Morgan takes the plunge into the void of darkness that is the Steam store’s free-to-play page. Yeah, you’d better look grateful.
I’m no clairvoyant. I’m sure I could be; all I’d need is a fancy headband and to swindle enough people out of their money in a cheap tent propped up on ice lolly sticks. But I’m willing to bet on the fact that you clicked this article thinking one of two things:
Berlin? Has this turned into a series about travel without me realising?
Morgan, have you seriously fallen low enough to bully a low-end free-to-play Steam game that had maybe two developers maximum and the budget of a ham sandwich?
If you think I’m going to give A Night in Berlin a free pass just because they funded the thing with charity money and-or pulled it out of a donkey’s arsehole to maintain their cover for an insurance scam, you obviously don’t know me very well.
A Night in Berlin is a mental endurance test created by Bad Smile Media. You play as one of three secret agents per level, sent into Berlin to eliminate a particular enemy of the state in each. But over time, these agents begin to question the morals of their actions and whether relentless murder might generally be a bit of a bad thing to do.
Trust me when I say none of this comes across in what I only call cutscenes because “tediously-drawn-out-and-poorly-rendered-slideshow-presentations” would take slightly longer to type. The game’s Steam page gives more information than you’ll receive in the next ten hours of your life spent playing the thing: “three MI6 agents are dispatched to Berlin to carry out wartime assassinations in the year 2024.” 2024? Wartime? A year ago, I might have laughed at the idea, but now it all feels just a little bit bleak, doesn’t it?
Yeah, I’m pretty lame, you can almost hear the game sighing resignedly. Guess I’ll just toddle off to the dustbin of history forever, then.
Make no mistake, readers. It’s bad. But we all knew that. The creamy-brown shade of its splattering diarrhoea is one we always like to poke through with a stick and laugh at.
Maybe I’d be more lenient on the inherent awfulness that comes with a game financed by stolen lunch money if passing a level actually made me happy to come closer to a satisfying conclusion, rather than put my heads in my hands and moan at the thought of what could be coming next. There are only eight levels in the entire game, but after level three alone took me an hour and a half to get through, I don’t think it’s exactly crying out for an expansion pack any time soon.
Do you want to know the exact moment A Night in Berlin lost me? It was about five minutes into the first mission. Some random radge-pot about seven rooms away noticed me long before I ever could have noticed them, upon which they sprinted over and aggressively wiped my chest with what looked like a butter knife. I then got to stare bemusedly at my body erupting into a fountain of blood for a few seconds, before the screen faded out and I was plopped right back at the beginning of the level, body restored and barely a few centimetres away from way I’d started.
Immediately, all sense of tension was lost; I’d seen things get as bad as they were ever going to get. Either the animation budget wasn’t too great or someone hadn’t washed that knife properly and my character was just violently allergic to dairy.
The entire thing plays like the developers were creating different levels in different time zones, in different countries and quite possibly on different plains of existence. How you play in one level is completely incongruous with the way you play in the next. Alternating between Yakko, Wakko and Dot means that you’ll go from having to land perfect headshots to rolling round the floor trying to dodge pistol-wielding gunmen with laser accuracy because you accidentally left your own weapons bag in the taxi over or something. It doesn’t even make sense from a story standpoint, either. There’s no need to have us try to memorise three different characters when they could easily just be the same twat with a wig and a different shirt.
The only consistent feature throughout the game is your health, or lack thereof. Challenge comes less from strategic planning or innovative level design, but rather the fact that in a toe-to-toe scenario you have the defensive capability of a half-melted Kinder Surprise. It’s also got some lovely pixelated walls you can get acquainted with when you’re constantly trying to avoid being seen by every knifeman, gunman and attack gopher at once. There’s no indication of whether or not the enemy notices you: no noise, just a frankly terrifying cheaply-rendered man hurtling towards you at Mach 3 and the signature smell of you cacking yourself. I understand that this is what would no doubt happen in a real-life scenario, but in video games you get used to a sort of henchman etiquette where they’ll pretend not to see you for a few seconds because let’s face it, the way you tripped on that loose floorboard was fairly embarrassing.
How would I sum up A Night in Berlin, you ask? To sum something up, I first need an idea of what kind of game I’m actually reviewing. A shooter? A brawler? An action-adventure? Probably not; you need either action or adventure forthat. I can tell you what it isn’t: it isn’t very good. Two acquaintances of mine recently downloaded the game and got up to level seven in half the time it took me to get to level four, just to rub it in a bit, but I’m fairly certain they’d have no way to describe the genre either. And these are people who spend so much time sat in front of computers I’d be surprised if their flesh isn’t partially fused into the leather of their chairs.
Oh, well. Maybe with you, there’s no line where the concept of adorable awfulness begins to test your patience, and you can get a kick out of the boring map design and dogshit collision physics. Maybe you’ll enjoy the rapid speed and death cycle for the first hour or so, until eventually it all slowly fades and your interest ends up about as low as the polygon count.