Are Hitman-esque gameplay and Cold War era espionage enough to hold up this stealthy indie?
The answer is a resounding “no.” Simply put, Alekhine’s Gun is not a good game. In fact, as much as it pains me to say it, Alekhine’s Gun is a horrible, unoptimized and unpolished experience that isn’t worth your time.
I went into Alekhine with a neutral-to-positive opinion. Turned off by IO Interactive’s bizarre episodic release for their upcoming Hitman game, I had a serious thirsty for a good, fully-fleshed out stealth game. Unfortunately, playing through Alehine’s Gun only made the drought feel much worse.
Perhaps the most offensive thing about Alekhine’s Gun is the lack of basic features we’ve all come to expect. Even things as simple as subtitle toggles and brightness scales are nowhere to be found in the game’s settings. While the lack of subtitle toggles can be forgiven, it’s utterly unforgivable to not feature brightness settings.
Making the brightness issue worse are the games dated graphics. On indie projects such as this, rough graphics are somewhat expected and, at the very least, typical. In Alekhine, though, the graphics and lighting make it damn-near impossible to navigate dark areas — you know, places where you as an assassin need to see to stalk your prey.
Alekhine’s Gun doesn’t feature any sort of auto-saving. This means that if you save, beat a level ten minutes later and quit without loading up the next level and manually saving, you’ll be forced to replay the previous level during your next play session. Utterly inexcusable design in 2016.
Low production values also make cutscenes between missions a confusing slog. Instead of fully-animated scenes, Alekhine’s Gun relies on still images with Ken Burns-esque panning and voice over to convey what’s happening in the plot. This is especially disappointing considering the core of the story seems like an engaging backdrop for sandbox stealth. Instead of having a coherent plot, Alekhine’s Gun just feels like a Cold War cliché with poor voice work.
One thing the game did manage to nail was setting variation and even level design. Each of the game’s 11 levels feel distinct and offer various objectives that you can tackle in any order you wish.
Alekhine’s bad AI makes general gameplay dull. There were several instances of an objective located in a building being guarded by armed soldiers. Instead of stopping you from entry, though, they’ll literally wag a finger at you as you walk passed them and enter the restricted area. Even with the ability to tackle objectives with any means you deem fit, there’s no incentive to be patient if you can easily outsmart the AI.
Stealth combat parrots classic Hitman. Unfortunately, things feel decidedly more clunky than anything the Square Enix franchise has released in the past decade. Navigating areas while in cover serves its purpose, but without a “move-around-corner-while-in-cover” option, stealth navigation feels extremely restrictive. There was one section of the game that particularly confused me. I needed to eliminate a target surrounded by guards from above. Repeatedly, I would use the garrote wire for a silent takedown only to be spotted by other AI. After a series of desperate attempts I tried the knife instead. As my target screamed as I cut hit down, the AI remained unaware of the assault allowing me to leave the area unnoticed.
Alekhine’s Gun feels like replaying a game I enjoyed a decade ago that didn’t hold up to the times. Mundane, repetitive gameplay, bad graphics and general low-production value make the game a forgettable slog. This is not the stealth adventure you are looking for.
Alekhine’s Gun was reviewed on a PS4 press copy courtesy of Maximum Games.
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