Corruption 2029 Review04 Mar 2020 0
Corruption 2029 Review
Released 17 Feb 2020
My regular readers will know I’m extremely picky when it comes to XCOM-based tactical games. As an irredeemable fan of Jake Solomon’s Firaxis-led reboot, I approached Corruption 2029 as I do any tactical squad game -- with optimism and an open mind, but prepared for the inevitable and crushing disappointment that would follow. How surprised was I that, for once, I came out of this review very much uncrushed.
Corruption 2029 is a tactical squad game, more similar to one of the old Desperados games in scope than XCOM itself. You’ll control your three-member squad -- a man, a woman, and a robot -- through a mostly-linear series of missions, moving around in a slightly elevated third-person view in real-time.
Being a soldier deployed in a warzone, every map is populated by debris and enemy patrols stationed in and around dilapidated buildings, checkpoints, and watchtowers.
Engaging those soldiers turns Corruption into a turn-based game, complete with XCOM’s half and full cover mechanic and two-action system, where you can move, dash, fire your gun, or use a special ability. Corruption does a tremendous job of adapting XCOM mechanics, keeping things simple when necessary (or making them even simpler, such as the hit chances being restricted to increments of 25%) but adapting them when needed. tThe game keeps XCOM’s omnidirectional overwatch system, for example, but replaces the dozens of equipable explosive types with a configurable grenade where payload is selected right before throwing.
Corruption is not afraid of adding things wholesale, either, including in-game lore notes scattered around the environments and things like environmental distractions to attract soldiers away from the pack. That last bit is rather important, as the silenced guns available allow you to silently dispatch the lower tier enemies without any one else being the wiser, making the fights immensely fairer. You are still going to be outnumbered and facing tougher enemies throughout, but at least you get to influence the outcome and level the playing field a bit.
From the get go, the first thing that strikes you about Corruption 2029 is how pretty it is. Flames glow with a warm, intense orange while spotlights shine through the fog in powerful blue-white beams, creating dancing shadows among ruins and forests alike. Each of your characters have a distinct design made up of angular armour pieces and flowing cloth, creating a dynamic silhouette that me -- as a fan of both Ezio Auditore and ADVENT Officers -- really like.
That graphical prowess is clearly not an accident, as Corruption 2029 displays amazing production values. Shoot an enemy soldier and the camera will shake, slow the action down when you get a kill shot. Sneak around an area and approach a guard’s field of view, and watch as the shimmering borders of the UI (a representation of their awareness) shifts from white to red and extends towards your characters, indicating the patrol starting to take notice of a presence. Every aspect of the game shows the same amount of care.
While the game’s tactical layer does play and feel like XCOM, that’s where the similarities end: there is no Geoscape, cosmetic customisation, or overarching strategy that rewards or punishes based on performance -- there’s only the constant, self-contained string of missions; an eternal chain of battles to finish a war with no end in sight.
You see, part of the reason why you control only a three-member squad is because Corruption takes place in an alternate future where a Second American Civil War broke out, fought by augmented soldiers that are directly controlled by commanders much like drones. The war is fought by people on both sides who seem unaware of most of the facts, and this bleak dystopian reality lends itself to a scenario where your robot drones are both dispensable and salvageable, removing the possibility of permadeath -- and of levelling up.
To make up for that, the game does feature a sort of progression system through its loadout, which allows every member of the team to equip two weapons and three implants -- special items that provide passive boosts like extra aim or movement range, or active skills such as the ability to leap into the air, through a roof, fall through another roof and land on someone’s head. These are often amazing to behold, and the fact the game has no restrictions and geniusly allows you to equip two weapons of any kind -- a sniper and a shotgun, a silenced weapon and a pistol, two assault rifles, you name it -- makes it extremely versatile and fun.
To unlock that gear, you need to complete missions in specified areas of a campaign map. You are free to choose any area to deploy since they’re all interconnected, but I could identify literally no reason to drop anywhere but directly in the mission’s zone. Even the game seems to encourage that, allowing you to instantly fast travel to the next map on multi-objective missions once you finish all the tasks in a certain area.
The other problem with that is that you get to revisit the same areas, a lot. Five missions in and you’re already retreading old areas, but get to the end of all three campaigns and you’ll be intimately aware with virtually every level in the game thrice over. It’s an issue the game in general seems to have -- that although beautiful and fun, it can’t help but feel like a small shard of a much bigger title.
In the end though, Corruption 2029 holds its own. It is difficult to make a game like XCOM, as dozens of failed titles have proved, and this is the first one I played that manages to accurately reproduce Firaxis’ formula while adding its own share of interesting mechanics to it. Behind the pretty exterior and the amazing tactical gameplay, you’ll find a gem that’s definitely worth experiencing -- if you can stomach the relatively small scope and repeated maps. That really shouldn’t be a problem, though. After all, war never changes.