A Paladin’s Steam Review: Retrovirus. Virus Infections in the Sixth Degree.

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Taking a look at a 6DOF that’s nearly three years old today.

  • Genre: Six Degrees of Freedom FPS. Single/Multiplayer
  • Developed & Published by: Cadenza Interactive
  • Platform: Windows only
  • Business Model: Single Purchase.
  • Copy Gifted By A Friend.

Initial Gameplay Thoughts

My initial impressions of the gameplay were ok. The campaign was a cute idea and the combat seemd to work rather well, if nothing special. As time went on though, I started wondering if this is all there was to Retrovirus. This constant, seemingly unending cycle of shooting until your “bullets” ran out, hide in a corner, wait for shields/ammo to recharge and continue firing again and again. The campaign is somewhere around 10 hours long and isn’t replayable unless you want the extra challenge of higher difficulties. There is a multiplayer mode but the scene has long since been dead so no one is online playing any games. There’s challenge modes too but I didn’t really try them out much other than to see what was there.

Gameplay Examination

The combat is a bit of a mess in Retrovirus. Much of the enemies look the same from a distance, it’s only an outline that distinguishes them apart. Even then, most enemies are just shoot at them till they die. Some have weakpoints but they still take a lot of bullets to put down. There’s a lot of them in this game too. To the point of being a giant grind fest instead of interesting targets. That’s because every enemy acts the same and the same tactics can be used on them. All the game does to make them “more challenging” is to put more and more and more enemies in a room. To the point that it starts to not only slow down the pace of the combat, but the framerate as well. It was getting to the point that I was skipping entire rooms to try and get to the end of the game but even when I got within sight of it, all I saw was a giant horde of enemies and a difficult boss to beat. I had enough, I stopped, I was just sick and tired of the unending grind. And that’s disregarding the fact that the game suffers from poor optimization, the combat of retrovirus is poorly paced and not rewarding.

You find most of your guns within the first five hours but they don’t do a lot to shake things up. There’s a sniper weapon, a grenade launcher, railgun and more. But it ultimately just becomes a spam the gun fest in order to clear out rooms of enemies before they take you down. Expect to reload a lot too because of how many enemies can be in some rooms. Your anti-virus ship can be customized and upgraded as you gain levels throughout the campaign. These upgrades aren’t all insiginicant either, some of them can make weapons more powerful at the cost of accuracy or make the grenades into homing missiles. The ship that you’re in handles itself ok but it felt a bit more static than I would have preferred.

Narrative Talk

Retrovirus takes place in a computer at the microscopic level, where the player must clean out the infection of a virus that infiltrated the system. Along the way, the player will encounter the different subsystems and software programs that run in the computer including Email, CPU, Memory and more. All of these different systems are voiced and given their own two-dimensional personalities. Along the way, the player may pick up logs that talk about some vague conspiracy/shady dealings to hack this system that you’re in. But to be frank, I skipped reading half of them. I don’t quite get why those logs weren’t voiced when the “characters” of this computer system were. I get that’s more expensive but I’d much prefer to have the audio logs read out to me as I explore the level rather than having to be stopped every 10 minutes to read something. The logs themselves weren’t that interesting either, mostly talking about conspiracies and corporate espianoge for a company/organization we know little about. 

As for the main story, it’s not much to write about either. Plenty of stereotype/cliched characters are present that might have been endearing had any of them had a character arc or meaning. But they are mostly just characters that say their lines as you progress through the levels and aren’t revisited. Except for a few of them. This is because Retrovirus is a linear game, with only a little bit of exploration down side corridors. It was just difficult to get invested in these characters or the situation we found ourselves in. Plus, the super-secret mystery of why a virus is here is pretty easy to figure out in the first hour from reading the text logs. So, the story simply serves to justify the existence of the campaign. It’s not terrible but it’s not memorable either. 

PC Settings and Audio/Video

Game Options What Users Can Configure
 Windowed, Borderless and Fullscreen Mode  4:3, 16:9 and 16:10 resolutions supported. Sampling available.
 V-Sync, Field of View and HUD.  V-Sync on/off. FOV goes from 40 to 90. HUD can be turned off.
 FXAA and Lighting Detail are the only graphical options.  FXAA can be turned on/off. Lighting goes from Low-to-High.
 Multiple Audio Sliders  Effects, Music, Voice and Effects During Voice.
 Keybindings  Multiple keybindings are available and multiple keys can be set for a single operation
 Multiplayer Support  LAN/Online, multiplayer base is dead as of this review.

One neat detail of the options menu is that it tells you the game’s current frame rate and how much load is on the GPU. Wish more games would do that. Anyway, I would rate Retrovirus’ performance as pretty terrible overall. During calm scenes, the performance tends to fluctuate around 50FPS but get any sort of enemies or shooting going on and framerate starts taking hits. It gets substantially worse in later levels where there are lots of enemies and lots of activity going on. Even setting the game down to absolute minimum settings still doesn’t improve the problems on my machine. I would definitely consider the problems to be unacceptable yet tolerable, if you absolutely must play it. But given how fluctuating framerate can slow down or mess your aim pretty badly, it’s not an issue I would accept.

The inner workings of the computer are pretty neat to see but not the most memorable. Especially when so much of the game is a lot of corridors and somewhat generic fighting rooms that you don’t revisit (with a few exceptions). The audio design is ok, guns sound a bit muted and there isn’t a lot of satisfying feedback from the combat. The music is pretty forgettable but it does work for the overall ambiance. 

Final Thoughts

I can see where they were going with this game. Regardless of what I said, they had an overall design and executed it pretty well all things given. But the more I play, the more I think these developers might have been out of their league. It wants to be a 6-DOF, but I don’t think it took the best lessons from the genre and applied them here. There are some interesting visual designs and neat hazards to avoid. But it’s simply bogged down in the tonnage of bullet-sponge enemies, overly long campaign and weapons that aren’t very distinguishable from each other. The creature designs simply blend too much into each other and aren’t exactly interesting. It’s simply point and shoot until you overheat or run out of bullets. They did an admirable effort all things given, but not an effort that I can recommend.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to read more reviews here or share this post around!

-KingIsaacLinksr

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