Severed Steel Beta Impressions
By: Roberto Nieves
Terminator 2, Gundam Wing, and Judge Dredd (The so-bad-its-good one with Stallone) were just some of the amazing sci-fi pieces I was drawn into growing up. Video games were no different, and I always found myself fond for anything with science fiction, with games like Future Cop L.A.PD, Crime Killer, Brahma Force, RayStorm, and a game simply titled One. I didn't know at the time, because of course, I was a kid with a barely functional dial-up internet, but an anime film had taken the world by storm and changed everything, Ghost In The Shell. The cyberpunk manga by Masamune Shirow was adapted into an award-winning animated film in 1995, receiving critical acclaim. Among the many aspects of the film, from the aesthetics to the story, one of the biggest praises was the invention of what we refer to today as bullet-time. To highlight the ferocity of the action and the movement of the cybernetically-augmented characters, Ghost In The Shell employed bullet-time, where the character moves faster than the environment. After this was created, this became a mainstay in action entertainment and was especially highlighted in the GiTS inspired sci-fi classic, The Matrix, and even the animated fantasy comedy, Shrek.
In the world of video games, every character from Max Payne to the Point Man in F.E.A.R has used bullet-time to their advantage. Severed Steel from Greylock Studio and Digerati Games Marketing is a game that wears the high-octane cybernetic action on its sleeves and has been gaining a lot of attention. Thanks to a beta key from Digerati, I had an opportunity to play Severed Steel on an ASUS TUF Gaming A15 through Steam. After some time shooting, wall-running, and kicking skulls, Severed Steel is shaping to be the unbelievable smooth shooter that you may not know you needed.
Severed Steel's Beta cuts straight to the action. The Beta specifically focuses on the section introduced during the public demo and several more areas not previously seen by the public. This includes infiltrating various facilities and achieving goals, with plenty of enemies between you and the exit. The story of Severed Steel is still under wraps. All that has been revealed is that players play as Steel, a woman who has enhanced abilities, including a giant hand cannon for a left arm. The beta taught me the basics. How to run, jump, dive, and wall jump, as well as kick. Before long, I was already into the thick of the action, using a combination of speed and maneuverability to dispatch enemies. At first, my movements were clumsy and imprecise. I am primarily a console and handheld console player, and so my hands are used to holding a gamepad and utilizing specific buttons. I have used WASD before for other games, but for me, it didn't feel quite comfortable using keys such as Left Shift and CTRL to engage special abilities. Fortunately, I had a Logitech wired gamepad, and after some trial-and-error, I was able to control the game successfully. Following that, Severed Steel opened up.
I was encouraged to pick up a gun and start blasting almost right away, but I learned soon enough that speed, agility, and using slow-motion are essential to survival. The enemy is relentless, using tactics, shields, and at one point, jet packs, to track and outmaneuver the player. Severed Steel is a game utilizing all the mechanics available to the player, encouraging players to tap and experiment with these abilities. One of the most remarkable aspects of the gameplay is its fluidity. Most games would isolate wall running to a wall running section or using slow-motion to a section designed around that mechanic, like a challenge room. In Severed Steel, you have to think as fast as your mind and hands can react, which leads to a sublime combination of frantic action and methodical combat. There are moments when it's good to think before acting, but as the enemy is remarkably relentless, players think as quickly as a machine, which makes sense, given that the main character is clearly a cyborg. In a moment, players may find themselves sliding across the floor, peppering foes with bullets, before throwing their weapon at another passing enemy and then wall-running to avoid incoming fire. It's an extremely polished gameplay experience, polished to a sheen and extremely refined. If Severed Steel does appear too fast, holding the trigger button can slow down time to line up shots, once again harking back to my emphasis on bullet-time.
The larger gaming base may compare Severed Steel to Hotline Miami, but the two games couldn't be any more different. The biggest similarity is the focus on movement, speed, and aggression, as well as the fact that the weapons wielding in Severed Steel do not have ammo clips, and therefore, cannot be reloaded. One mechanic has players using depleted or mostly empty weapons as throwing items to throw at enemies, much akin to Hotline Miami. However, one weapon that Hotline Miami never gave players is a literal arm cannon. In what I can see as a respectful nod to Samus Aran and the Metroid games, Steel has an arm cannon that can vaporize foes in a delightful explosion of blood and guts. Additionally, the arm cannon can vaporize walls and obstacles. However, the cannon needs a fair charge and fires fairly slowly. It's an excellent alternative if a hole needs to be made or if an enemy approaches and there is no sidearm, but the arm cannon isn't to be relied on.
As for the enemy, they aren't cannon fodder. The fight, run, and actively use combat mechanics to aggressively pursue and destroy the player. They are persistent in putting holes in you and will actively engage on sight. They do not run in a simple straight line but will take cover and actively work to get behind the players. Most surprisingly was the use of jet-pack troops, which used their height advantage to attack me. These enemies were ruthless, and I fell to them on more than one occasion. But, some moments had me truly remarking on the A.I. At one point, in a small room, I noticed soldiers running into a corner, shooting at thin air. I was standing behind them. I had initially remarked that this might have been a glitch, but I also remarked that I had moved so fast, the enemy was still trying to catch up with tracking me. The two of them, teaming up and shooting, really had me step back n amazement, as it seemed the developer really wants to place the players into a true life-and-death situation and not just a mere shooting gallery.
The gameplay of Severed Steel, coupled with the soundtrack, truly made for a sublime sci-fi action experience. The anime inspirations certainly kicked in with the music, with the soft vocalizations and upbeat electronic drums. There were hair-raising instances and moments where I survived on the skin of my teeth, but it all made for an extraordinarily good time.
Severed Steel is shaping to be a game where style meets substance for a great shooter. The combat and use of the various combat mechanics make for an extraordinarily sharp and engaging FPS that easily separates itself from the competition. There is still much work to be done and to be revealed as the story continues to remain a mystery. Though, based upon my time with Severed Steel, severing yourself from this ambitious title is a mistake.
Severed Steel is in active development and is "coming soon." Please follow Severed Steel for updates. Severed Steel Closed Beta was played on an ASUS TUF Gaming A15 with AMD Ryzen 7 4000 and Nvidia Geforce GTX, played at max settings.
A beta key was provided by Matt, director of Digerati Marketing for this closed beta review.