Time for my first post-Potential Gamer post about gaming. Weird.
Upon completion of Tom Francis’ Gunpoint a blog post is created based upon your activities in the game. You’re invited to choose the precise wording by picking from some glib options and are then presented with your own, personalised Secret Blog. It’s a quietly excellent finishing touch to a game full of underplayed excellence.
Gunpoint fits neatly into the genre of comedy stealth. As it happens, most stealth games fall into the comedy stealth genre; they just don’t realise it. Setting up amusing traps for witless guards: comedy. Trying to fit every single downed NPC on the map into a single dumpster: comedy. Dangling from a gargoyle and hoisting somebody up into the rafters: inherently comedic. Throwing a rock at the opposite wall to make all the bad guys look in that direction: hilarious.
Nevertheless, most stealth games still insist on playing it straight. In fact, there are very few comedy games these days, with humour usually relegated to slightly rubbish satire in GTA games or sub-teenage Duke Nukem quips in everything else. Portal 2 was a comedy game. Some of Tim Schafer’s stuff carries on the LucasArts funny trajectory.
Gunpoint is therefore the funniest game of 2013. The dialogue is written in absurdist noir tones, the players often well aware of their own ridiculousness as they navigate through the labyrinthine (and daft) plot. It’s all very knowing but never feels like the writer being self-consciously clever or obnoxious. There’s a throwaway, lackadaisical attitude from the lead which counterpoints all the melodrama with a wry, raised eyebrow.
The game itself involves taking on various spy missions, infiltrating hostile environments and stealing stuff. There’s an array of tools at your disposal, from trousers that grant you the ability to jump (and fall) huge distances to full-on hacking of the building’s systems.
The hacking is simple to operate but sophisticated in its potential applications. It’s all about rewiring one thing to another, so that when a lift arrives on a certain floor it’ll trigger a door to open, knocking out a guard, which will in turn switch off the lights on another floor…etc. Much of the game involves locating the hardpoints that give you access to the building’s different, colour-coded systems.
Living up to its name, the game does include a gun for the player, though this only comes in at a later stage. Even this has a fresh twist. While I made extensive use of the gun, I didn’t fire it once. It seems designed specifically by somebody tired of the over-saturation of games by projectile weapons, looking for a new way to use a tired device. Tom Francis worked for PC Gamer for about 50 years, so that makes sense.
It’s a short game but don’t let that put you off, because it’s packed full of wit and moments that will make you feel clever.
It’s a game that should be played, not least because you can end every level by smashing dramatically out of the top floor window.