In 2021, doors continue to be amongst the best things in video games. Take Severed Steel’s doors. One kick and they burst open, sure. But then they keep on going, freed from their hinges, racing outwards from the force of your blow, rushing for freedom. Fascinating – and useful. Catch a door in the stomach and it can be bad news. Your day will be thoroughly crimped. Oof. The end.
I read about Severed Steel in a recent issue of Edge. Mirror’s Edge with a bit of Superhot, a bit of Black. Also, I would add, something of The Club. You know what this means, anyway: movement and combat, swish, sliding, thudding violence, the welcome embrace of a combo system for chaining kills. There’s a sense throughout the current Steam demo that things can be maximised, that doing things stylishly and extravagantly is not enough. But doing things efficiently is not enough either. One must be stylish and extravagant and efficient. Is that possible?
Severed Steel suggests it is. Its action has been bitten down into little chunks – perfect encounters playing out in first-person across rooms built from sheeny voxels. Each level is a scattering of rooms and corridors that you race through with a simple objective: kill everyone, smash the pistons, find the exit, grab the prototype. You have slow-mo on one trigger, but it’s far better to get used to stunting – wall runs and ground slides and exaggerated hops of all kinds. You’re invulnerable when you’re in a stunt, as you should be, and it’s the best way of moving between oncoming forces, picking them off one at a time – gunshot, a good hard kick, a door well placed and flung in anger.
So brisk! No time to stop, really, as the enemies close in. No time to reload – and you can’t reload anyway. The game’s protagonist has one arm, so weapons that have been emptied of bullets are flung aside, leaving you free to grab the weapon dropped by whichever unfortunate you just finished off. (Due to control set-ups, Severed Steel will also be a game that people with one arm can play.)
There’s something beautiful about this already: voxels are always a good time, and so is speed, acrobatics, and a love of good action games and satisfying mechanics. Severed Steel’s demo can be rushed through in about ten minutes. But I doubt you’ll be able to leave it at that.