Genre: First Person Shooter Developer: Publisher: Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 17th Sep 2011 Platforms:
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Forgoing the conventional routes of modern shooters, which tend to feel like playable action movies, Xotic is more of an arcade game of skill - with online leaderboards, point multipliers and various powerups for your weapons. Developed by WXP Games - a three man outfit from Seattle, Washington - Xotic is out on the PC and is coming soon to the Xbox Live Arcade.
As is usually the case with anyone blessed with the gift of sight, the first thing I noticed about Xotic was the graphics. Xotic doesnít have great graphics, but the art direction is outstanding. The aesthetic of Xotic is reminiscent of games like Beyond Good and Evil and the Oddworld series - bright, colourful set pieces mix with darker environments wonderfully. The focus is on creating areas which look familiar - with a tinge of the slightly uncomfortably alien.
The only real issue with the overall look of Xotic comes from its character models - WXP were probably going for grey bulbous aliens to suit the alien atmosphere but your enemies end up looking like they were only half finished - before they could have any features defined.
The looks donít really matter in Xotic however, as itís all about shooting everything you can, as fast as you can. If you notice how weirdly out of place the bandolier your loincloth-adorned, faceless enemy is wearing you should probably restart - you are going way too slow to get a decent score.
It seems bizarre in this day to even think of scores - and for some it will no doubt be a turn off. For a long time most games had points systems for no other reason than because points were what defined games to the general populace - evident any time we hear from halfwit pundits who still claim Grand Theft Auto is a game where you run over prostitutes for points.
A mass expulsion occurred when people realised the frivolity of these systems in most video games - for many any game with scoring was missing the point (ironically exactly what those gamers did). A points based system can be a good thing, what is not good is adding features like scoring, multiplayer or 3D as an aside or an afterthought - to tick a box on the feature list.
For Xotic, points are not only an important feature - they're integral, and they are simultaneously a refreshing change and welcome nostalgia. In a genre where competition is almost exclusively multiplayer, Xotic pits you against other players without having to worry about netcode, ping or your location.
You have three goals in each level - terraforming, destroying the orb brains and collecting orb essence - although you donít have to complete any of them to finish a level. Instead, destroying all of the enemies in a level opens a portal - which you can then enter whenever you are ready.
This scenario holds true for all levels, save for the bonus rounds. Bonus rounds end as soon as time runs out, but the portal only appears once youíve completed all three goals - not a simple task by any means.
Terraforming takes the form of shooting little red orbs protruding from the ground and walls - with bonus points to those who keep the chain going for the longest. A meter at the top left of the screen shows how much time youíve got before your bonus runs out - if you arenít watching it you are hamstringing yourself. The Orb Brains are large spheres and cubes hidden about the level, and while destroying them is easy, finding them all is not.
Then there is the orb essence, which takes the form of diamonds strewn in arcs about the level. Yeah, thatís right, you get extra points for collecting them. It adds an entire new level of colour to the proceedings and a nostalgic tinge for those who have been missing that concept of late.
You are also competing against the clock, as every second you take lowers your time bonus. Everything ties together at the end when the points from your various efforts are combined and you see your overall score - and its place on the leaderboards. As is usually the case with leaderboards, your rank will usually either depress you or inspire you - depending on how well you did in the level.
Itís advisable to play each level once before going through on a scoring run, as you unlock new weapons and player bonuses by completing each level. You can increase your health, your weaponís energy and armour - and you can also unlock the absorption trait, which pulls essence towards you, making high scores significantly easier.
You only have one weapon technically - the Macroterra. The various upgrades you get for the Macroterra make it work like almost any gun however - and you can cycle through all of the different Macroterra forms as soon as you unlock them. Cycling up on your mouse changes your primary weapon, from standard single shot into shotgun style buckshot and a railgun for sniping. Cycling down changes your secondary weapon type, which also follow traditional standards, with grenades, an electrical shock to stun the enemies and the like.
While the Macroterra forms might be familiar in action, they are aesthetically very different. The Macroterra itself is an insect type creature attached to your arm and all of the different forms fit in that theme. You fire insects at enemies, explosive eggs and your weapon can even grow wings if you pick up the flight powerup. While you shouldnít have time to notice your bullets, itís a nice touch.
The final tool at your disposal is the hard hologram - a shield with multiple pieces which can be deployed vertically for defence, or horizontally as a platform to access out of reach areas. As a shield you can shoot out parts of the hard hologram to protect most of your body while still allowing you to fire on your enemies. As a platform, the hard hologram is probably one of the most important tools in the game - running about atop pillars can be precarious - especially until you get used to the floaty jumping mechanics - and throwing down a hard hologram after you step too far off a ledge saves valuable time getting back up to your precious, precious points.
Xotic is great for those moments when you have time to spare and you can outdo your previous performance. For most it will be just that - a great game to play for a bit, but not particularly addictive. In some however, it will inspire marathon gaming sessions into the early hours of the morning, bettering your scores and those of others. Either way, Xotic is a one-of-a-kind and well worth consideration - especially for its price.