Fallen Aces Preview: A Rising King

Coming soon to PC is Fallen Aces. Fight against waves of goons with your bare hands or whatever items you can pick up or stealthily sneak your way to victory in this action game inspired by the FPSs of the 1990’s and Noir stories of the early to mid 20th Century. But is it any good?

Fallen Aces Preview Cover

Developed by Trey Powell and Jason Bond and published by New Blood Interactive, Fallen Aces is an upcoming action game inspired by Noir crime stories and the First-Person Shooters of the 1990’s. Featuring hand drawn characters and comic book inspired cutscenes, the title will see you punching, kicking, shooting, and sneaking through the game’s three episodes as you try to defeat the criminals who plague Switchblade City. This current demo build however gives you a small but no less entertaining preview of what’s to come in the full title.

As someone who grew up playing games like Fallen Aces, I’m always intrigued to see what developers can do with them; what new gameplay concepts they can come up with or how they can give them settings and environments you’d never have seen back then. And from what I have seen so far of Fallen Aces, it does spice up the ‘Boomer Shooter’ subgenre with some interesting new mechanics and top notch presentation even at this stage of development.

Fallen Aces E3 2021 Trailer

Fallen Aces is set to release ‘Soon’ on Steam.

STORY – A DAME TO KILL FOR

In Fallen Aces, you take on the role of Mike, an agent working for the A.C.E.S. vigilante group. He along with a masked vigilante called Nightwave set out to rescue Delia, an undercover agent who had infiltrated a local gang as nightclub singer until her cover was blown.

From what is shown in this current build, the writing is solid; it’s compelling enough to make you want to know more and there is just enough of it so you don’t spend most of your time watching and not playing. It really nails the feel and tone for a story like this.

Fallen Aces' Cutscenes are told via voice acted comic book panels.

Fallen Aces’ Cutscenes are told via voice acted comic book panels.

This makes it feel authentic and genuine to the sources which inspired it. The title takes keen influence from Film Noir and Gangster movies as well as old crime comic books of the 1920’s/1930’s. However these influences never feel like you have to know the sources to enjoy what you are seeing; for example, you don’t need to know who Dick Tracy or The Shadow is to get a kick out of the design of Nightwave.

THE LITTLE THINGS

Throughout the world are notes and newspapers that you can find dotted around the levels which help to build the world and make it feel more lived in. And they can give you an insight into the lore and backstory of the city and some of its key players. This coupled with the fact you can overhear the various baddies talking to themselves or to each other help to make the world feel far more alive than many large scale and budgeted games out at the moment.

Man I wish I was wanted...

Man I wish I was wanted…

Everything feels realised, feels alive, and feels like something that you just want to explore more of. And feels like Fallen Aces comes from a genuine place of admiration for Noir and Crime stories. I really hope that we get to see more of this world in the final build. The story too is fine for what it is; well paced, well written, well executed. It is hard to comment fully on it given how little is shown, but I look forward to seeing more.

GAMEPLAY – SMOKING ACES

The blurb for Fallen Aces says that it feels like an FPS from the 90’s, which to be honest I can’t say I really agree with. Whilst it has the presentation of a 90’s ‘Boomer Shooter’ (boy, I hate that term), its mechanics feel just too modern to be considered a total retro throw back.

Fallen Aces does have gibs though which is a plus.

Fallen Aces does have gibs though which is a plus.

The game offers you the option between stealth and going in guns blazing, which FPS games of that era never really did. And even beyond that, the pacing of the levels so far lack that quick fire flare that games of that era did. It is a little more mission based and the gameplay is more in depth than most similar games of that era. This isn’t a criticism mind; the game is great to play. But if you are looking for a pure 90’s run and gun throwback game, this isn’t it. Or at least not from going what I have seen thus far.

It feels far closer to the modern Wolfenstein titles given how it handles the option between stealth and all out action. However the gameplay at hand has more of its own identity. Most of the combat in this build is melee based and sees you using your fists or whatever you can get your hands on to defend yourself.

Judo chop!

Judo chop!

You can charge attacks, kick, block, dodge, and do finishing moves. Also the baddies react appropriately to where you hit them. For example, if you punch them in the face they might hold their nose signifying you broke it, kick them between the legs and, well, you get the idea. It’s little touches like that which, besides looking cool, give Fallen Aces a unique feel to its combat.

ONE OR THE OTHER

Whilst Fallen Aces does give you the option between stealth and combat, it does feel like you’re inevitably forced down an all combat path sooner rather than later; It can be difficult to sneak by many foes. For example, in order to save Delia you’ll have to pass through a room filled with gangsters and no real way around them (or at least none I could find). 

Here we go again...

Here we go again…

As such it leaves the game as having the feeling that many other games have: it gives you the “stealth or guns blazing” choice, where the stealth doesn’t feel as developed as it should but you are almost implicitly forced into it as the waves of villains you’ll face otherwise can be too numerous for you to beat. And even then you can find yourself forced into a room full of unavoidable villains.

However with that said, the game isn’t terribly difficult. I was able to complete it in about an hour on the hardest difficulty only dying once. Though when I did I soon respawned back into the game. And note, that is ‘respawned’ not ‘reloaded’; everything will be as you left it when you died. It’s an interesting creative choice to take. Granted as far as difficulty is concerned, your mileage will vary.

Come get some!

Come get some!

Yet despite these issues I am interested to see what else the title has to offer. And I do hope there is more variety in what we are tasked in doing. Because if the demo is anything to go by, there is the risk in it possibly getting too repetitive.

GRAPHICS & AUDIO – CHICAGO PIANO

To be frank with you dear reader, the graphics and art style of Fallen Aces is something of a mixed bag. There are some elements of it that are truly great to behold. However there are some elements where it is sorely lacking. To start out with the positive, our cast of characters all look great. The character design as a whole is really fresh to see. Even the generic goons you whack along the way have a distinct and cool look to them. And the comic book style cut scenes are really fantastically done with some innovative shot composition to them.

Seriously though, Fallen Aces looks great even in this preview build.

Seriously though, Fallen Aces looks great even in this preview build.

Additionally the levels have a decent flow to them and are easy to navigate for the most part. The only time I ever got lost was due to issues with lighting, but more on that in a moment. Also there are a few neat hidden secrets dotted about here and there. So if you keep an eye out you can easily find a few extra items to help you on your way. Be that a hidden health pack or a secret route.

WHERE AM I?

Fallen Aces can be a terribly dark game at times. And I’m not talking thematically here; there are just some areas that are just way too dark to see through. With large, dark, black shadows covering certain sections of the map. Whilst these do look cool, it can lead to sections where it is simply too dark to know where you are and what is going on. And with no flashlight or anything else to help you out.

No, really, WHERE AM I?!

No, really, WHERE AM I?!

So if you aren’t careful, you can find yourself easily stumbling about in the dark looking for a way out. Sure you can crank up the brightness to help you, but it’s less than ideal as it can ruin the aesthetics the game is trying to achieve.

OLD TIME SWING

The soundtrack feels period appropriate with smooth and smoky jazz feel. Which like so much of the game, really helps to underscore the setting and tone of the title. It all sounds great. Honestly with soundtracks as good as Fallen Aces, it is hard to really talk about them; it’s great, it gets the thumbs up from me and I have no problems with it.

The voice acting is all top notch with our cast giving it their all without it feeling too stereotypical. It all has the right kind of pitch for the kind of title that Fallen Aces is; serious enough to be compelling but still with some flare to give a tip of the cap to its inspirations.

Fallen Aces was reviewed on PC.

Summary
Fallen Aces is one to watch for the future. Even at this stage of its development it has a fantastic soundtrack, awesome art style, and a fun core gameplay loop. However some environments can be hard to navigate due to the lighting, and the stealth mechanics feel like they need a little more work.
Good
  • Brilliant art style
  • Fun combat system
  • Great voice acting
Bad
  • Environments can be too dark
  • Stealth feels a tad under developed

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