PAX East: No longer human
By: Roberto Nieves
I've always been intrigued by stories within a computer. Tron and Sword Art Online and Ready Player One are just some examples. So when I see a game like No longer human, it immediately intrigues me with its retro-futuristic visual style, complete with wireframes and vector lines. Billing itself as "the world's first fvck 'em up," I had to see No longer human for myself, and between a momentum that feels like a bullet train and combat breaking the sound barrier, No longer human is a game that cannot come soon enough.
No longer human takes place in a dystopian future, where brain-computer interfaces have become so advanced that it is entirely possible to leave the physical world for the real world. Think Sword Art Online with the NerveGear helmets, except once you scan your brain into SAO, there is no going back. As a burnt-out vocaloid named Tsuosono, a popular singer that the world has conveniently decided to forge, revenge becomes the only option. Plunging into the digital abyss, platers become a digital warrior, hellbent on obliterating the digital world.
No longer human is a game about destruction at the speed of the internet, and that path is bent on pure obliteration without a second fault. Seeking revenge, enemies stage in front, only to be felled by your laser scythe. The demo proved just that.
From the beginning, glowing, wireframe enemies appear, and the moment-to-moment combat is fierce and unceasing. It is lightning fast and frenzied. Enemies come to try and harm the player and, in retaliation, are cut up faster than tilapia in a fish shop. Swinging the cyber scythe is brutal, swift, yet filled with just the right amount of weight and momentum where you gain the sensation that you are truly cutting through digitized foes. One button could dash through enemies while the other turns the scythe into a sniper rifle, giving me some RWBY vibes. But, within moments, No longer human really opened up.
Two words describe No longer human: Controlled chaos. An aggressive thumping soundtrack beckons players to indulge in extreme digitized violence, smiting foes left and right. Visually, it feels like No longer human is truly set within the darkest of corners of a cyberverse. All that is there is a wireframe environment, enough to see enemies, the player, and part of the environment. Then, there are enemies. When the music and gameplay combine, it's an experience unlike any other. In moments, there is no thought, only to fight and defeat enemies, run hard, and make the way to the next area. It is euphoric, eclectic, charged, and wildly energetic. No longer human is faster than any game I have ever played before but just slow enough to process what is going on. There were a few moments of quick platforming and choice-making, but the goal is to fight and fight hard, and that's where the game shines. The demo featured basic enemies with clubs and tougher enemies with blades. While not difficult, they came in droves. The levels also provided challenges themselves, with one moment having buzzsaws in the middle, making the experience a literal battle for survival. Beating the enemies into the saw did yield high points for those that were able to do so. All the while, I had to keep my multiplier up and build my temperature meter for special attacks. One attack cuts the screen literally in half to a delightful anime-inspired effect.
I have to give huge props to the visuals. This is the closest I've seen a modern game emulate the wireframe aesthetic to the 1979 arcade cabinet, Asteroids. It has depth and range, and there is a sense of nostalgia, being that I grew up with a lot of games and game systems with those wireframes. There was a surprising amount of detail, even with the enemies and the player character, who is highlighted in purple the entire time. The only other visuals featured in the demo were two quick illustrations of the main character and the boss, two women sporting a two-piece in neon colors. No longer human is already successful in giving a visual impression that is hard to ignore or forget.
I had a BLAST with No longer human. PM Studios and 0801 LLC are crafting something unique and unlike anything, I have seen before. It's fast and brutal, and it has an extremely fascinating story and world to cut through. You have to be bold and daring to do something new, and so far, No longer human is looking to accomplish its goal of being the world's first "fvck them up."
No longer human is slated for release in 2022 for Steam and Switch.