Past Cure Review - No Cure for Overwhelming Promises
The old saying "hard work pays off" still holds true today, no matter if it's a game, a movie, a book, whatever. When we receive a finished project, we should always take into account how much work went into it.
And that is true when it comes to indie developers.
We've seen indie developers rise from financial struggles and problems with their own internal decisions to pull out an amazing product that they feel comfortable with and hope the vast majority will enjoy. In some cases, it pans out great.
Not this time. No sir. Nope.
Past Cure is a perfect example of a game developed by a new studio with little to no experience in the gaming industry but with hopes to bring a product that many would enjoy. Here, however, things clearly fell off the track, despite promising trailers and "game awards" to back them up.
The Story? I Wish I Knew.
Here's how the developers explain the game:
Past Cure is a dark psychological thriller that blurs the lines between dreams and reality. An intense, cinematic, story-driven experience that challenges the player to use mind-bending mental abilities to survive.
You follow Ian, a troubled ex-soldier with no explanation as to how he was able to afford a two million-dollar house in the middle of nowhere. He has psychic powers that will never be explained along with amnesia from being abducted. Ian tries to find the cure to his power and a lead to the people who abducted him and gave him these powers. His brother Marcus, whom you never see, tells him that there's a drug called "Nexus" that gives the user powerful abilities. So it's up to Ian to find the president of the company that developed Nexus.
You enter these dreamlike sequences as your sanity starts to fade. And let me tell you, the only redeeming quality of these sequences is the Milk Men. They never explain who they are or how they affect your sanity, but they're there, and that's all you need to know, I guess.
What's worse is that there's an inconsistency in how the story builds up because it doesn't have enough time (or budget) to build a story around the world, so you're left with bare details. They barely tackle any subject or conflict, and when they do, they drag out poorly conceived segments, assuming that doing so will build tension. It's like reading a comic book by a 12-year-old -- there's little to no detail, but in their mind, it's a MASTERPIECE.
Gameplay? Good Luck With That.
Past Cure struggles with what it wants to be. It pushes the agenda for an "action vs. stealth" type of a game, where you can choose what path you want to take to progress through a linear level, only to be guided to one enemy. The controls are atrocious and poorly implemented. Ian moves like a sloth, and controlling his aim is close to impossible, with no thought-out targeting scheme. Your dead-angle will struggle to aim correctly, your shots will recoil like crazy as you struggle to play how the game wants you to, and most importantly, HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT is a no-go. Otherwise, you're forced into a "cinematic fight" while you're getting shot at.
The stealth segments in Past Cure are a joke. There's no reason to sneak around when the enemies present little to no threat. Crouching is sluggish and slow, and sneaking around will just drag out the game.
The progression in this game is not thought out at all, and they drag every sequence and tutorial till they can milk the four-hour time frame.
To summarize the controls in this game: The game doesn't want you to have fun and play the game with fluid controls; the game wants you to play how the game wants you to -- slow, clunky, and forced.
You know it's bad when the developer barely shows any gameplay depicting shooting at the bad guys. If anything, they'll show off a small, two-second clip on their twitter of them head-shotting a guy.
Visuals? Eh. Sound? Ha!
Using Unreal Engine 4 to the best of their abilities, the developers seem to have taken every preset object they downloaded and placed them wherever they seem to fit. Gotta fill up space? Just fill it up with random tables and chairs since you have no creativity.
Of course the game is going to look slightly presentable when it's built using Unreal Engine 4, but they do not use it to the best of their abilities. And it's clear once you see the whole game that any traces of exciting sequences that we were shown in the trailer were poorly implemented within the game.
This poor implementation includes the sound design. Sound is a very important feature to a game, as it helps build tension, excitement, and a calm atmosphere. Well, you can throw your hopes and dreams away because Past Cure is another example of using stock sound effects and stock music. Every second that passed by with repeating instrumentals was another second that I could have used to play a better game, like Max Payne 3.
Usually it's okay to give small indie studios a pass since they have a lower budget and often an inexperienced team. The team behind Past Cure should be given some credit, as they didn't get their game crowdfunded and started off with a small team.
However, that shouldn't give them a pass for the game's horrible presentation and the fact that they still ask for your time to play through the game and give it a chance. This is not a spoiler, but during the credits, they had the decency to list the people who left the project during production and still thanked them.
I would not ask anyone to try this game out.