Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Heat Signature: Space is an Ocean's Eleven

It's rare these days to be so captivated by a game, one that I'd only really heard little snippets about before I bought it. Heat Signature is one of those games, and it really is breathtakingly good. A space game, a stealth game, a heist game, magnificent.

The plot revolves around liberating bases within a massive nebula, but while the writing is very good, it's hardly the focus. The reality is that you'll liberate those bases to get new stuff, to expand your reach, and to open yourself up to new types of missions that will truly test your mettle.

The missions themselves play out like heists, or perhaps like Hitman. You select a task, and get a little information about the job, such as what sort of defences you can expect and what your objective is. You might have to rescue someone, or steal an item, or hijack a spaceship. From there it's a case of flying out to the ship containing the mission item and trying your best. No save games, no retries, just trying to make sure you have the equipment you need before starting, then making the best of whatever situation you find yourself in.

I've had missions where I can complete them in seconds by pure luck, and ones that take much longer, carefully sneaking around and disabling guards and turrets. I've had missions against the clock, and ones that require being entirely unseen. The variety is fantastic, and sometimes exhilarating.

It can be quite easy to lose a mission, but this isn't the end. You can be captured, shot out into space, knocked unconsious (and shot into space), your pod can be half destroyed. Every time, you have options, even if it requires you to take on a new character (and possibly save your previous ones).

Through your Steam friends list, you can even save your friends captured characters, or find the cool tech that their retirees left behind. It adds a little extra flavour and interest to the otherwise almost entirely procedurally generated world.

Which is perhaps the one thing that might turn people off. The mission variety is based on what will always be a slightly limited set of parameters, so they can end up feeling a bit repetitive after a while (how long that will take is very person-specific though, I was happy for a great many hours).

The ending too can feel a little lacklustre. Without wanting to spoil anything, I was expecting perhaps a few story missions or something to do that would top things off. Instead, it felt a bit of a letdown. The core of the game is brilliant and captivating, but the story is rather muted which is a shame since Tom Francis's previous game Gunpoint was strong in that category.

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