I love the Wild West. Even more than the wild west though, I love the faux Wild West. Think along the lines of Wild Guns or Oddworld: Strangers Wrath, games with all the trappings of a cowboy story, but with little twists here and there. Scalpers falls squarely into the faux Wild West category, which is why I was so excited to pick this title up. Much to my disappointment the amount of actual scalping on display here is nil. But once I got passed that, what I discovered was a tight and excessively playable game that offers up some great thrills… as long as you have someone to play with.
In case the title didn’t clue you in, this is not a fully released game right now, so bear that in mind. Plenty of things I’ll mention here are subject to chopping and changing as time goes on. That being said, they don’t really need to change any to make this worth the current price of entry; the game is already very well polished as it is.
When you load up Scalpers you’re treated to a grungy sounding cowboy tune whilst you load a lobby up. When you actually start up a mission however, the tone is resoundingly less dirty than the intro would have you believe. It may sound odd when talking about a game set in the Wild West, but Scalpers has a very clean look to it. In the currently available levels (of which there are 4 by the way) you spend you time-fighting through the desert and industrial parks, which probably makes me clean statement from earlier sound even stranger. What I mean by this really is the colours are all very vivid and distinct. The specific shade of beige used for the sandy landscape is really appealing to me, and it’s great as a canvas, because all the characters and enemies contrast and stand out well against it. Which is a bloody good thing too considering the amount of enemies you deal with, but I’ll get to that in my next paragraph, because I want to talk more presentation for now.
The three playable characters available all have a simple design yet they are all instantly recognisable as western archetypes, like the old war vet or the preacher man with a gun. You get the feeling that they are all misfits in one way or another, but that feeling is about all your getting in terms of the story right now. Hopefully, with future updates, we can get a better sense of who they are as people… or mammals I guess. Did I forget to mention that everyone here is an anthropomorphic animal? The enemies you fight are equally as simplistic in design, being mostly reduced down to one colour, which helps pick them out in crowds and lets you know instantly what you’re dealing with. I particular liked the little rabbit type monster who swarm at you, mostly because they look a little like the Raving Rabbids and blowing them away with a shotgun really appealed to the Rayman fan in me. Really the only complaint I have presentation wise right now is the lack of variety, maybe more environments would mess with the simple clarity that I really like but there are more Wild West settings than just desert.
Scalpers is best described as a twin stick shooter… which isn’t really accurate, seeing as right now there is no controller support at all. But you get the idea, as is traditional for this genre, you’ll be gunning down dozens of mobs while you push on through a mission. I know what you’re thinking: “wouldn’t shooting down the same enemies in the same 4 levels get boring?” Well, the monotony is lessened by the generous amount of customisation you’re allowed. You can Choose from 4 weapons: a pistol if you main Mcree, a shotgun if you want that punch, a chain gun if you need to sustain firepower and a sword if you want to die. Then to expand upon that each character has their own unique skill for you to consider, and you can assign a weapon skill to boot. Now I want to talk about the weapon skills because they are easily my favourite thing in this game. Effectively, you draw they skill you want to use with your mouse (which is a reason controller support might be difficult). For example, you can choose a curving bullet skill, to make it work you paint the path you want the round to take and then let it fly. It’s a really simple, yet elegant way to make using these skills easy but also introduce a higher skill ceiling for more advanced tactics.
But it is not all sunshine and rainbows right now, like I said at the beginning you can have a lot of fun with Scalpers as it is right now… with friends. This game is an absolute slog on your own, even on the lowest difficulty setting. It just feels like you’re slapping against a wall when you go it alone and don’t even think about using any weapon that’s not the chain gun if you play solo. The game is clearly not all the way balanced as of yet, so hopefully, they can make more single player options available as time goes by. There is a matchmaking system, in theory, but for the life of me, I could not get it to work. Get some friends, get on discord (also make sure you get the game otherwise you’ll all be waiting around for nothing) and get playing.
Other than that though… Its hard to say anything bad against Scalpers right now. That’s the beauty of early access really, the game is not content rich right now, but more will come. Keep your eyes on this one if you have a desire for co-op fun in a zany environment. Or you know what, just keep your eyes on this one in regardless, there is a lot of potential here.