Acclaim's answer to the short-lived - and often missed - 6DoF (Six Degrees of Freedom) style of shooter is often denigrated as simply a clone of Descent. The truth is that Forsaken had - and still has - a lot going for it beyond the similarities in gameplay. So strap in, get your sick bags ready and let's get dizzy.
While Forsaken is very similar to Descent or to be more accurate it's polygonal sequel FreeSpace, it's probably for that exact reason why the game initially sold very well. It even saw successful ports on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. That popularity has remained to this day, even if it's more with the fans than the rights holder. The fan-made Forsaken X updates the game engine for our HD screens remastering the textures and interface to suit more modern tastes. To my knowledge, it's the only way to play the PC version successfully on Windows 10, but it does come with some caveats. For starters, cinematics have been ignored altogether. Granted it's only an opening movie but it does seem incomplete without it. The upbeat techno soundtrack by the ever-so-90s British Prodigy wannabe known as THE SWARM (all caps needed apparently) is also missing in-game. I guess the talented programmers forsook these in favour of the actual game.
Everything else that was in the PC version is present and accounted for and look better than ever. 15 levels, 17 playable characters (including a winged angel) and online Deathmatch. You even have complete control over the controls. I changed it to be played on my XBox 360 controller as that's my preferred input for shooters, but it can be manipulated however you want.
That being said, I did find the controller to be a little inaccurate which emphasises the ingrained issues with full 360° movement in such games - it is frequently disorientating. In the right hands it can add something of a thrill to the frenetic action, but here it was more annoying than anything. Perhaps it's the way the levels are designed. There are periods that allow for a more methodical type of play that forces you to explore the maze-like levels and plan your attack with thought. Other times chaos takes over and twitch reactions become necessary. For example, in the first level titled 'Volcano', you traverse a variety of corridors and caverns taking out anything that moves until a large updraft forces you skywards. During this huge speed boost, you have to dodge lava spurts, falling rocks, mines and robot enemies all while in a strange viewpoint that takes a steady and experienced hand to keep. Needless to say, Forsaken is a hard game, at least in this gamer's mind.
Believe it or not, there is something of a backstory to the game. In the future, technological advancements have increased to be completely out of control. It gets to the point where a subatomic experiment goes disastrously wrong destroying most of the planet. Not only that, but some weapons-grade robots are also on the blink and have turned against us. The governments of the world, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to hire some hoverbike-riding mercenaries to clean up the mess. And that's where we come in.
Those hover bikes have minor niggles in their mechanics. The basic weapon - a laser - has an energy gauge. The more you use it in quick succession, the less damage it will do. On top of that, if you use it too much, the shot frequency will drastically reduce. This is particularly annoying with fast moving enemies or missiles that follow you unless shot. Both of these are remarkably common even on the first level on easy. To help you out, each weapon can be upgraded three times by collecting pods scattered throughout the level thereby increasing the damage potential with each one. Your shield - essentially your life bar - can also be upgraded three times by picking up shield overdrives but I still found it can easily be drained before you know it.
And that's just the tip of the power-up iceberg. New weapons types allow you to shoot fireballs and bouncing bullets while secondary weapons allow for missiles and mines. Not only that but energy fields, invisibility cloaks and speed boosts can temporarily upgrade your vehicle. The more you possess, the more options you have to gain tactical advantages. I've not tried the multiplayer, but I can imagine a successfully planned ambush can be immensely satisfying. In single-player, I mainly used my primary weapon for attacks but the game does give room for experimentation.
If there was one aspect that separates this game from its obvious inspiration, it's the level design. By being set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, levels have an element of real-world geometry. Whether it be a more organic expanse of a volcanic cave, the corporate structure of an underground train system or the musty confines of an ancient temple, it's a far cry from the space stations and moonbases of its competition. Despite the odd blip, they also invite differing tactics. Some levels are linear with the odd cavern to dogfight in while others require exploration and switch flipping to break things up. The goal often changes too. Most are simply get to the end, but others require the complete decimation of enemy robots, deactivating reactor and even rasing a sunken ship. It makes for a much more involving game than I was expecting.
Forsaken surprised me by being a fun and challenging game in a genre that's not entirely my forte. The levels are straight forward and arcadey but the scope of the weapons do allow for a small amount of tactical thinking. If you're willing to forsake your stomach contents in the 6DoF environments then Forsaken is for you.
As of 31st July 2018, Forsaken Remastered is now available to buy DRM free on Good Old Games.
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Forsaken is © Acclaim Entertainment
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me