[page=Jack In, Kick Pepsi's ass]
Welcome to the world of Cyberpunk, an exact opposite of everything you saw at Disney's Tomorrowland.
Cyberpunk was created by William Gibson in the novel Neuromancer, later to be perfected by Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. In both works, the future is not a place of glittery space ships and shimmering sheets, but of degradation and widespread corruption. Life is bleak, people are dying, and humanity has pretty much dug its own grave.
Hey, can you blame 'em?
The government that once protected the rights of the people has now vanished within itself, gone off to battle with itself over petty politics that no longer mean anything. In their stead, powerful corporations have taken over the world, such as Starbucks, Pepsi, and Microsoft.
...Well, not really those ones specifically, but it could happen.
And as the megaconglomerates rise up, the lesser people find themselves crushed underneath them, forced to live on the streets and in the sewers, while those who work for them slowly become mindless automatons. Life itself is slowly being sucked dry.
Can you hear the powerful sucking going on here?
Too bad Dystopia really kicks ass, or I could totally use that line to bash this game.
Amidst this backdrop of society gone wrong, Dystopia paints a picture of an underground war, of street punks loaded with weaponry striking back against the corporations that control the land, battling it out through the streets and the company computer networks in an unending battle for relative supremacy.
What more do you want? A hug?
[page=Metaverse Meets TRON]
Dystopia's main strength, aside from a very well fleshed out setting, is how it twists conventional online war games on their ear. At its very core, Dystopia is a team-based assault game like in Unreal Tournament 2004, where one team defends and another attempts to take out a certain number of objectives in order to win the battlefield.
The battlefield, however, is not just the physical world around the players.
In a clever twist on most World War 2 and more modern combat games, players must battle this game out in both the physical world and within the virtual computer networks of the companies that are being attacked.
Here, players become digitized entities floating through a surreal, TRON-inspired landscape, firing hacking protocols at one another while attempting to break into various systems. The online universe is very different from the normal one and can only accessed by players who equip themselves with a CyberDeck at the beginning of the game, but more on that later.
Major systems within the computers are bridged together by pipelines you float through, making a beeline towards little digital hubs with computer systems you can access. For those of you who have played Tron 2.0, some of this might look a bit familiar. When you near a system that you can fiddle with, a menu will show up on the side of your screen that allows you to run various password breakers and anti-security protocols. You have to remain next to the system to do this, or else the job you are running will be dropped. So you better clear the area out of enemy hackers before you start pulling a Crash Override.
But where this start to get really interesting is in how it affects the "real" world. Hacking the online universe creates a real tactical situation that both teams need to consider. Players who are logged into the network are easy targets, standing helpless against a wall with no real knowledge of what is happening around them, as they are currently controlling themselves in an entirely different map. It therefore becomes the job of the other players to defend these guys to get access to different parts of the level.
But a change in landscape isn't the only thing Dystopia does different.
Unlike the traditional class-based multiplayer games of the past (such as Battlefield 2, Day of Defeat, etc), here you are given three basic character templates (Light, Medium, and Heavy) and are allowed to choose the weapons and enhancements that benefit your play style.
Think yourself a sneaky little punk? Then give yourself a light body, Stealth Suit and a Sound Suppressor to cruise on through the environment without worry of being spotted.
Want to engage people on the digital battlefield? Then give yourself a CyberDeck and hack into any terminal you come across.
Do you feel like just blasting the crap out of everything that moves? Then pick a Heavy character, pack yourself full of battle modifications (Cortex Bomb, TAC Scanner, MediPlant), and fill up on as much weaponry as your poor biogenetically modified super arms can carry!
Dystopia opens up a huge range of possibilities for those who join into it. But what makes this all work is the environments, which are open enough and full of enough little tricks and traps for each character-type to find a way to use things to their advantage. Hackers who prefer to work alone can duck into side hallways and work their magic, reversing turrets on people and opening up locked environments, while the snipers may stick to the rooftops and just prevent anyone from accessing the building with multiple headshots.
The options are there, it is just up to you to find them.
However, the game is not without a few drawbacks.
First of all, the game is designed for large groups of people to play at a single time. If you are playing with anything less than eight people, you are looking at a pretty uneventful game. The environments are built and designed for massive battles, with multiple character types all running around doing different things at once. And while this is great for those huge battles, it leaves people playing the smaller one's a little bored.
The game is also still in its early stages of release, meaning it is plagued by the occasional stutter and shake bugs. Often times when riding up and down the elevators, the lift itself would move fine by my character would violently shake the whole way up and down. Not a game-stopper problem, but definitely something worth addressing.
And if you want to get really fussy, you could point out that the current demo release only has one map to battle on, but when you look to the future, this game has you in great hands. With the promise of drivable vehicles, NPC civilians to get caught in the crossfire, a bunch of new maps, and the possibly even a full-scale commercial release through STEAM in the future, Dystopia is a definite mod to watch out for in the coming months.
All images taken from the official Dystopia website.