An FPS ripped from the 90s, Hyperstrange and developer Mekworx’ Supplice revels in classic play, turning back the clock in fine form.
Remember the term “Doom clone”? If you’re too young it might sound strange, but all FPS’ were dubbed that at one point. For some reason, and one that befuddled me more than a bit even at the time, gaming-writers and fans didn’t seem to recognize the first-person shooter as a new genre. Instead they just referred to all FPS’ as Doom clones.
That’s a pretty insulting moniker for the teams that poured hours of work into games like Heretic, Rise of the Triad, and others. It didn’t take all that long till it started to fade thankfully, though it did hang around for a few years. History lessons aside though, playing Supplice brought that time period roaring back for me. It just felt like one of those “Doom clones” that hit the PC circa 1994-ish.
Not that it copies Doom outright, but it’s impossible not to see the roots of the genre in Supplice. There’s solid reason for that, since the game comes out of a developer who’s familiar with Doom-modding, though it goes a little deeper. Supplice has somehow completely captured the feel of an era, which, for good or ill, is pretty freaking cool if we’re being honest.
Mekworx’ Supplice revels in mid-90s FPS design. When I say that it feels like it came out in 1995, I mean every bit of that. And of course that’s kind of the point, but that said, if you’re looking for a deep narrative… well you’re not gonna find it here.
The entirety of Supplice’s story is told via terminals that you’ll have to access and read as you play through the game’s gore-soaked levels. These include ‘live’ messages from helpful (?) AI’s and survivors of the alien (maybe) assault, as well as pre-recorded texts and emails from base personal.
While it might not sound like it, a complete and pretty enjoyable story is spelled out with that. And although it seems like a pretty straightforward one at first, it does bob and weave as things go on.
Basically you play as a worker just transferred to Methuselah colony. It’s not all that special of a place, though it definitely becomes one, as an invasion by an unknown and seemingly alien force hits it like a ton of bricks.
Techno-organic troopers, giant beasts, and Strogg-like (from Quake 2) repurposed human soldiers make up the bulk of the opposing forces. The adventure sends your character across the colony, on a mission to reach something called the Flux Gate, and make it off of the planet. Though, as it turns out, things might be a little more complicated than that.
I would’ve loved to have seen some cut-scenes digging a little deeper into what’s, again, a pretty good narrative. Even static images, told comic-book style would have been great. Though that said, it would have messed with the aesthetic. And with a retro title, that’s pretty darn important to maintain.
Just like with the style of storytelling, Supplice revels in Doom-like controls. Players can move and shoot, as well as interact with their environment by flipping switches and using security keys.
As for the hardware, Suppllice stars a small but very solid arsenal. It’s packed with cool guns like a firebomb-tossing RPG, twin submachine guns, a triple-barreled shotgun, and a sick drill that serves as a melee option.
That drill can actually be upgraded (once) as you play too, but beyond that the weapons are what they are. Unlike some other retro-shooters out there, Mekworx decided to not include an arsenal-wide upgrade system.
I will add though that the controls for everything are spot on. If you remember those games of yore fondly, I’d find it tough to believe you wouldn’t feel right at home blasting your way through Supplice’s alien landscape.
Pinnacle of the era
If you’re looking for ‘retro’, Supplice can’t really be beat in terms of the look. In fact, if the game did see release decades ago, it would have been one of the best-looking FPS’ of the day. The graphics are a mix of Quake and Duke Nukem 3D, with some excellent lighting effects and imaginatively constructed maps.
The game’s locations are fun to play, well varied, and constructed like they actually could be part of a science colony. That’s something that I personally love to see in a retro game. There are randomly placed power-ups and ammo (etc) for sure, but the maps themselves make way more sense than something like Doom’s early stages, for example.
Those stages are also really colorful, with outdoor and indoor areas. And if you expected the outdoor ones to be martian sand or something, think again. Methuselah colony is pretty lush, with green plant life and flowing water.
While the levels themselves are terrific, as touched-upon earlier, Supplice’s enemy list isn’t all that deep. It’s a pity, though one that might be corrected as the game expands with future episodes. Something to keep in mind. And in any event, it’s definitely fun to mow down crowds of what the game does throw at you.
I did find the music to be pretty annoying and repetitive, but I guess you can’t have everything. Oh, and not that I should have to point it out since this whole review has hung on the “retro” themes of Supplice, but there’s almost no vocal work.
Everything is text-based in Supplice, other than the shouts of the enemies and the occasional voice of the main character telling the player that she can’t open a door or something.
As retro-shooters go, Supplice is pretty great. It’s definitely got the feel down, and actually gave me a sense that it could have been launched back in 1995. In this case, that’s a very good thing.
Especially if you remember the genre’s infancy fondly, you’ll probably find plenty to like about this one. And remember, this is just episode 1, so there’s plenty more Supplice to come.
A copy of this game was supplied by the publisher for this review
Release Date: April 6th, 2023
Platform: PC (Steam version reviewed)
MSRP: $14.99 USD
What's a Supplice anyway?
Premise - 80%
Gameplay - 84%
Presentation - 80%
Do you remember the FPS' of the mid-90s? The ones that came out in the wake of Doom and Doom II? If you do, I feel pretty safe saying that you're going to dig Supplice. Developer Mekworx knows Doom well from the modding scene that's still thriving, and it shows. Supplice has terrific controls, a fantastic retro look, and a surprisingly cool story. And it's just getting started.