Unloved (PC Preview)
Is your heart rate too steady? Has it been too long since your last terror-induced spasm? Have you finally got rid of your fear of doctors, clowns, and abandoned apartment buildings? Well, then, you should give Unloved a shot.
You might have heard of Unloved before now. That’s because it shares its name with an incredibly popular mod for Doom 2; it’s actually made by the same creator, Paul Schneider – and it plays very much like a Doom mod. A fast-paced, first person shooter with some of the classic weapons we expect to see in the genre; You start with a pistol, and can find Silenced Machine Pistols, Super Shotguns, and a Nailgun, which functions as your Minigun.
Unloved takes all that good stuff and turns the “Horror” dial up. Like, all the way up. The level designs are dark and dingy, and features classic trope locations like clinics, basements, and an abandoned apartment. You can even hit ‘Twisted’ while setting up your game, and it’ll tear rooms and textures from the different areas and mash them together. It often makes you feel like you’re wandering through some warped, nightmarish landscape.
On top of all of that, Unloved is built using Unreal Engine 4. Which means it looks pretty damn good. The only major source of light in most areas is your trusty flashlight (there’s an option to turn it off, but I decided to choose life, that’s all), though some rooms will have their own lamps and such. The abundance of shadows makes it really, really easy for your enemies to sneak up on you as you explore.
If you’re wondering why the game is named as it is, I’ll tell you. It’s called Unloved because your heart will no longer love you for playing this game. I wish my screen-capture software hadn’t bugged out during my first run, because I have no shame in admitting I gave out some fairly high-pitched screams, a few desperate gasps, and ,on more than one occasion, I got such a fright that I violently jerked my mouse across the mat, leading me to spray bullets from my Silenced Machine Pistol into the poor, defenceless ceiling tiles above.
Earlier, I mentioned doctors and clowns. Well, they’re just two of the enemies that await you in Unloved. Unloved’s Early Access state means that there’s only around half a dozen different enemy types, but it takes a decent amount of playtime before that becomes annoying. After a while, the sounds they make stop scaring you as much. Though, hearing a Nurse walk into a room and gasp when it spots you always makes me jump. After the first couple of runs, you can get down to business and focus on the task at hand.
You ‘win’ in Unloved by moving through the play area and finding Crests. You need the Blood Crest to access Red parts of the map, the Moon Crest to access Blue areas, and you can only finish your run when you’ve found the Sun Crest to access the yellow rooms. The yellow areas are the ones that contain Blood Machines. Seven of them, to be exact, and you need to make an offering of your health to activate them. When all seven are filled, the elevator in your starting room will become active (don’t ask me how blood powers an elevator, please) and you can make a mad dash back there. Get in, hit the button, and you win!
At present, there are four game modes. Ultra Violence is the basic game mode that I mostly played. Then you’ve got Arcade, which speeds up the game considerably by throwing more action at you and causing you to pick up all items you touch; Classic Horror mode slows the game down a lot, making the play area larger, reducing the number of monsters and pick-ups, and make monsters harder to kill; and Hot Mode, which is the most interesting. In Hot Mode, the time only moves when you do. Every action, from an enemy running, to you reloading, is taken in hyper-slow motion unless you’re moving. While it’s a pretty intriguing concept, and referring to it as the “most innovative game mode in years” is clearly a tongue-in-cheek remark towards Super Hot, another game with an identical theme.
The last thing that really needs discussed are all the collectibles. As you play, you’ll find pieces of cards, Trinkets, silver keys to unlock them, photographs, and ink jars. You can use all of these to gain Karma, which determines your profile level, but most importantly, the Trinkets let you customize your profile. One trinket might increase your Max HP and armour by 40, while another will increase your Pistol and SMP damage. Finding the ones that are right for you really helps you kick some demon ass.
While that’s important for your playing experience, what’s far more interesting is what you do with the photographs you find. You can use each picture to unlock a single line from one of many (currently 31) notes in the ‘unlockable’ tab, which give insights into the story of Unloved. It will take quite a lot of runs to get through them all, but it’s a pretty cool way of featuring the story that you want.
Unloved is a lot of fun. Scary, heart pounding, twitch-shooting fun. I’m going to be keeping an eye on this as it moves towards a full release at the end of September. It’s currently £10.99 on Steam, which I don’t think is too much to ask for considering you get quite a lot of content…even if it gets somewhat repetitive as you get used to the scares.
Editors Note: This review was covered by the wonderful Martin Hutchinson. When he’s not claiming life insurance policies between heart attacks he is a regular on the GamingEgos podcast and helps out over at GlitchFreeGaming.