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By Bobfish07-04-2015

The Defence

Logic Artists
Logic Artists
Action, Stealth
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i7 3.4 GHz
AMD FX-8350 4.0 GHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 660
AMD Radeon HD 7950
8 GB
2.5 GB
9.0c, 11

Stealth games are something of a passion for me, they have been for a long time. Though finding good ones has always been a difficult task, what with the majority of them opting to fall more on the action side of stealth/action. Which isn't a bad thing in and of itself, I love the Tenchu series and even actually rather enjoyed what Ubisoft did with Splinter Cell Conviction... Both of which (Tenchu to a lesser degree) give a generally solid set of mechanics and skills for direct confrontation, but still place the emphasis clearly on staying out of sight as a playstyle, rather than arbitrary “you can't progress to the next area because alert” nonesense.

The point I'm making is that I most decidedly am far more in favour of the stealth end of the spectrum. An old style Splinter Cell over Metal Gear Solid kinda' guy. So when Clandestine first showed up on my Steam queue, it went directly to my watch list, did not pass Go, did not collect $200, but guaranteed a directed input of attention. Especially with the promise of old, old style Hacker gameplay in a co-op agent/support dynamic. A system which is baffling for its lack of inclusion as a marriage in the industry thus far.

Is it safe?!

Is it safe?!

Fear not however. Though the emphasis is clearly on a two player approach, the game is already fully playable alone, with a simple button press to swap between the two. This has, unfortunately, lead to certain design choices which lessen the impact to a certain extent. The spy, Katya, remains stationary whilst playing as hacker Martin, and anything Martin does stays unchanged when playing the former. Cameras are not reactivated and alarms remain hacked for example. Not at all like in the real world, where there would be a security agent, probably an entire team, constantly monitoring for just that kind of thing. Perhaps the finished game will have such features for co-op, but not for the time being.

Obviously, the gameplay is thoroughly asymmetrical by its very nature. Katya is entirely dependent on Martin for breaching security systems, and Martin can do nothing but look at computer screens when she's being shot in the face. Which is exactly the way it should be. Each has their assigned role, and as operator and spy you either work together, or you fail. This is a co-operative game in the truest sense of the word. Communication is absolutely vital, meaning the lack of an in game chat is curious, though it's hardly a major drawback even if the final release doesn't include one. After all, playing alone doesn't need you to talk to yourself...or shouldn't at least. And if you're playing co-op, well, you have access to the internet and can just as easily use Skype, Steam chat or whichever else method the internet has to offer.

At time of writing, the spy plays almost brokenly clunky. Slow and unwieldy at times. But oddly enough, that actually works better than being a slick, perfect organic weapon of mass death. You're not here to murder everything in a blaze of slick action sequences and cheesy one-liners. You're just a regular, albeit highly trained and skilled, young woman out in the field digging up dirt on...whoever it is your employer has set you loose on this time. That's not to say you are left completely defenceless, far from it. All the usual gameplay mechanics are there. Hugging walls, grabbing guards as they walk past, a gun to kill or knock guards unconscious and a few more extravagant gadgets that can stun and otherwise immobilise them. But the emphasis is clearly, unabashedly on staying the hell out of sight.

Hey! No sleeping on the job.

Hey! No sleeping on the job.

There is already a lot here to like. It really feels like a stealth espionage thriller, despite a complete lack of story thus far. With only a series of challenge levels being able to play for now, which cover basic infiltration, escape and disabling all hostiles in an area. Along with a tutorial that walks you through the basic gameplay mechanics. Between them, they do a great job of introducing the core elements of how the game will work, setting up the premise for something which has the potential to be a genuinely superb game. The devs have also clearly displayed a degree of humour that is rare to see in games that don't set themselves up as being goofy fun. Like how the story missions currently show up as “Redacted” in the menu screen, and a piece of intel in the Tutorial which starts off Top Secret! And has (bottom secret) at the end of the page. Even the note itself tells you it is merely an example of the kind of thing you will find in the finished game.

Overall, there is a lot to like. What few issues are present thus far are par for the course for a game still in development. The only issue that seems to be a design choice, being how the targeting reticule works. At the moment, there is a simple dot on screen by default, with a three pronged reticule popping up when you ready your weapon to aim. Which in itself is fine, but it also shifts your aim about six inches to the side, making it difficult to quickly pop out, dispatch a guard and duck into cover again. Not an insurmountable hurdle if your reactions are competent, but still rather irritating when brevity is desired. Of course, there are features that would be nice to see, such as being able to blind fire or lob a grenade round a corner without needing to aim first. But the aiming drift is the only thing that really needs to be out and out fixed.

Visually, Clandestine is far from impressive right now. It really does not look like a DX11 game, and frankly doesn't run like one either. Framerate often tanks to the level of virtually unplayable, but bearing in mind this is still far from a finished product that is (hopefully) nothing more than an advisement to early adopters. Optimisation is most certainly still to be desired, but is sure to come many moons before final release.

Knock-knock! Who's there? A concussion!

Knock-knock! Who's there? A concussion!

Other features, such as custom keybindings are supposedly already in place. The launcher gives an option to change them, but so far they have no impact once you're actually in game. Which is something that cannot come soon enough. Frankly, the current control scheme is absolutely horrendous. Well, for the spy at least. The hacker, not so much. All he does is move a funky little alien head dude around on a computer network and press the interact button to, y'know, interact. Whilst staying out of the way of counter intrusion software and keeping an eye on the overview that is. But most of that is on the user.

Basically, there are still some very rough edges left to round out, but there is a fantastic game already bursting enthusiastically to be set free. The full version will almost certainly remain cumbersome for a sole user, which may turn some away, but as a co-op experience there are few, even at this stage, which can even think about competing. And exactly zero that offer a game where true co-operation feels not only rewarding, but vital to your play experience. It just baffles me that it has taken so bloody long for someone to do this and gladdens me to see it done so darn well on the first attempt. Clandestine is already a great proof of concept and has the potential to be an industry changing trailblazer in the (hopefully) not to distant future.

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