Undertow Review

Sometimes I wonder if Microsoft is truly committed to making Live Arcade a place where great independent games can prosper. They have the service and they have the audience, but what they don’t have is a grasp on timing. One of the best Live Arcade titles has been released, and no one has been playing it. The game I am referring to is the new multiplayer-centric, team-based, underwater game called Undertow that is developed by newcomer Chair Entertainment.

The action in Undertow takes place on a 2D plane with each player choosing one of the 3 races; Human, Nemoidian, or Atlantian, and choosing one of the 4 classes, each of which offer their own very unique playstyles. At the top of the screen are two numbers and 5 dots. The numbers represent your team’s points and the dots represent capture points. Capture more points and kill your enemies and their points will go down. Simple, right?

While the premise is straightforward, the gameplay is surprisingly deep for a Live Arcade game. Many similarities have been drawn between Undertow and games such as Battlefield 1942, and for good reason. You’re not going to be quickly assaulting bases with the largest units as they are big lumbering units that shoot missiles about as fast as your Grandma rushing out to buy the new Matlock special limited edition dvd box set. Those types of units are usually meant for support but as with any game, you see a few prodigies out there that somehow bend, and oftentimes break, those little rules.

Other units, such as the dragoon, have a very limited firing range but fire very fast and will annihilate anything that dares come close. If you get enough points during a match you can level up your character 2 times. While the upgrades don’t necessarily make you unstoppable, they manage to improve your character in subtle ways while making the user feel like they are constantly working towards their own personal goal each and every match. It’s simple, but it’s very rewarding.

The main campaign, which can be played with a friend, is very short and most people can expect to complete it in just a few hours, even on the hardest difficulty setting. The storyline is very basic and the gameplay isn’t very varied, but the cutscenes are actually very well done, considering the tools they had available to them. The most standout part of them is the above average, and sometimes suitably over-the-top, voice-acting. They could have easily not included a story-driven single player element to this game and just as many people probably would have bought it, so because of this, it manages to become the nice little cherry on top of the multiplayer cake.

The biggest problem with the multiplayer is the fact that no one is playing it. This game came out during one of the busiest times this industry has seen, and it seemingly got left behind in the Triple A hubbub. Shame on you gamers. Shame on you.

Or, maybe it’s “shame on you, Microsoft.” Undertow has been available to play on Partnernet for quite some time, I guesstimate since around mid-summer, and to my knowledge, it was in the current state that it is in today. Why they didn’t release it at an earlier date to capitalize on the fact that few titles were being released is beyond me.

I honestly cannot stop playing this game. Although the concepts may not be new, the setting and general feel of the gameplay help it to become one of the best original Live Arcade games, and no one is playing it.


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Author: Kyle Stallock View all posts by

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