Sometimes it happens that some games and their creators are out of luck. Get caught in the wrong release window, on the wrong platform, get lost among the larger and better promoted titles, do not satisfy the top management their financial performance or simply be too innovative. Legitimate Bottom Line — Oblivion. We can only hope for gaming archaeologist-enthusiasts who will not only find, but also try to restore the lost artifact.
This pathos-filled introduction is just to remind us all that Nightdive could be considered as one of the greatest saviors of the gaming industry along with Phil Spencer. For several years now, this office has been giving a second life to iconic projects of the past that didn't get the recognition they deserved when they were alive. It is not only about the banal ability to run the old game on modern operating systems and other platforms without dancing with diamonds, but also about improving its appearance (within reason), stable operation, easy management and restoration of cut content. And unlike many re-released classic first-person shooters, the updated PowerSlave, subtitled Exhumed, has something really interesting to offer even those who are tired of FPS «old-school».
The fact is that the game is from the days when PC and console versions could be noticeably different from each other in terms of content. The PC iteration was a typical shooter from the mid-1990s: a linear walkthrough of maze-levels, shooting off enemies, finding everything you need: keys, switches, new weapons, ammunition, useful items for your inventory, and secrets. Scenario and plot also did not suffer from originality and was clearly inspired in part «Stargate» Rolland Emmerich. Evil Aliens? There's! Egyptian entourage with sand, tombs, dangerous traps, mummies, scorpions, and cultists wearing Anubis masks? Present. A rich inner world of characters, an abundance of story lines, relevant themes, an authorial message? Here you have to shoot off non-anime catgirls with an M60 machine gun that runs on blue spheres, what do you?
But that's PC. The version for Sega Saturn and the first Playstation came out much more interesting, becoming one of the first metrodevices, and a few years before the final formation of the genre, however unusual that might seem. It is most appropriate to compare the re-released PowerSlave with the Metroid Prime trilogy. Like there, here the player has to move around different locations and gain abilities that will allow him to penetrate into previously inaccessible places in order to arrange all that is listed in the paragraph above. Now this genre innovation does not seem original, but in the realities of 1996 it was a real breath of fresh air. Which, alas, many people simply have not noticed.
Is this interesting to play even in the year 2022? Surprisingly — yes. The exploration of new places on passed locations keeps the interest in the further game play, and the firefights do not let you relax: the enemies themselves climb under the bullets, but their «stupidity» compensate by answering rather «it hurts». And this, as you understand, has a positive effect on the dynamics of the battles themselves. The little bit of bestiary can be praised for its quality — almost every creature here behaves and attacks differently, being a tangible threat that can be handled not only by the trusty revolver and M60, but also by different magic tricks like a staff-missile or the ability to strike your opponent with lightning.
It's as if the game's creators spied something from the last two parts of DOOM: almost every enemy in the game is an alien — a walking first-aid kit or ammo cache (and they run out pretty fast here) that only encourages you to play aggressively. Powerslave is related to the new iteration of Dumgai's misadventures by the presence of… platforming. In the fabric of the gameplay it, however, woven much more organically.
Worth mentioning is the competent work of designers — local labyrinths are not too confusing, which at times sinned some FPS of the time, but at the same time there are enough cuts and secrets, and Easter eggs. In addition, each level cleverly placed a few checkpoints, allowing you to not start the location all over again. Good, proper classic design with no violent overkill, in general.
Unfortunately, the freshly-drawn remaster has flaws, too. First of all — strange hitboxes that often cause damage to the user, even if they seem to have escaped a projectile. But if that problem can be fixed with a trivial patch, some repetitive gameplay — no. The thing is that when you return to the old levels you will still have to search for those very keys in order to get where you need to go. And this is taking into account the fact that 15 minutes before the player has already been there and opened all the necessary doors.
What did we end up with?? A curious genre experiment from the past that turns out to be very modern in the present. And it may well interest two different audiences. Love the old «of the shooter »? Try «on the tooth» definitely. Like metroidvania, but wanted something different? Worth paying attention to.