Unreal 4, Unreal 5? No no no, take me back to the old Unreal: Facing the worlds (opens in a new tab)unbeatable soundtracks, “Yes, it’s a screenshot (opens in a new tab)“… Ghostware (opens in a new tab) transforms the boomer indie shooter revival’s proclivity for reinterpreting and revitalizing old classics on Epic’s original hits (Megagames), using the vibes and visuals of classic arena shooters to stealthily present single-player gameplay rich in history.
You wake up to what appears to be a self-conscious recreation of a 90s shooter in game fiction. Simpsons, has trapped your conscience in this digital world and wants you to fight for eternity with your fellow amnesiac, eccentric, anime-style prisoners.
The setup reminds me a lot of Neon White, and like Neon White, the dialogue is a bit, uh, awkward. It is not a problem for me, I am an ideological sardaukar warrior who always take up arms for defend Neon White’s goofy dialogue (opens in a new tab)and I already find the Ghostware aware Toonami dub dorks growing on me.
And the filming behind it all is brilliant. There’s always been something to recommend about just loading into an arena shooter with a bunch of bots and going to town, but adding story and campaign structure really makes it stand out. Ghostware does a great job of mimicking the pacing of arena shooter, and your opponents all nail the uniquely slick and slippery nature of such a game’s AI opponents.
Ghostware also mixes genres and derails in interesting ways. Between levels, you can chat with your fellow players in a central area, check entries for collectible lore, and revisit empty maps in search of secrets. This last feature reminds me of Haunted PS1 game, No player online (opens in a new tab), and similarly captures the eerie loneliness of being on an empty multiplayer server. As you search for boomer shooter-level secrets, a kind of Slenderman-y, glitchy poltergeist slowly chases you, ensuring you can’t hang around.
Likewise, there is a more puzzle/explore level inserted towards the end of the demo and presented as “unfinished content” that you slipped into. There’s a great weird vibe, and the demo ends with a fun boss battle that feels like a more laid-back version of Ultrakill V2 (opens in a new tab).
Ghostware also has a great Y2K vibe to its menu and UI: most of its interface has that translucent, chunky, aero vibe of Deus Ex UI elements, while the main menu is a cheeky mockup of a Windows 98-style desktop. Ghostware is set to launch in Early Access on April 12, and you can currently list it and check out the demo at To smoke (opens in a new tab).
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