Shattered Horizon Review

The battle’s been quiet for a few moments, so all I can hear is my own breathing inside my spacesuit. My boots are latched onto a bit of rock, and I’m crouched just below the lip of an enormous ridge overlooking the sprawling mining facility we’re trying to defend. I pop my head up above the lip tentatively, looking for the telltale signs of incoming blues. There — somebody’s let himself float too high and away from cover. I toggle my rifle zoom and drill his jet-pack from the side. It explodes and sends him careening off into space, spread-eagled. I get back under cover.

Suddenly, the indicator that our first control point is being taken begins flashing. Stealth be damned, I accelerate up out of cover and use my booster to come roaring in towards the control point. I let an EMP grenade precede me, and barrel into the little section of corridor at full speed, rotating in space so I land feet-first in the direction of my motion, latching onto the wall and stabilizing my position for firing. There are two blues in here, drifting slowly, control electronics temporarily blown out by my grenade. I unload on them at close range while they struggle to draw a bead on me with their tactical HUDs crippled. I smash the faceplate of one and fatally damage the suit integrity of the other. Then I become still. I wait for another threat, still standing sideways on the wall. The bodies of my two kills float about aimlessly, bumping into the walls and each other. I’m alone in my suit again, listening to my own breath, when, without warning, I’m drifting dead in a burst of my own oxygen. A blue in quiet mode has snuck up behind me and stabbed me, rupturing my spacesuit. Still, I got three kills, so that was a fairly productive life.

Shattered Horizon

In Shattered Horizon, tense moments of sneaking and hunting rapidly explode into violent flurries of rifle-fire exchange. You might storm an enemy position in a group, jetpacks blazing, only to be thrown flailing into disarray by a well-timed MPR grenade, forcing you to desperately accelerate in an attempt to find some cover. You have complete freedom of motion in space, and the maps take full advantage of the fact. You might be orienting yourself on a piece of moon rock, or standing on the ceiling of a corridor, lying in wait for the enemy to blunder past. It’s not very difficult to get the basics of how to move the game is well-designed in that respect but you probably won’t feel as if you’ve mastered it for a few days. Once you reach this point, the very act of flight transforms into a raw joy that’s difficult to describe.

The idea behind Shattered Horizon is truly novel I don’t know of any other online, multiplayer, tactical space combat games. There’s only one weapon (although it has a zoom mode), and several different grenades, and there are only four maps, but the depth lies in your progress in mastering the game mechanics, and the teams you end up playing with. The gameplay is emergent and your enjoyment tends to increase along with your skill. The pinnacle of the experience are the moments that you completely dominate, feeling utterly in control and unstoppable. It’s almost transcendental. SH is a bit like Counterstrike in that regard.

It’s unlike Counterstrike in that the SH community is largely friendly and supportive, not to mention similarly near the beginning of the learning curve, resulting in a less frustrating experience for new players. The only problem is that there aren’t that many players yet. The release of Shattered Horizon really slipped through the cracks this month, what with all of the chaos in the wake of the Modern Warfare 2 release. It’s actually pretty easy to get to know a good portion of the regular players out there since there aren’t a ton of servers and, even then, only a few of them are heavily populated.

That being said, SH isn’t without it’s issues. The story arc in is totally your own you coming to grips with the motion controls, your mastery of aiming, sneaking, and stabbing. There are no villains, except that bastard that keeps headshotting you. It’s more like a game of basketball than a game of Final Fantasy, by nature demanding intensity and focus. If you’re just looking to relax and watch some story play out, SH won’t be your thing. Also, there’s a glaring lack of voice chat in the game. I suppose I can understand the reasoning behind this decision; Counterstrike is riddled with players insulting you for every mistake, making racist comments, gay-baiting, etc. Perhaps the lack of voice chat is one of the reasons why the community in SH is so amicable, but it’s an obstacle to effective teamwork at times.

The game also requires a newer system to play. Since it’s DirectX10 only, you’ll need a dx10 video card and either Windows Vista or Windows 7. This isn’t much of a surprise considering SH is the first offering from Futuremark Game Studios, the development wing of the same company that produces the 3DMark benchmark for video cards. Luckily, the game actually looks pretty good and remains very playable at low settings, so even an older dx10 card will suffice. There are a couple of other nuisances, such as hitting escape in an attempt to cancel your chat, but instead opening your game menu, but they’re relatively minor in light of the overall experience.

Overall, at $20, Shattered Horizon is an easy, but conditional recommend. It’s space combat pared down to the very essentials, which works because the game mechanics are so sharp and perfectly tuned. However, it’s by nature more of a hardcore, confrontational type of game, which might not fit your play style. The underpopulation of a lot of the servers is worrying, although Futuremark has recently established a guest pass system in an attempt to bolster the community. As for those on the fence due to the amount of content four maps there’s currently another, free, map-pack on the way.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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