Shotguns to shoot and cultists to boot
There's a lyric on Beach Slang's second album that sounds like it could be Dusk's mantra. "Play it loud, play it fast. Play me something that will always last," howls singer James Alex. Though the request is simple, it's a loaded gun. The band's growling sound channels the Replacements' sonic angst, unleashing it in a single line that challenges rock music's softening edges while rekindling punk's essence: fast, raw, and eternally driven by attitude.
Dusk carries that attitude, just in a different form. The upcoming first-person shooter wears its influences on its sleeves. It's unabashedly fast with an old-school look that serves as a nod to a bygone era. But instead of treading on nostalgia-worn territory, Dusk hits you like a sack of bricks, as if the game has something to prove.
I had a chance to check out Dusk at PAX East 2017. The wave-based segment was only a small slice of what the full game will offer, but it was more than enough to convey an entrancing -- and wickedly cultish -- experience.
My hands-on demo took place on an abandoned farm. The few buildings scattered around the property were ominous, the kind of low-poly locations that build a tense atmosphere. In the center of the level was a jump pad. Stepping foot on the contraption launched me into the air, granting access to nearby roofs. It was a small combat arena, all things considered, but it was the perfect setting for Dusk's feverish action.
Dusk marries fast-paced movement with macabre enemies and tight gunplay. From the moment my session began, I was bunnyhopping with ease, building momentum while I hunted for victims. I started with a sickle in each hand but quickly picked up an impressive arsenal. Pistols, shotguns, and a wooden crossbow were just a handful of the weapons I acquired by darting around the level. Each weapon was useful, responsive, and more than capable of cutting through the enemies that assaulted me from every angle.
I blasted my way through demon dogs and weird cultists. Hooded maniacs tried to rip me apart with chainsaws. Dusk's diverse array of baddies are formidable and imposing. They shot at me from wooden roofs and pursued me from the ground. I had to move fast to keep myself alive, all while aiming, shooting, and avoiding incoming projectiles.
But despite the chaos that surrounded me, I was impressed with how readable Dusk is. Even during the most pitched encounters, I never felt overwhelmed. Instead, the din of battle gave way to flow-like clarity while I fought and zipped around. I switched weapons and used the jump pad to launch aerial assaults without thinking. I was in the zone, and I loved every second of it.
All told, I played two different rounds of Dusk's survival wave mode. After dying in the sixth round on my second attempt, it took all I had to step away from the demo computer and let someone else test their skills. Like the cultists that inhabit its dark world, Dusk can sink its hooks into you with ease. The retrowave shooter has a lot going for it, including a full-on campaign and a bevy of in-game graphical tweaks. It's fast and violent, with a moody aesthetic that captures your attention. For anyone looking for a modern game crafted from the bones of forgotten shooters, look no further than Dusk. It's a wicked good time.