Back in the mid 90s, LAN parties were all the rage. For you younger folks in the crowd, LAN parties were basically where a group of people all brought their computers (massive desktop rigs since gaming laptops were still a pipedream at that point) to one location, hooked them all up through hubs and played “online” competitive games. This was pretty much a requirement since most online services were shaky at best for online gaming and many still charged by the hour/minute/etc. While games like Quake and DOOM were most people’s LAN party game of choice, me and my friends were different. We gathered together to play Descent more often than anything. Descent was basically a first person shooter, but you were piloting a ship through a subterranean series of caves and corridors. It had the six degrees of movement/freedom that air combat games had, but still had the confined space that tended to gravitate players towards each other and ramp up the action. It has been a long time since the Descent days and even though the game is about twenty years old, people still play it online. Unfortunately there hasn’t been much new to come out along the same lines until now: enter Retrovirus.
Retrovirus plays along the same lines; you’re piloting a drone/bot type of thing, but instead of subterranean caves and corridors, you’re flying through the innards of a personal computer. You see, you’re an ‘antivirus bot’ tasked with removing a virus and all of its damage from the computer you protect. Unfortunately I’ve just spoiled the entire story of the game for you, because that’s about all there is to the narration/storyline. The background story definitely isn’t the strong point in Retrovirus. You’ll find the occasional tidbit throughout playing that attempts to flesh things out for you, but it still falls flat. The narration is boring and dry. Fortunately, the gameplay and graphics are nice enough to carry the game.
Graphically speaking the game is very beautiful. The environments are very techy and Tron/Hackers reminiscent. The virus and worm enemies are organic in nature and contrast very well with the surrounding environments. As you move from one part of the ‘computer’ to another, the environments change suitably to keep things fresh and interesting.
Gameplay is fun and interesting even without any real story driving you forward. There are enough different enemy types to keep things interesting. The difficulty goes up and down a lot, from sections easy enough to breeze through on autopilot to others which will have you screaming and throwing things. Fortunately there are enough checkpoints and quick save options so that the harder levels/sections don’t become overly frustrating. There is also a wide variety of different powerups, weapons and gadgets you can equip on your drone to change your playstyle and combat abilities depending on what you’re going up against.
Further fleshing out the gameplay side of things is a cooperative mode and various competitive multiplayer options. The usual suspect modes are available naturally, but the most fun would have to be the MOBA style mode. With MOBAs being all the rage lately, it was nice to see the gameplay style making an appearance in a game like this which just naturally lends itself to the corridor battling style. The only real hamper to what could be an awesome online face shooting (or drone shooting I guess) experience is the lack of an established community yet. This is more a problem that affects all lesser known titles rather than Retrovirus in particular unfortunately. But if you can catch the game in ‘peak’ times and find people to play with, or convince some friends to go in with you on the game, it’s definitely a blast. And you don’t have to lug your computers all to one person’s house to play against each other like we did back in the day with Descent.