Earlier this month Electronic Theatre broke the news that Focus Home Interactive will be spearheading the revival of the Obscure franchise. Rarely has a videogame title been so perfectly in tune with the essence of its market position, as while Obscure was considered a successful release it’s not a widely known title alongside many if it’s peers. It does, however, have a very ardent fanbase that are keen to see more, and a development team that are keen to give it to them.
That being said, anyone who paid attention to last week’s reveal will be aware that this isn’t the same experience that Obscure has offered on the past. In fact, thanks to hands-on time with the videogame, Electronic Theatre can confirm that it’s not even in the same genre. This new Obscure remains part of the franchise though it is not a sequel nor a prequel: it’s a distilling lf the essence into an entirely new experience.
The small team at the youthful Mighty Rocket Studio are very much aware of the possibility of a negative audience reception, but are also aware that they simply cannot allow the IP to stagnate. Developing a direct successor in such turbulent times would be foolhardy, and digital distribution channels have not yet evolved to the point where they could carry that burden (though Focus Home Interactive’s Mars: War Logs is hoping to push the platforms further in that direction). So instead they have decoded to take that tongue-in-cheek youth rebellion, the 2000 era teen horror movie, and adapt it to a gameplay formula more befitting of the times.
Obscure is billed as an action-platform title, though in reality its closer to a thinking man’s scrolling shooter. The player chooses one of a small cast of unfortunates and takes straight to the zombie butt kicking action. The levels are expansive enough to allow the player to get lost on their first pass through and even when finding the obviously signposted objectives things aren’t made easy. The player will often have to navigate back-and-forth across the kevels in order to achieve their goals, be they rescuing defenceless humans or salvaging parts of a zombie-mincing machine for a mechanic.
Throughout all of this the player is given plenty of options for tackling the violently numeric enemies, including ranged, melee and special attacks. Each of the cast of characters has their own unique strengths and weaknesses so the player is advised to work within that, but in the build Electronic Theatre played a full armoury was available, including the starter weapon of a spiked bat right through to shotguns and Molotov cocktails. There are basic combos available with the close combat weapons, as well as air combos and throw manoeuvres, while the angle of the ranged attacks is controlled by the right analogue stick.
The special attacks vary between characters, with four available to each. Once the special meter on the bottom left reaches the appropriate stage (it fills rather quickly at present) the player presses the LB button (L1 on PlayStation 3) and the corresponding face button to unleash the powerful move. These can range from close combat attacks to ranged area effects, to the destroying-anything-that-moves ability, and as such are best saved for times when you are most desperate.
In order to access this arsenal of weaponry and abilities however, the player must upgrade their character at the end of each level. Points collected in-game become PP at the end of a level, and PP can be used to buy weapons, abilities and stat boosts, with plenty to be purchased for each character. All characters are levelled independently, so players will need to play through the videogame several times in order to maximise their completion rate. Thankfully, Mighty Rocket Studio has accommodated this by way of multiplayer gameplay.
Though not available in the build Electronic Theatre had access to, the multiplayer will arguably be one of the videogame’s biggest selling points. Offering local gameplay for two players via spilt-screen or up to four online, Obscure will vary its gameplay depending on the number of players involved, and this goes beyond simply adjusting the difficulty, with different objectives being handed to different players. Co-operation is necessary at all times: do you stick together and handle each player’s objective one-by-one, or do you divide into groups of two and chase separate targets? Do you want the zombie hordes to go easy on you or are you up for pushing back against a challenge?
While Obscure may not be an inspired new genre or even the survival horror experience many may have been expecting, it presents a very modern vision of a well worn template. Glossing over the Contra inspired gameplay with cartoon visuals reminiscent of Konami’s 16-bit wonder, Zombies (aka Zombies ate my Neighbors) and a system that positively encourages replayability, Obscure is an arcade inspired pick-up-and-play videogame with keeping on your radar. Set for release this summer with an estimated prices of 1,200 Microsoft Points (approx. £11.99 GBP), Electronic Theatre will be sure to keep you updated with all the latest details on Obscure.