Cyberpunk is a tough genre to get right. Creatives like filmmakers, authors, and video game developers often choose it for its neo-noir futuristic aesthetics. Bringing stunning visuals to an often impoverished city. Foreclosed absolutely nails this aspect of the genre, but doesn’t quite deliver on its social nuances.
Indie developer Antab Studio’s third-person shooter tells its Cyberpunk story in the style of a graphic novel. At times, this design choice is inspired, marrying the unique way a comic book is told with satisfying ‘walking simulator’ gameplay. However, an uneven combat experience tarnishes what the indie title could have been.
Story – Surface Level Cyberpunk
Evan Kapnos wakes up to the unfortunate news that his identity has been foreclosed. The company that owns his Identity Debt has gone bankrupt. In 2084, that means Evan is unable to work, access money, or travel to where he wants. He can’t even get a meal from his own fridge. He is effectively denied his right as a human being. It’s a traditional Cyberpunk tale involving megacorporations living in public lawlessness, while the worker bees like Evan are exploited for political and financial gains.
Fans of this dystopian social commentary will find a lot to love in the indie title. On the surface level it does a good job at establishing the cruel world Evan occupies. However, it doesn’t take long to realise that there isn’t much else that the game has to say about that cruelty. There’s no down-and-out citizens like you to converse with, just grunts to kill, and objectives to reach. The story is only half-told without contrasting the high-life of the city’s corporations with the low-life of its citizens.
This would be less of an issue if Evan wasn’t such a bland protagonist. The only personality he exhibits is his perpetual furrowed brow. He’s there for exposition, and to act as a placeholder for all those down-and-out citizens we never get to see. As a result, the gruff hero never gets the chance to develop as his own character. It doesn’t help that his voice actor tends to ham-up most of the dialogue.
Gameplay – Flawed, yet fun
Antab Studio’s decision to make Foreclosed a third-person action game with lite RPG elements is an uneven venture. If you can excuse certain annoying quirks, and have a lot of patience, an enjoyable time can be squeezed from the combat.
Most of the gameplay involves using Evan’s Symbiotic Pistol and Augmentation Skills. Both have special abilities unlockable by using EXP. Some of these skills leech health from enemies, lift them into the air, and pierce armour. A creative ability I had a lot of fun experimenting with was using telekinesis to propel bullets towards enemies.
Apart from Passive Skills, almost all abilities are unlockable at any point in the game. This never feels overwhelming, as there are only six skills available for each of the Augmentation and Symbiotic Pistol tabs. However, each ability has a cooldown. If skills are used too much, Evan’s implants will overheat. This leaves him vulnerable to incoming attacks while squirming in pain.
This can be a deadly consequence, as it only takes a couple stray bullets to down Evan. If he overheats in the middle of a close-quarters battle, he will almost certainly die. In fact, if he so much as pokes his head out of cover for more than two seconds at any point in the game, he will almost certainly die.
This is a major issue with the combat. You are too weak compared to the enemies, who tend to spring-up unexpectedly. Taking cover helps, but when your powers use the same overheating bar as your pistol, it’s hard to get into a good flow when you have to stop one shot before a kill. What makes this more frustrating is that every time I overheated, I had to manually unequip each Symbiotic Pistol Skill and re-equip it to get it to start working again. Hopefully this is just a glitch that will get a future patch, as I saw no benefit to forcing you into inventory management in the middle of a struggling battle.
Baffling autosave checkpoints make this problem worse. At no point can you manually save, so you’re left relying on autosaves, which don’t trigger during long battles. Dozens of enemies will have to be killed over and over just to get to the bit you’re actually struggling with. Even outside of combat, the autosaves aren’t ideal. I got stuck at a bit where I had to shoot a window and climb along a building before starting a fight all over again.
The indie title also has a significant movement issue. It’s far too sensitive. One quick flick of an analogue stick sends the camera halfway across the screen. This makes it very hard to get an accurate shot on an enemy. There is no reticle while aiming from the hip, further prolonging lining up a shot. I would spend far too long aiming down the sights, taking cover multiple times before actually firing. I had to turn the movement speed all the way down, and aim assist all the way up to try and fix this issue. It helped, but not by much.
There is a very limited stealth option for those wanting to avoid the third-person shooting for as long as possible. Enemies can be overheated if you remain undetected while close to them. However, a firefight will always auto-activate early on in an encounter, no matter how sneaky you are. I didn’t really see the point of including this feature if it’s only available for the first thirty-seconds of any combat situation.
Despite the various combat flaws, I was excited to try out every skill. Lifting shields off of enemies, using telekinesis, and setting up strategic health leeches to help me survive a fight were very satisfying to use. I just wish there had been more opportunities to use stealth, and that there were more enemy types to try out different abilities on.
When I wasn’t thrown back to a ridiculous autosave, or wasting time fighting with the camera, I had a great time experimenting with different skills. There is a good action game to be found here, it’s just hampered by silly annoyances that ruin the experience.
Graphics And Audio – Sublime Style
The big selling point to Foreclosed is its comic book-inspired visuals, and it absolutely delivers on this promise. Cel-shaded graphics perfectly place you in its colourful dystopian future. Even better than the artwork is the integration of its playable comic book panels.
All it really amounts to is pushing a joystick in the direction that moves the story along, but the way this looks and feels is incredibly satisfying. At times, I would go the wrong direction, or run into an enemy and break the immersion, but this didn’t happen all that often. It’s a great directorial achievement, as it mustn’t have been easy to construct these sleek set-pieces.
The penultimate chapter ended up being one of my favourite sequences I’ve played in a game recently. Exploring Antab’s take on a cyberspace environment was strikingly beautiful. I only wish there hadn’t been so much combat, as it did not mesh with the stylish construction of the rest of the level. The music and fantastic audio design of this sequence represents the best the indie title has to offer.
While the combat music got a little stale towards the end, every other track was stellar. The jaunty opening tune is a particular favourite, as it’s not a style often included in futuristic settings. I appreciated the contrast of a dystopian world and the happy-go-lucky tones playing over it.
Foreclosed was reviewed on Xbox One. A review key was provided by Evolve PR.