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Heat Signature is the best game I saw at GDC

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What's cooler than being cool?

Gunpoint ultimately had very little to do with guns. It was a smartly designed puzzler with an immensely satisfying core set of mechanics and witty dialogue. But the title never came into play; pointing guns at people always went poorly for me. Tom Francis, the writer-turned-designer behind game, promises his new project will have a relevant name. From what I played at GDC, that seems to be the case.

It’s called Heat Signature, it’s Hotline Miami meets FTL, and it’s easily the best thing I saw all show.

Heat Signature (PC)
Developer: Suspicious Developments

Publisher: Suspicious Developments
Release Date: When it "feels ready"

If you look at Heat Signature, it’s not difficult to see a through-line between this game and Gunpoint. There’s a lot of opportunity for emergent gameplay in both titles, with an emphasis on improvisation. I often found myself cracking up whenever something went wrong. Rebounding from a mistake never felt impossible.

Here, you play a little dude in a little ship. That’s all I know for sure; there’s currently no story attached to the game. Francis is dedicated to feature locking before he starts writing a story around the mechanics, but there will be some form of narrative component in the final product. Your ship is designed for boarding, so your only form of interacting with other ships is smashing into their airlock and hopping aboard.

The build of the game I played had three different kinds of missions: steal an item, assassinate a crew member, or hijack a ship and fly it back to a certain spot. They’re simple enough on their own, but the missions take on a whole new life when things start going wrong. For example, I accidentally blew up part of a ship during a mission. I had to kill a target in a different part of the ship, but the corridor I was supposed to take was in pieces, floating through space. So I docked my ship in the blown-out part of the mining vessel, creating a new airlock, only to find a locked door. The only option? Spawn more explosives and make an even bigger mess.


I never actually got to my target, but I could have hijacked a nearby ship with actual weapons and blown my target to smithereens, if I were so inclined. So many games claim to offer open problem solving, but Heat Signature actually delivers (much like Gunpoint). For example, in the build I played, it’s possible for your breaching ship to be destroyed. So, in lieu of a breaching ship, you can launch yourself out of an airlock towards another ship’s airlock, steering yourself with a gun.

Even the death state feels exciting and improvisational. If you get killed while on a ship, you have to remote control your ship in your direction before you bleed to death. Since your ship has realistic thrusters (e.g: the only way to slow down is to thrust in the other direction) as opposed to being able to turn on a dime, you’re forced to master the controls if you want to keep a particularly lucrative run going.

This also factors into the game’s title. Running your engines heats up your ship, which causes your *ahem* heat signature to become visible to enemies. I often ran my thrusters at full blast for a second, launching me across the galaxy but keeping my ship cold. However, this often caused me to slam against the hull of the enemy ship, causing me to careen off in the opposite direction. Closing the distance between you and your quarry -- a simple mechanical loop in any other game -- feels like an adventure unto itself.

And that’s Heat Signature in a word. It feels adventurous. It feels big. It captures the imagination. Maybe it’s unprofessional to express this level of enthusiasm, but I’m not going to sit here and lie to you about how I feel. This game is awesome. I can’t wait to play the full thing.

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Mike Cosimano
Mike CosimanoSenior Reporter   gamer profile

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Also on destructoid: Heat Signature   (3)   From our database:

  • Heat Signature is the best game I saw at GDC - Mike Cosimano
  • Even failing looks fun in Heat Signature - Jordan Devore
  • Gunpoint designer and artist team up for Heat Signature - Jordan Devore
  • Heat Signature is already looking hot - Alasdair Duncan
  • Gunpoint designer Tom Francis has made some good progress on Heat Signature - Darren Nakamura
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    Filed under... #GDC #Indie #Previews #roguelike #space sim

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