Betrayer full review
Betrayer doesn't have to be black and white if you really strongly take against it - in fact, the optional colour mode is incredibly pretty. But it lacks the affecting starkness and strangeness of this 17th century-set first person sword'n'arrow game's monochrome mode. Its take on the New World is dark and ghostly, with Schindler's List-style flashes of blood red amidst the newsprint palette, alerting you to threats and oddities.
This is a hybrid of ghost story and action game, which makes sense given many of its developers formerly worked at Monolith, creator of the FEAR series. No machine guns and bullet time here though - this is lo-fi, historical fare, with a strong supernatural overtone.
You arrive as a colonial soldier exploring a place that has recently been beset by blood and cruelty, and through a combination of found objects and conversations with maudlin ghosts piece together a fractured tale of what happened here.
To do that, you must switch between day and night, each with different foes and different secrets, and engage in desperate fights that lean as much on evasion as they do action. It's a creepy and dangerous-feeling place, and the unforgiving if simple combat reflects that.
Enemies will kill you in a couple of hits, so it's crucial to learn their attack patterns and to ensure you don't miss any shots with your agonisingly slow-to-reload musket. Purchasable weapon upgrades help matters a little, but learning the rules of combat is far more important. Especially as all your loot is left with your corpse upon death, and if you get killed en route back to it, it's lost forever.
Unfortunately it all gets a bit rinse and repeat after a enormously strong first few hours. Enemy types are few and quickly over-familiar, while too much time is spent following an objective marker to a series of objects, backtracking, then doing it again in Dark mode too.
Only it's not quite an objective marker - Betrayer bravely attempts an audio location system instead of the usual flashing arrow prompt, but unfortunately it winds up being a matter of repeatedly pressing a button to make a marker appear on your compass, rather than truly hunting things down via sonic triangulation.
The basis for an excellent game is there, but Betrayer effectively runs out of content by the halfway point and simply recycles itself. While its writing conjures up an appropriate tone of menace and mystery, it's perhaps a little too detached, so big reveals don't hit emotional buttons in the way they seem intended to.
At least the evocative world props it up far past the point it would otherwise have become unbearably tedious. Trees tremble sadly in the breeze, tall grass flutters, huge and frighteningly empty forts suddenly loom in the distance... Visually Betrayer is absolutely remarkable, and even if the game on top of that runs out of steam all too soon, let's hope better things are done with its tech later.
- OS: Windows Vista 64-bit Processor: 3.0 GHz dual core or better Memory: 3 GB RAM Graphics: Graphics: DirectX 9 compatible with 1GB video RAM or better (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460/AMD Radeon HD 6850) DirectX: Version 9.0c Hard Drive: 4 GB available space Sound Card: Windows compatible stereo sound card