Two years ago, the overwhelming reaction to id Software’s amazing Doom reboot confirmed that there is a very real thirst, in this day and age, for old-school, fast-paced, no-BS shooters. No more huddling behind the nearest waist-high wall and occasionally popping my head out to fire at a distant gunner. I want to get out there, feel the wind in my face, and look my enemies in the eyes before I gib them messy.
I’m still waiting for the rest of the triple-A industry to catch up in this regard – even Bethesda’s own Wolfenstein series leans a little too heavily on stealth and other such nonsense – but in the meantime, a number of indie devs have heeded the call.
For example, Indefatigable’s excellent Amid Evil, a fantasy-themed twitch shooter paying clear homage to Heretic and Hexen, recently popped up on Early Access and checks all of the important boxes. The main character has a running speed of about 90 miles per hour, words like “OVERKILL” flash across the screen in barely-legible fonts, and the sprawling levels are the sort where a player could accidentally run off a ledge, think they’re about to fall to their death, and then, uh, land on a secret ledge containing a staff that fires miniature exploding planets? Sure.
I should probably mention that since Amid Evil is based in medieval fantasy – I’m not sure, but the title might be slightly punny – it’s not guns that we’re fighting with, but rather staves and swords. Every projectile fired by friend or foe moves slowly enough that it can be dodged or shot down outright. This is particularly enjoyable with the blade weapon which sends an arc of green energy across the room. If an enemy knight intercepts it with an arc of his own, what manifests is something of a long-ranged swordfight, which is really something to behold.
Amid Evil looks old and new at the same time, somehow. It pays homage to the shooters of the mid-‘90s without using it as an excuse to half-ass the visual design. The textures are heavily pixelated and the modeling is blocky, but the game looks sharp, runs fast and is full of dazzling colored lighting effects that turn shootouts into fireworks shows. There’s also enough variety in the architecture and color schemes that individual rooms are distinct from one another.
That’s important, because muddy visuals can be the death of a shooter with labyrinthine levels such as these. Instead, in spite of how much the routes twist and fork and overlap, I never found myself lost. Although Amid Evil is full of deviously hidden secret items – usually involving traipsing across geometry that looked like static scenery – the mainline paths go down incredibly smoothly, as the designers always seem to find a way to nudge players in the right direction even when there seem to be countless choices.
In short, Amid Evil is a blast. Between this, Dusk and Ion Maiden, the ‘90s-style FPS is making a hell of a comeback this year. Amid Evil only just launched on Early Access, with a number of features still missing, including a multiplayer mode. But what I’ve played of the game so far is a pitch-perfect homage, and a brilliant alternative to the sluggish, hand-holding action games that dominate the triple-A scene. I can’t wait to play the finished product.