle-Eastern terrorist organizations, players – and their dull squad – will fight through waves of tactless opponents throughout a dim range of maps.
Straight To The Point
Traversing through the maps is a breeze, with only one objective and one route to go, proceeding forward is literally the only option. There are instances of areas, which, in other shooters would be filled with loot, secret items and intel – Soldiers brings a barren wasteland. Empty homes are completely abandoned without anything interesting to investigate. Not even pieces of broken furniture or other household items were added to the game, leaving an unfinished, and un-rewarding experience to the FPS.
The emptiness of Soldiers is only scratching the surface of the limitations found in the linear campaign. While following your squad, like clockwork, every 20 seconds or so a handful of enemies began firing down upon you. What’s different from most shooters we see nowadays, is the enemies will switch to better cover, flank, or at the very least, act as though they resembled a human being. The enemies in Soldiers are as boring as they come, standing in place firing away at our hero. Only to reload would some of the terrorists hide in front of cover, but this is the actual extent of how motionless these enemies are. Hiding behind cover to regenerate your health was easy and fluid knowing none of the enemies dare move from their position.
Where’s The Arsenal?
Starting a mission will net you three various weapons throughout the following objective. Typically two types of assault rifles equipped with scopes, and a sidearm pistol. Looting enemies for their weapons is a no go, and any sort of special ammunition ceases to exist. There is the grenade option, as what would a war game be without some impactful explosion to throw around? Finding ammo is as easy as refilling from one of your support members of your squad, as they have an unlimited amount of free ammunition. Of course, there are also ammunition crates scattered throughout the levels – these being the only interactive objects found in the maps – but there’s not much need to go out of your way for these when it’s easier to simply track down your squadmates and reap the same results.
The lack of discovering more weapons or explosives is a real sore spot in Soldiers of the Universe. Many fans would agree that unlocking or finding secret or powerful weapons is a massive adrenaline rush in many of the FPS games around. Forcing the player to adhere to specific weapons hinders any sort of unique experience found in shooters. Gamers love options; to have these stripped away feels cheap and presents a lacking atmosphere filled with predictable moments time and time again.
As mentioned above, the maps are lacking creativity and content only pointing the player in the direction of your sole objective. The minimap and all of its minimalistic detail show a whopping three types of icons: you and your squad mates, upcoming enemy forces and the ever-present, but completely pointless ammo crates. The red arrow acting as the compass surrounds your mini map and points towards your objective; for anyone who is having trouble following the stale and linear path of the questline.
Though many FPS titles follow the same formula, most accomplish some sort of exciting essence in a dramatic storyline. Soldiers of the Universe – though it plays decently smooth and offers sub-par graphics utilizing the power of Unreal 4 – provides a lacking experience that can easily be left in the backdraft of stumbling shooters. Surrounding all of the negatives Soldiers has to offer, there is promise of something far greater from the indie development team, RocWise Entertainment. Let’s just hope future endeavours from the team prove more worthy than their tediously linear shooter, Soldiers of the Universe.