Steam’s store page for Interstellar Marines describes the game as a combination of “Half-Life meets System Shock, giving birth to Rainbow Six in space.” It’s in early access, sure, but it certainly sounds like a winning combination, one that combines single-player role-playing aspirations with tactical co-op.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that in its current state, Interstellar Marines is a barebones assortment of "King of the Hill"-style multiplayer deathmatches.
The developers over at Zero Point Software are at least honest about it, with a full list of currently implemented features and upcoming implementations to the core experience. The foundation for their vision is being built, and parts of it are currently in place, but they're a long way off from the lofty goals they’ve set for themselves.
Currently, all that’s available for players who purchase an early access copy of Interstellar Marines is a basic team deathmatch mode with seven dynamically changing maps, and a few single-player “Playgrounds” to roam around in. The “Playgrounds” aren’t much more than prototypes for levels right now. You can walk around, look at the scenery, and shoot at walls, but not much else.
That leaves the multiplayer as the main attraction right now, and it definitely shows promise. Interstellar Marines prides itself on its hyper-realistic gameplay — or, as hyper-realistic as a science-fiction game can be. This isn’t a world filled with laser pistols or hyperspace; no, this is a place where one or two shots from a high-powered assault rifle can, and will, kill you.
Players are assigned to one of two opposing teams, plopped onto a map, and tasked with controlling an ever-shifting spot on the map. Each of the seven currently included maps change rapidly over the course of a match. One level features numerous elevating platforms that dramatically alter its layout, while another map cycles between an artificial light source to pitch-blackness over the course of a couple minutes. There’s a certain thrill from knowing where your enemies are at one minute, to hunting them down with nothing but your rifle-mounted flashlight the next.
Speaking of your rifle, you’ll get used it quickly, as it’s currently the only weapon available to you. It’s incredibly powerful, and will make short work of anyone that is unfortunate enough to stand still too long in your crosshairs. Even if you don’t get taken down, a clean shot can disable your suit’s internal diagnostics, effectively turning off all of the elements on your HUD. You’ll need that to not only find where the objectives are on a given map, but to discern friend from foe — if you aren’t careful, you might take down a teammate or two while you wait for your suit to come back online.
With a decidedly slower and more methodical pace than more contemporary games like Call of Duty, Interstellar Marines hopes to recapture the glory of old-school tactical shooters and provide a new coat of paint. While it still has a long way to go to reach the lofty heights of the games it name-drops in its product description, there is a solid foundation here. Whether or not the finished product lives up to the ambitions set by the developers remains to be seen.