Fast-paced, gory and difficult. These are all elements that are expected from an early FPS-inspired shooter, and Incision has all three. I had the pleasure of previewing Incision for PC and I had a lot of fun with it. It has been a while since I’ve played an old-school FPS so Incision thoroughly tickled my nostalgia.
Developed by SmoothBrainDev and published by Hyperstrange, Incision was made by a pretty small crew by today’s standards, which is pretty impressive considering how great it feels to play. That being said, Incision is not without its flaws.
Incision is out now on Steam Early Access.
Story – Dark and Hellish
Like typical boomer-shooters, Incision makes the correct decision to not bog the player down with too much story. You can glean a lot from environmental storytelling and the various snippets of internal dialogue. Instead of cutscenes or a log or copious journal entries, you stare at a point of interest (signified by a sparkling green light) for a few seconds then dialogue appears. I like this because it doesn’t take away any agency from the player. There’s no cut away from the game so you can read it. There’s just enough dialogue that you get some sense of what’s going on without breaking your immersion from the gameplay. Although, I still didn’t have the greatest understanding of what was actually going on.
The world is in the process of being consumed by some hellish, fleshy monstrosity. You are a … something. Demon? Failed experiment? Whatever you are, you aren’t human. You want to kill monsters and stop the world from being completely consumed … I think. Whatever, who cares? Go and shoot the gross demon dudes.
Gameplay – Free-flowing Demon Slaying Action
The gameplay is where Incision shines. Like most games of the genre, it asks you to have stupidly fast reaction speeds. The fun comes from zoning in, dissolving everything else around you, and performing deathly feats so quick you can barely follow what’s happening. Incision gives you freedom over your difficulty by providing sliders that control how fast enemy projectiles are and how much damage they do. The meat of any shooter, though, is who you’re fighting and how you’re fighting them.
Arsenal and Enemy Range
This is where things start to feel a little lacking. Incision went with the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach with the weapons. You have your standards: pistol, shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher and minigun. And there’s one unique weapon called the Kitty, which is fine but a little lacklustre.
Each weapon has a secondary fire to spice things up, but still nothing you haven’t seen before. I do like the pistol secondary fire though. Hold down the right click and he’ll start spinning the pistol in his hand. If you time your shot right, it’ll do extra damage. It adds a level of precision and skill to any encounter. I mostly used it in place of the missing sniper rifle. One upside to the smaller number of weapons is that if you’re playing with a keyboard, you can give them all their own binding. I recommend assigning the rocket launcher, kitty and minigun to ‘Z’, ‘X’ and ‘C’ because those keys are unassigned.
There isn’t a heck of a lot of enemy types, but there’s enough to keep things difficult and interesting. There are a few close-ranged enemies, more mid-ranged ones, then only a few long-ranged enemies. But you’re only really going to be seeing the same ten enemies throughout the game. There are two unique bosses, with one showing up twice. All-in-all, there isn’t much but it can still keep your attention. The challenge doesn’t necessarily come down to enemy variety but enemy placement and level design.
It doesn’t give you gigantic arenas with thousands of enemies at once like Serious Sam, but rather smaller areas and hallways with intentional enemy placement like Quake or Doom. The levels wrap in on each other, giving you opportunities to explore for secrets. Don’t expect too much though. There are only eight levels, two of which are boss arenas. Also, the level with the most secrets is the first, and it only has five. I struggled to find all the secrets though, so they hid them well. This is all just for episode one, so more is to come.
During my preview, it became apparent that the mentality behind Incision was that of keeping things simple, bare and focused. It takes away some things while leaving others. There isn’t a crouch, but you can double jump and have three different movement speeds. The focus is on how you move during combat instead of exploration. There aren’t many weapons, and they are only basic staples of the genre, but they do work for the types of encounters you’ll be getting into. Incision is aware of what’s missing from the game and does its best to make up for it. It’s good enough that a lot of the polish that would find in other games goes unmissed. I did really want a quick save function though. It only saves in between levels and that’s just horrible at times.
Graphics & Sound – Gross and Heavy
Being a big PlayStation-era fan, I couldn’t help but feel for the graphics. Incision takes more aesthetic from Quake than it does Doom. They decorated the fully 3D environments with horribly lovable low-poly textures. The first enemy I came across actually reminded me a lot of the enemies in Quake. It does borrow from Doom in the grotesque department though. Fleshy walls and bloody pools are everywhere, making it all look like hell.
One major flaw is that everything can get a bit jumbled. The visuals are too complex for the graphics to allow, making it hard to see exactly what you’re looking at. There are particle and smoke effects that obstruct your view, making it frustrating when you’re trying to aim at something. Sometimes you can’t tell if what you’re shooting at is even dead or not. Do you waste the bullets to be safe, or risk getting a rocket to the face? I can see how this adds to the horror aesthetic but it’s unwelcome in what’s supposed to be fast-paced action. We want clarity, not arduous jump scares.
If all boomer shooters can be described as heavy metal, Incision rests somewhere in the industrial prog/doom metal area. The music is eerie and haunting when its slow, and blasting and heavy when it’s fast. I did find myself wishing the music was a bit more present. For a lot of smaller corridor-type battles, the music won’t change at all, keeping slow while I’m frantically firing away. They programmed it so that the songs transition when you reach certain parts of the level, which can be jarring. A few times, I would reach a new area and the music would ramp up significantly before the enemies had even spawned in. It is in early access right now though so I can definitely see this being something that’s tuned better in the future. I do love my metal, though. Incision’s soundtrack kept me happy.
Incision was previewed on PC with a key provided by Hyperstrange.