I’ve never been to Manchester. I’m sure more of it exists than the establishing TV shots of Media City, Old Trafford, the Etihad Stadium and the glimpses of Canal Street you see in Queer as Folk. Indeed I know people that live there so there must be more, and I found more in Beyond Flesh and Blood, the debut game from Manchester based Pixel Bomb Studios. Although this Manchester is definitely on the more apocalyptic side.
Set in a futuristic dystopia you play an engineer named Ethan Cunningham, sent back down to Earth from the safety of an orbital space station that humans are currently inhabiting. Mutants and scavengers live below in the ruins of Manchester (which is a pretty good band name) and it’s your job to command an oversized Mech through this landscape, reclaiming it for the greater good of the U.G.R. Of course these other factions have their own agenda and some potentially salient points to trouble your allegiances, but that’s for future conversations.
The Mech’s are a much smaller affair than the ones you’ve probably seen recently in first person shooters like Titanfall and Call of Duty. In fact they are much more like those from the classic PC game MechWarrior. In fact to say this harkens back to a younger time in gaming is possibly quite accurate. The Mechs come in different sizes and guises, starting with a very skeletal early remote control model all the way up to a human sized prototype suit.
You walk around the environments shooting everything that moves, whilst also re-establishing the power to communication stations and public areas to help the U.G.R. regain the control of the area. Over the course of the story, your Mechs that shoot and aim like a twin stick shooter get more powerful and build up a special ability to use. The people will try and surround you, flank you and you will rip them to shreds… Quite literally.
The gore in the game is pretty manic, again a nod to games of old, and the shooting is fast and can be quite overwhelming very quickly, emulating the history of the Unreal Engine the game uses. This isn’t a cover shooter and you’ll find yourself in big areas with no where to hide and a lot of gunfire heading at you. If you do die, or blow up, another Mech is fired down to the surface for you to control. So it’s not the end of the world but you will be strafing, moving quickly, using your powers to kill large groups as quickly as possible as well as dodge incoming fire from drones and other beings. There’s no death essentially but you can regenerate your health thanks to orbs that are dropped by enemies on death.
So what’s all the noise about Manchester then? Well, rather cleverly, this game is a topographical replica of the inner city of Manchester. Obviously the game is set in the future and the locations look different, but the buildings and road layout are the area of Manchester that surrounds Pixel Bomb Games’ location. Using the Unreal Engine really gives a good sense of colour to these slightly nature-reclaimed sci-fi buildings and a feel that this is an actual place. In a way that it is designed but it it isn’t designed exactly by a game, with logical ideas. I don’t know if you’ve seen how UK road systems and city planning work but it’s not exactly the predictable grids of other countries. But the game does reflect this kind of road design feel.
There’s about eight hours of gameplay in the story mode planned, and a survival mode which will be waves of enemies. I had a go at this as a tutorial with the prototype suit and it’s very clever. There’s a few environmental things that you can use to your advantage in this mode like hacking turrets and explosive barrels, better weapons which you can pick up and power ups, and you’ll be fighting all the games enemies including the mutants and others yet to be announced.
Also to be announced is how the support for VR will work for the game. It is planned for the Steam version, and the game will be coming out on PS4 and Xbox One. Don’t expect it anytime before the end of the year though. What I played was the result of a few pre-alpha’s and the game is coming along, but is still improving and optimising for all platforms. So if you want to tear around Manchester in a Mech Suit… Well just hope there’s a comic-con and that you can do decent cosplay
Beyond Flesh and Blood from Pixel Bomb Games is a futuristic third person Mech shooter set in a accurate recreation of Manchester after an apocalyptic event (not a average clubbing weekend). Using the Unreal 4 engine, the game will see you drop from space to command an ever upgrading Mech and restore order to the mutant and scavenger filled city. The game is story based and will also have a survival mode to accompany the main campaign, which should run to about eight hours. The planned releases will be on Xbox One and PS4, as well as Steam.