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The Slater

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Laina Interactive
Release Date: Sept. 20, 2018


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PC Review - 'The Slater'

by Cody Medellin on March 26, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

The Slater puts the players in the shoes of a former cop Mark Slater and sends them on a revenge mission as they seek the source behind the new designer drug D-Pain.

Players have certain expectations from stealth games. The protagonists should have multiple ways to take out targets and get around a level. The AI should be intelligent enough to make players think carefully about the moves they make, so they won't be caught in a bad situation. If they end up in a bad situation, there should be ways for them to get out of it without having to restart a level. Most of all, the endeavor should be fun, whether the player is successful or fails a mission a few times. Unfortunately, The Slater does few of these things right.

You play the role of Mark Slater, a typical cop who's doing his best to protect his city. One unfortunate night, he arrives at his father's house to find the former cop dead in retaliation for his investigations into a new designer drug called D-Pain. A year has passed since then, and with no progress from the cops investigating the murder, Mark becomes a vigilante, vowing revenge on those who killed his dad while trying to destroy D-Pain in the process.

The opening is stylistic, with a look that emulates 3D, where you're supposed to wear the red-and-blue tinted glasses to get the correct effect. After that brief moment, the story spirals into unintentional absurdity, as every stereotype is used. Mark is a drunk, angry ex-cop who is always smoking and tells everyone that something will kill him anyway, so quitting is futile. The person he works with to get missions and intel about the killer's whereabouts happens to be equally as angry, so between the two of them, every conversation is strange. The main targets barely have personality, but if you've watched an action movie where drug kingpins are the enemy, then you know exactly how they'll act. The names are also quite absurd. The name of the drug itself sounds like someone lazily trying to parody the name of rapper and singer T-Pain, and the well of imagination has run dry when the name of a strip club you visit is Boobies.

As alluded to in the beginning of the review, The Slater is a stealth game presented from a first-person perspective. Throughout the game, you have the opportunity to visit a few locales, such as a suburban house party, a strip club, a seedy bar, and an outdoor market. No matter which places you visit, your objectives will always remain the same. First, there are at least two key targets that need to be killed by any means necessary. Second, there is always a key item that needs to obtained to further your investigation into the city's drug rings. Finally, you need to make it back to your van to escape the scene and complete your mission.

Your limited arsenal of tools and moves is your first clue that this game isn't going to match other stealth classics like Hitman or Thief. You have the ability to choke out a person, and that only results in death, so those seeking to go for a pacifist run are completely out of luck. Bodies can only be stashed in closets and boxes, so hiding them in alleyways in the shadows isn't feasible. Your only weapon is a silenced pistol, and since you can't simply threaten people with it, you only pull it out if you intend to shoot someone. Aside from that, you can swap clothes with a few of the dead people, so you can disguise yourself as the staff or a guard.

Enemy AI is also problematic, as their intelligence isn't apparent at all. Unless you choke out someone or shoot them, nothing raises their attention. You can get very close to the target they're protecting or run to suspicious areas, and they'll simply greet you and let you go about your business. Get into a disguise, and they won't even bother questioning you when you get up close and stare at them for a long time. Blood splatter doesn't bother them, and the only time anyone ever cares what you do is when they see a corpse and automatically know you did it, or if you go into specifically marked areas while wearing the wrong disguise.

Get caught, and you'll discover that Mark is a lousy cop when it comes to fights. He can't punch, and unless you know to keep your gun ready at all times, it's a cumbersome process to get armed, aim, and fire. It also takes about three shots before you're taken down, so it's unlikely that you can run and hide until everyone forgets about you. Despite not reacting to everything else that you do, guards will instantly swarm you, even if you've alerted someone in a different room or floor. To make matters worse, dying means that you have to restart the whole mission, since there are no checkpoints to save progress after one part of an objective has been completed.

The environments are done well, but that's only partially true. Most of the levels provide different avenues to get around guards and locked doors. For example, you can tell the greeter at the strip club that you lost your jacket and either knock her out to get the keycard and sneak in through employee entrance, or you can disable the metal detector and get in without the bouncers harassing you. Small things like this indicate some openness with levels, and it helps you strategize for each situation.

The bad news is that even with all of the pathways per stage, there's still a feeling that The Slater wants you to follow a strict path when it comes to mission completion. Targets may wander throughout the world, but every place that looks like a good opportunity for the kill is marred by your limited means of elimination and the constant presence of witnesses who barely move, ending any desire to experiment. The game only ever seems to have one specific spot where targets are alone for a decent amount of time, so your goal is to find that location and do the job. Considering how it can take a long time for some targets to reach that spot, a lot of your time is spent waiting around, and the wait time is exacerbated by the aforementioned lack of checkpoints.

The game is only six levels long, and unless you're taking your time or are stuck waiting around, each stage takes less than 30 minutes to complete. That's fine, but if you're looking for some replayability once the campaign is complete, there's not much of that in The Slater. You can bump things up to a higher difficulty level, but once you know everyone's routines and see that the AI doesn't change its behavior, then you'll find that to be less of a challenge. There's also the option to only kill your targets during every run, and that's good if you're an achievement hunter, but that's about it.

Graphically, The Slater rides the line between mediocre and awful. In still pictures, the game looks quite nice, with some fairly good-looking character models and environments, complete with nice bloom lighting and clean textures. Once you start playing the game, however, things begin to fall apart. Shadows are very pixelated, and swimming pools use large pixels for their sheen. Particle effects are pretty terrible overall, and there are plenty of seams throughout, which makes things look unfinished when two contrasting colors overlap. The character models look good but sport dead eyes, and there's a lack of variety between the characters. Speaking is a struggle, as they have a tough time moving their lips, and animation is staggered, so everyone looks unnatural while moving. One unintentionally funny thing is that guards and targets have a bad habit of looking at you, even while they're moving, so you'll often see them craning their necks to stare at you before snapping back to a forward-facing position.

The audio design is similarly below average. The music does a good job of emulating what would be heard on more modern crime films, and a sense of foreboding sneaks through at every opportunity. However, the music also tends to bleed over other music that plays via speakers in locations and other people trying to do karaoke, making it more of a nuisance overall. The voice acting is decent as long as you can get over how angry everyone is, but many of the guards shout the same lines so many times that they lose their effect. Some of the lines spoken by targets sound too hokey to be taken seriously. The effects are fine, but the fact that everyone is armed with a silencer is amusing, considering how everyone seems to react immediately once a shot is fired.

Overall, The Slater is a barely competent stealth game. The limited move set is disappointing, but it would have at least provided some sort of challenge if the AI were competent at its jobs. If the game weren't so precise about where targets should be killed, then the more open approach to the levels would've been interesting. Combine all of this with a presentation that seems fine until everything is in motion, and you have the recipe for a game that stealth fans will only play if there's an afternoon to kill and all of the other good stealth options have been exhausted.

Score: 5.5/10

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