Whenever a game is remastered/remade, it falls into one of two categories: It either goes to reinforce your love for the game and remind you of all those loving hours you spent with it, or it goes to prove that some things should be left in the past and that no matter those cherished memories, the game just isn’t as good as you remember. Unfortunately for this game it falls into the latter, offering a gaming experience that is as frustrating as the game is old. Twenty years later and several generations onwards, The Chaos Engine has not aged well, and serves only as a nostalgia trip for those who remember it.
Playing as one out of six mercenaries, the player is tasked with destroying the ‘Chaos Engine’, a device that has accidentally torn space and matter apart to form all kinds of nasty creatures that must be killed. Travelling through a variety of different worlds and several different levels, the player will fight their way to stop this technological disaster. As you may have well gathered, the narrative is paper-thin, offering a very brief and generic plot that serves only to string the action-packed levels together. Characters have no personality, the levels no meaning, and the plot no depth, offering a narrative that is almost non-existent.
Before starting the game, the player is given a character selection screen in which six mercenaries are available. Each character has their own separate stats, weapons and special abilities making for plenty of variety and adding longevity to the title should the player feel compelled to complete the game more than once. Periodically through the game, the player is given the ability to upgrade their mercenary in a handful of different ways such as increasing the max health, adding another life etc. This is all made possible through spending the currency found throughout the various levels. This currency system adds an extra dynamic to the game, rewarding players for exploring hidden parts of the levels, and fighting more enemies.
This game is all about co-op gameplay, and as such another character can join you on screen. For those who wish to go alone, you will be able to select a character to fight alongside you, of which will be controlled by a surprisingly smart AI. It must be said that the game is FAR more enjoyable and easier when playing with a human partner, a feature that can be done through both local and online play.
As mentioned previously, the narrative is put to one side allowing the concentration to be on the core gameplay. Player movement is conducted through the use of the WASD keys and is responsive enough to cope with the fast paced shooting. Players don’t aim as such, but have to move about in order to face the direction they wish to fire in, before using the SPACEBAR to initiate weapon fire. By modern standards the shooting mechanics are very tedious and often results with inaccurate shooting, and in most cases becomes the primary reason for player death. In a game where you have to react fast and take on multiple enemies at once, the primitive shooting mechanics certainly hinder the ability of the player and frustrates immensely.
The games levels feel remarkably fresh and creative offering interesting level designs, with each level feeling considerably different from the last. While some areas may feel predictable, there lurks a lot of surprises and plenty of tense combat scenarios. It’s just a shame that these levels are wounded by the poor gameplay throughout. Enemies in this game are standard fare and outside of different sprites, they annoyingly offer too little variation. This however doesn’t mean the title lacks in challenge, as players will find The Chaos Engine to be very difficult. To put it in simple terms, the game is very punishing. Almost too punishing, frustrating the player for most of the play time and requiring multiple replays of levels until they are completed successfully. Player health is incredibly low to start off with, and despite the ability to upgrade it, never feels like enough. Enemies are powerful, fast and in their dozens and will attack upon sight. Whereas players in the 90’s would have slaved away to beat the levels, the old fashioned gameplay makes it almost impossible to persevere with the constant challenge.
From a production stand point, the game at least looks and sounds the part. The developers have certainly worked hard to reinvigorate the classic look and feel of the game, updating the sprites and making the fantastic retro music sound the best it can. It still looks old, but the new coat of paint certainly makes it easier on the eyes, and much more satisfying to look at.
I feel harsh marking this game down because of its classic status and heritage, but the fact of the matter is that it just doesn’t work in the modern age. This genre and the gameplay within it has come such a way since the original release of this title that it is quite simply a chore to play. From the vicious difficulty to the primitive gameplay, The Chaos Machine does not stand the test of time.
The Chaos Engine is a prime example of a fantastic retro shooter, however when transported two decades into the future it becomes but a shadow of its former self. This re-release only serves to demonstrate the huge leaps made in the gaming world, resulting in something that has no purpose in the modern era. By current standards the gameplay is dull, the controls are awkward and the difficulty is punishing. This game has nothing to offer the modern day gamer, and aside from being a fun history lesson, it will only find comfort in the hands of those that are nostalgic about it.
- Nice looking sprites.
- Retro soundtrack.
- Imaginative level design.
- Plenty of variety with the mercenaries.
- Controls are tedious.
- Levels are extremely difficult.
- Gameplay is mostly dull.
- It’s hard to persevere with the title.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.