Interstellar Marines: Is the Shooter That Won’t Die Worth It?
The maps themselves are done well, though. There are the metallic, claustrophobic hallways and stairways mixed with the open, container-filled storage bays you would expect in a fictional underground facility, but Zero Point also manages to bring the outdoors indoors with a clever environment simulator. Plants, shrubs, water, and even rain, fog, sunlight, and lightning can be seen in the Main Line map, all in a single match.
Most notable were the frequent shifts from light to dark, which happened at regular intervals on all maps, completely changing my play style. One moment, I was charging forward, seeking out the enemy as the artificial sun reflected off of my helmet visor. The next I was cautiously creeping forward, listening for footsteps while wondering whether to use my flashlight in the darkness. Give away my position, or get a quick look down the dark hallway? The choice added a nice, unexpected level of tension.
The shooting mechanics are sound and responsive, hit detection is good, and my machine gun packed the appropriate weight and punch. Unfortunately, sprinting did little if nothing in the way of gun sway, encouraging running and gunning; recoil is minimal, and gravity has zero impact on bullets as they travel, making the mid-range machine guns into deadly accurate long-range killers. I was expecting realism and the slow, tactical, Rainbow Six pace Zero Point pitched. It definitely felt like more of a run-and-gunner, at least when the lights were on.
All that said, I still had fun with Interstellar Marines, and despite being in development for nearly a decade, it is still very much in its early stages. In its current state, it’s much more of a proof of concept than an early look at the actual ambitious shooter Zero Point envisions, and it plays like it. There is a notable lack of some of the basic features, like crouching or a melee attack, you would expect when paying $15 to play a shooter, and glitches are to be expected. The difference here is you’re not just paying $15 to shoot at online enemies; you’re actively supporting and playing a role in Interstellar Marines’ ongoing development.
So should you open your wallet for Interstellar Marines? Tough call. The barebones experience I paid for this week will likely be much different than the one I dive into in a few months. It all comes down to whether you embrace Zero Point’s vision, and if you believe they can actually achieve it. If I had to make a recommendation today, I’d say give it a month or two, make sure updates show progress toward goals, and then make your decision. It’s a catch-22, but there’s just not enough there right now to convince me these Interstellar Marines will ever make it to the stars.
Still, I’m rooting for Zero Point and Interstellar Marines, and I don’t regret chipping in. These passionate indie devs have been chasing their dream for nearly 10 years, and they’re doing it all for the love of the game.
Mike Sharkey is a former GameSpy (RIP!) editor. He’s currently contributing to IGN and Game Front while working on his Wiffle Ball home run trot. Follow @mjsharkey on Twitter.