Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Buka Entertainment
Developer: MADia Entertainment
Release Date: TBA
Never let it be said that no developer can ever surprise me. When I got the preview copies of Matriarchy, I went in with great trepidation--smaller game studios in Europe and Asia don't always produce the world's highest quality product, and a quick scan of the internet didn't seem to make it look any better. Well, I've been surprised so far, and that's a good thing.
The beta version of O:M provided came with no information on the game's backstory, but enough of it's obvious on playing through the provided maps--in some undocumented point in the far flung future, you are a single, well-armed soldier, fighting back against an army of mutant females on starships, military bases, and eventually sickly bio-organic bases in an effort to, well, not get killed. It's all been done before, but no matter what anyone says, retreading old concepts can be fun. This is no Doom.
What fascinates me the most at this point is the visual design. The demo maps were fun to play, switching between tight corridors, stairwell chokepoints, and wide open mass firefights without jarring--all the weapons are suited to shooting pretty much all of the time. And as far as weapons go, there's no small number, ranging from your standard pistol and a rather effective knife to huge machine guns, rocket launchers, and a combat suit with its own insane array of weaponry. What you have in arms, the invaders have in numbers: anywhere from a lone trooper to a dozen or more grunts will be waiting for you in nearly every room, doing everything from kicking you in the head to firing high speed missiles down upon you.
Mobility is a serious perk here. The enemies themselves are wonderful to look at when you're not dodging ammo like a rabbit: very Gieger-esque, the 'women' of O:M are mutated, twisted things, ranging from female-looking things in odd suits to lumps of flesh with mounted weaponry and everything in between. Combined with an animation system that's 'location specific' (i.e., shooting someone in the arms or legs causes them to react appropriately), they look rather good. It's not Half-Life 2 grade beauty, but I really don't think that's necessary here.
The overall feeling smacks of both Serious Sam and its don't-stop-'til-the-last-body-drops firefights in huge arenas and long maps mixed with the future paranoia created best by System Shock. The second rings particularlly true in the weapons--even once you're well-armed, don't expect it to last, as even full armor won't last, and ammo is at a severe premium. Barreling into a room with your machine gun cranking may kill everything, but it'll leave you without enough oom-pah to take out the next squad that rolls your way. And lest you forget, boss-style fights are lingering in certain places, waiting to take your breath away through the holes in your lungs.
It's hard to tell where O:M will go from here. The beta needs some serious refinement at this stage: the animation is sparse and sometimes odd, weapons tend to be far too similar to each other, bosses can be insanely hard (one wiped me out instantly, and these things tend to attack in pairs), the mouse tends to jump a bit, and there are a few clipping bugs and missing textures. These are all things that, if fixed, will make Operation: Matriarchy worth having, if it maintains its fast-paced and hard-core attitude through until release. I don't mind be surprised, if it's this kind of surprised.