Under The Radar: Cyberpunk Games Pt.2

After a good reception on the first article, I decided to go and search for more games. Games covered here are old, some you probably haven’t heard of, or have simply gone under your radar.

Syndicate (2012)

Released in 2012, and developed by Starbreeze Studios, and released for PC, PS3 and XBOX 360 is a reboot of an old Syndicate franchise that was developed in the ’90s by Bullfrog Productions. This time the game is set in 2069, and you play as Miles Kilo an agent of EuroCorp, and you are tasked with the elimination of important people from rival corporations, and along the way, you discover deeper darker secrets. The main part of the story is the DART chip, which lets you access the “dataverse”, making most electronic devices obsolete. Because of the DART chip, nations were also made obsolete, and the world is governed by mega-corporations. In this world, there are two groups those who accepted the chip and unchipped, who are denied benefits and are abandoned.

The combat is centered around the DART chip (Damage, Armor and Reaction Time), which is basically higher damage and more armor. Using the DART chip will make nearby enemies and objects will be highlighted, but it will run out of power. You also have the ability to hack the enemies DART chip, and you can make enemies weapon backfire, make the commit suicide, and also make them shoot other enemies and then commit suicide. In Syndicate you earn upgrades, by shoving the device in their head and pulling out the upgrade, but sadly you can’t do this and acquire bosses abilities. The game also lets you kill civilians but you are not required to do so. Weapons are good, the shooting is good, mostly using the same system as in other Starbreeze Studio games. The syndicate also features a couple of film stars like Brian Cox, as the CEO Jack Denham, Michael Wincott as your mentor and Rosario Dawson as Lily Drawl a scientist. The story for the game was written by Richard K. Morgan, who the devs approached after reading his Altered Carbon novel. Syndicate was vastly overshadowed by Deus Ex: Human Revolution released a year prior which gave you more options and maybe did the cyberpunk theme a little better. Syndicate is worth a shoot, just pretend it has nothing to do with the original games.

B.A.T. II – The Koshan Conspiracy

The Koshan Conspiracy is a game developed by Computer’s Dream and published by Ubi Soft in 1992. The game is a sequel to the 1990 game B.A.T and is superior in every way. It is a mix of a point-and-click adventure game with some light RPG elements.
The game is set in Roma II, the most important city on the planet of Shedishan. You play as an agent of “Bureau of Astral Troubleshooters”, and you must investigate a murder of Sylvia Hatford, a fellow BAT agent, who was investigating the business of a mysterious dealer of important raw materials..

The world is vast, deep and immersive. Playing nowadays, you will need the manual or a guide because the game doesn’t feature a tutorial or instructions in the game of any kind, which is kinda typical of games from this era. You can customize your character, program your arm computer, and drive vehicles. The game also features several mini-games, where the player can earn money, and also shooting is done through a simple mini-game. The game is not without flaws, as you, for instance, must advance the time in order for shops to restock, or the fact that you must press the magnifying glass icon several times to find things in a given scene. You must also write down quests, as the game doesn’t have any kind of quest log. Play The Koshan Conspiracy if you have the patience and want to see an attempt of immersion in early adventure games.

Neuromancer

Neuromancer is a game based on the famous William Gibson novel of the same name, released in 1990 for DOS, Amiga, Apple II, and several other systems. You play as Case, a cyberspace “cowboy”, on Chiba City and you are of course broke. The first thing you must do is get yourself a computer (an Ono-Sendai Cyberspace Seven deck), and access cyberspace. To get yourself a computer you must amass enough money (you may be forced to sell a few of your organs)m and buy or download the right software (here they are called “softwarez”).

The goal of the game is to penetrate cyberspace, a limitless grid of information and find out what happened to several hackers, who have disappeared. To do this you must gather clues, by roaming the streets and back alleys of Chiba City, interact with people, learn skills, and have enough money. Once you get yourself in cyberspace, you will quickly learn that it is guarded by ICE (the other one), which stands for Intrusion Countermeasure Electronics and AIs. ICE are semi-intelligent programs developed to prevent unauthorized entry, and AIs do the same, but they have a chance of frying your brain, which was an inspiration for the tag line: “Hacking can get you killed”. The great thing about the Neuromancer is how alive the world around you feels. You had the option of logging on to BBS in-game, posting on them, downloading files and posting them on other BBSes. The world is may seem too open for some if they are expecting an old school adventure game. Neuromancer has great graphics for its time, joystick and keyboard support, lots of self-referential humor, a great soundtrack by DEVO, and most importantly no copy-protection. If you want to see how old games did cyberpunk, play this game.

Snatcher

Hideo Kojima second game released in 1988, a year after the first and original Metal Gear game. Snatcher is an adventure game, which for the most part plays like a visual novel, with some action segments. The game was released for PC-8801, MSX2, PC Engine, Playstation, Sega Saturn, and Sega CD which is the only one with an official English release. On its release, the game released almost no exposure, and the game carried a Mature rating which at the time did not sit well with some retailers after the Mortal Kombat, and other games Senate hearings. Because of all of this the game flopped and was only remembered by hardcore fans.

Snatcher is fairly linear and direct, but it features a very engaging world. Set in a world where one-third of the world population was wiped out by the mysterious virus, the game takes place fifty years later. In the city of Neo Kobe, a strange life form appears, apparently out of nowhere. These life forms turn out to look like exoskeletons, disguise themselves as humans, and begin kidnapping (snatching) high ranking humans. You play as Gillian Seed a member of the JUNKER unit formed to counter this threat, find out where they came from and their purpose. Snatcher takes heavy inspiration from several cyberpunk works, most notably Blade Runner, Akira, and The Terminator, and of course Invasion Of The Body Snatchers Although technically a visual novel, it takes some of the mechanics from adventure games. Everything in the game is operated by menus, removing a need for pixel hunting, a thing most adventure games are known for. But this brings several problems, as you must use several actions to do specific things. For instance, you can’t just open a door, you must look at it, knock, investigate, shout if you must, and then open the door. You get items by looking at them, investigating and then Gillian decides to pick it up. Kojima uses the old trope of amnesiac character and some parts of the story are predictable, but there are still some parts that have a pretty good twist. Fan translation for Sega Saturn exists, and the game can be completed in about six hours, but like a good movie it’s worth revisiting it once in while.

VA-11-HALL-A

VA-11-HALL-A: Cyberpunk bartender action or sometimes Valhalla is a different take on the visual novel. Valhalla was initially developed for a Cyberpunk Game Jame in 2014, but the devs Sukeban Games, game developers from Venezuela, decided to make a full game. The game takes elements from cyberpunk, anime and PC-98 graphics and it works pretty well. The game uses a Game Maker: Studio engine as it was easy for the developers to add “crazy effects” and was easy enough to port to different platforms. The game had a small team and was designed and drawn by Christopher Ortiz, programmed and written by Fernando Damas and the music was composed by Michael Kelly, and they managed to produce a good, but modest cyberpunk game.

You play as Jill, a bartender at the titular bar of VA-11-HALL-A (pronounced Valhalla), and your job is to mix drinks and listen to peoples stories and problems. Each time someone orders a drink, you must make them a drink, through a relatively simple menu. The game world is believable, as well as some of the problems it faces. The game takes place in Glitch City, and in a world where corporations rule, food shortages are a thing, humans are infected with nanomachines to oppress them, where White Knights (a police unit) ensure that everyone obeys the law, and of course corruption and crime. You also get to visit your home, and it’s important to buy Jill stuff to keep her happy, so she can focus more on her job and offer better drinks. You can also check for news, and use apps on her phone. At the begging of each day, you can choose which music to play on the Jukebox, which is surprisingly good and really sets the mood. All of the bar’s patrons are unique and you will also encounter regulars at the bar. The game also has several references to RoboCop, Blade Runner, and other games and movies. Try this game if you want a relaxing game, and a pretty good story, just remember to have a drink ready.

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