In the year, 2016, in an era of social media, the internet culture, and new advances in entertainment, one of the most cherished values is to celebrate the world as it was in the 1980’s and 1990’s. For many reasons, such as nostalgia, people in 2016 are more fascinated with the very things people enjoyed in decades past. The movies, the video games, the language, the arcade culture, have been resonating with audiences today to make games that are greatly inspired by the roots to which they came from. Such examples include independent movies, such as the ultra-violent, but incredibly immersive Hotline Miami, as well as Kung Fury, and From that era, the genre of science fiction and Cyberpunk settings mad ea lasting impression. Visceral movies, such as Robocop, The Terminator, The Running Man, and Total Recall are just a few movies that made a monumental impression for their story-telling, world settings, and extreme violent action. These particular movies seemed to have many of the kind of topics that were presented in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Artificial Intelligence, Nuclear fears, A bitter Cold War, neon colors, laser cannons, epic battles a fascinating but dystopic future, etc. It is this world of cyberpunk fiction that Finland-based 10Tons Studios encompasses in their newest game, Neon Chrome.
10tons Studios began life with the release of their game, Crimsonland in 2003. Crimsonland was a post-apocalyptic, top-down twin-stick shooter which placed a lone space marine, against an endless army of monsters and mutants. It was later re-released in 2014 to Steam, PlayStation, and Xbox platforms, giving a new spotlight to the small studio. Following the success of Crimsonland, the team set off into the world of dystopic cyberpunk futures with the release of Neon Chrome. Thegame was released a few months ago on Steam, to solid acclaim. Now, the game has made its way to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One platforms. After many hours with it, the end result makes Neon Chrome one of the best offerings of 2016.
Neon Chrome takes place deep in the future, in a time of massive corporations, the world has converted itself to the world of cybernetic machines. Humans are removing their limbs and offering their brains to become cyborg warriors, enabling all sorts of enhanced capabilities to occur, as well as making them more efficient warriors. Entire cities, filled with millions of people, are now own by these mega-corporations. The biggest one of all is Neon Chrome, a multi-planet conglomerate with well over 10 million employees and many more living within it’s property. This massive dominance an power has made gotten into the head of the CEO, commonly known as The Overseer. The Overseer controls everything with an iron fist, corrupted and polluting the populace into his own personal slave army. As a rebellious hacker, you and your cyborg army are sent into the tower structures of Neon Chrome to take the Overseer down.
Neon Chrome is a twin-stick action shooter, with rouge-like elements and procedural-generated levels. The objective is to make your way to the very top of Neon Chrome to destroy The Overseer. Between you and the final boss are thirty levels, filled with enemy cyborgs, big boss machines, and automated defense that are determined to stop you in their tracks. As the Rebel hacker, you have access to an army of your won. On your floor, there is a massive army of cyberneticaly-enhanced humans, tucked away in cryogenic sleep. Using a make-shift computer interface, players can form a neural link and wake up the warriors to fight against thirty floors of bad guys.
From the very beginning, Neon Chrome hits players like Arnold Schwarzenegger using an M-79 grenade launcher! As a cyborg, your job is to make your way to the next level, destroying anything you come across, and securing upgrades for your ‘borg. Enemies will use a variety of ways to destroy you, including shotguns, laser rifles, suicide-bots, robot spider, and various other enemy types. The bad guys have every right to be afraid, because they know you are coming.
The shooting action can be akin to the unapologetic, furiously violent action of Robocop and Total Recall. When enemies die, they die horribly. Your character has access to a variety of high-powered weapons, such as laser SMG’s, plasma cannons,a nd assault rifles. In addition, they have access to powerful secondary weapons, including rockets and plasma bursts using their “energy” bar. In the future, deadly weapons are even deadlier, and any one on the receiving end is as god as gone. Body parts and organic matter splatter across the floor. Explosions light up entire sections of a floor. Lasers fire all across the steel hallways. The action of Neon Chrome is amazing and worthy of being considered among the best offered of 2016.
To players familiar with 10ton’s last shooting outing, Crimsonland, they will feel quite familiar with the overall feel of the shooting mechanics in Neon Chrome. The weapon firing, user interface, and sounds are reminiscent of Crimsonland. This also includes the equipping of enhancements to their enhancement inventory, which is similar tot he survival mode in Crimsonland. Throughout Neon Chrome, players should keep a keen eye on upgrade chambers. These chambers allow players to equip their borg with an enhanced capabilities, such as faster speed, higher melee damage, splitting, bullets for more damage, and so on. These upgrades are necessary to survive the games later levels, including several boss fights.
One nice addition to the games mechanics is the use of destructibility. In Neon Chrome, some walls are incredibly thin. A melee strike, gunshots, or an explosion will blow open wall apart and allow players to gain a tactical advantage over their enemies. Throughout the level, explosive canisters and structures are placed throughout the level, along with loot crates and powerups. Utilizing these explosive tubes and powerups will be the key to surviving the levels.
At the beginning of each level, each cyborg has different attributes, such as “Assassin”, “Corporate soldier”, and “Hacker.” Each class of soldier allows for the adventure to play out differently, as the levels of Neon Chrome are procedurally-generated with Rogue-like elements. Players will not make it to the Overseer on their first try. It will take many attempts to gain enough firepower to make it. Each re-atttempt allows players to unlock and upgrade attributes for their borg. As enemies fall, players receive money. That money goes towards increasing damage, health, luck, equipment slots, and energy.
The only drawback to Neon Chrome would be a degree of repetition, which is common with rogue-like video games. While the levels and enemies vary, it eventually begins to blend altogether. With the unpredictability of the levels, it means that every playthrough is a new experience. However, it would have been nice to see more variations in the levels, as well more bosses and quick changes in the gameplay. I could imagine a boss, similar to the ED-209 law enforcement robot, as seen in Robocop. I could also imagine exo-suits or a rail-shooting segment.
Presentation wise, Neon Chrome is extremely well done. Visually, the game is solid, with moving backgrounds reminiscent of the world of Blade Runner. THe cyborg themselves are simple, as the focus is on the action and not the detail. The boss fights and levels are also distinct from each other. WHen the action hits, the game explodes in a flurry of color, with bullets, explosions, and laser fire intersecting each other. SOund design is solid as well, as the sounds of a bullet versus a laser pulse are heavily emphasized.
Most rewarding in the game’s presentation is the soundtrack by Jonathan Greer. Most independent video games, especially ones that focus on giving tribute to classic titles, do feature a nostalgic-sounding soundtrack. However, there are few that actually get it. There are those that nail the atmosphere and the world they are trying to emulate. There are soundtracks that drive forth the action and the narrative. There are tracks that make you want to keep playing. Jonathan Greer nails those attributes for the soundtrack of Neon Chrome. His works contains pulsating syntehsizers and digital cords, as well as echoing bass, absolutely nailing the atmosphere. Neon Chrome by Jonathan Geer
10tons Studios has spent many years refining their craft in the world of video games. Neon Chrome represents their latest, and best, efforts, creating an absolutely wonderful action-packed experience. From it’s thrilling cyberpunk world to its pulse-pounding cyborg shooting action, Neon Chrome is an amazing action experience. Coupled with an incredible soundtrack, Neon Chrome represents one of the most engaging titles of 2016.