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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Review: Severed Steel

Ever since Neo dodged bullets in The Matrix, we've all wanted to pretend we could dodge bullets. First demonstrated in the landmark anime movie Ghost in The Shell, The Wachowskis took inspiration and applied that to the mind-bending visual spectacle of The Matrix. Bullet time has since been applied to a multitude of games, movies, and so on. The entire Max Payne trilogy was built on the mechanic, and bullet time even had nods in the first Shrek movie and a karate fight in Spongebob Squarepants. In first-person shooter Severed Steel, it isn't what you have but what you do with it, and what you do with bullet time is have a blast.


Severed Steel made headlines with a brand new update recently. As someone who tested the game in beta some time ago, the game has grown by leaps and bounds. Now, in its current form, Severed Steel isn't just a great game but easily one of the very best first-person shooters you could have in your library. From its addicting kinetic action to its smooth soundtrack, Severed Steel slices its way to greatness.



What a fine day for Science


An evil mega-science corporation has abducted you. You awaken with unique cybernetic and superhuman abilities but a missing arm. The first few levels introduce players to the speed and momentum of the smooth-as-butter gameplay. Players can wall-run, slide, leap, and vault. The cybernetic enhancements allow for bullet time to be used for a brief but effective moment. The entire base is alerted to your presence, and it is time to dish out revenge.


The enemy does not come to play. Each soldier is armed to the teeth and ready for war. Even in the opening levels, these squad of very intelligent sliders use deadly firepower and combat tactics to overwhelm and eliminate the player. What they never counted on is you and the fact that you can move like the wind between hallways of gunfire. Using your advanced abilities, these unstoppable soldiers can be slain in their tracks.



Take Aim, Take Cover, Take Over


Severed Steel isn't a typical first-person shooter with cover mechanics and auto-healing. Movement is everything, and being aggressive is only part of the formula. Knowing who and how to shoot and utilize the slow-motion abilities and proton cannon can make the difference between victory and a quick death. The game falls under the category of easy-to-learn but hard-to-master. Once the controls are learned, the game throws you into the gauntlet.


Severed Steel is all about speed, style, and being a nonfieid futuristic badass. The game runs at a silky smooth framerate and never skips a beat. Running and shooting is immeasurably satisfying as enemies whisk by and are downed by a maelstrom of bullets. The enemies carry everything from sidearms to machine guns, allowing players to mix and match. Obtaining weapons' is a matter of being smart. There is no reloading in Severed Steel. When an enemy is downed, players obtain the fallen's weapon. When depleted, the weapon is thrown and incapacitates an enemy.



Cyber Bird


Playing Severed Steel is futuristic euphoria. Knocking down groups of enemies with quick reflexes and well-placed shots never gets old. Using the proton cannon like a Samus Aran breaking out of Hel is one of the more memorable parts of gaming these days. There is a rhythmic dance of chaos and destruction that unfolds. Should it ever happen, Severed Steel would make a great anime series or movie.


The enemy are no pushovers. They dynamically react to the player's actions and presence. Once detected, enemy soldiers coordinate and seek out the player. They take cover and deploy whatever tools are at their disposal to stop the player in their tracks. Some fly and launch volleys of rockets. Others deploy grenades and are bandaged in heavy armor. The game is smart, but the player is smarter.



Ride On Technology


On the topic of anime, the inspirations are worn on the sleeves of Severed Steel. The protagonist has somewhat of a resemblance to Motoko The Major Kusanagi from Ghost in The Shell. Even the crisp, clean levels and thumping soundtrack feel like something that would be seen out of a Production I.G. show. The soundtrack is composed by artist Floating Door and displays an exciting soundscape of electronic drums throughout the gameplay.


The only real flaw in Severed Steel is repetition. Slide, shoot, use slow motion, rinse, and repeat. It bears repeating, though, that great gameplay design is what keeps players playing. When you feel that "one more turn" itch, it's a telltale sign of strong gameplay. Similar to other titles, such as Hotline Miami, restarting is instantaneous in Severed Steel. Death is frequent, but the ability to try again comes right away. The action may be repetitive, but it's incredibly enjoyable.



Rise


Outside the campaign, Severed Steel has two additional gameplay modes. Rogue Mode turns the game into a rogue-lite. The game randomizes across ten levels, with unlockable perks and skins being the reward. Firefight Mode is a 42-level arcade mode where players compete on the leaderboards for fortune and glory. Each level has optional objectives and "mutators" that can change up the game in a moment.


Finally, Severed Steel has gone through great strides in its accessibility. Controls, speed, navigation, as well as visual and audio can all be adjusted to suit a player's needs. There are a multitude of difficulty settings for players to experiment with. For those who want others to test their own idea, the Steam version has a full-fledged level editor. Players create their own ideal levels and upload them for others to try.



Living Within The Shell


Severed Steel is a fine example of rethinking an established genre and going all in. It is polished to a silky smooth sheen where every part of the gameplay is intricately well-built. In a sea of shooters that look the same and begin to blur, it's great to see an unashamedly stylistic shooter like Severed Steel. Dripping with style and with an incredible gameplay hook, Severed Steel is a must-play on whichever platform you choose. Get your arm cannon. There's a world to save.


Severed Steel was reviewed on the Steamdeck thanks to a key from Digerati. Severed Steel is Steamdeck verified. Severed Steel is also available on PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.

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