From the outset Drawn to Death drags you kicking and screaming into its messed up world. It’s self aware, wonderfully vulgar and downright hilarious at times, constantly breaking the fourth wall to take jabs at the player and the gaming industry as a whole. This expertly crafted aesthetic elevates what should be at best an above average multiplayer shooter, to a unique and clever experience with the potential to find a substantial cult following.
Drawn to Death’s main draw (last pun I promise) is its artstyle. The game takes place in the notebook of a student sat in class, bored out of his mind. The entire world is presented as hand drawn doodles, with profanities and rambling thoughts scrawled all over the in-game environments. This art style allows an incredible amount of artistic freedom which really shines through in the character designs. There’s a robotic mega-babe with a shark’s head, an Australian punk rocker, a psychotic chainsaw wielding animatronic bear and my personal favourite Cyborgula who is, yep you guessed it, robo-dracula.
Each character has a unique set of abilities, their own theme song and multiple skins to unlock. Experimenting with each character is the key to success as finding the subtle advantages each one offers will give you the edge in battle. There are pros and cons to each, with some characters being strong to a particular enemy or able to counteract their stat bonuses. While the bonus special abilities do give you an edge in battle, it’s the array of ridiculous weapons that are the game’s bread and butter. And when I say ridiculous, I mean it. Available weapons include a games console which engulfs enemies in pixelated explosions, a mutilated zombie corpse which throws flaming dodgeballs and a literal coffin which fires corpses. There’s also a power up which spawns a giant hand to ride on as you obliterate your foes which is, pretty awesome.
Drawn to Death‘s unique style is backed up by rock solid writing throughout. This ain’t your grandma’s arena shooter, the in-game announcer swears, tells stories of drug trips gone bad and makes masturbation jokes often. The game goes all in on its punk attitude, frequently insulting the player and taking shots at in-game purchases and video game culture. Various helpful tips are presented during loading screens which not only offer tips on how to get better at the game, but suggestions for your life too.
One such tip suggests masturbation (this is definitely the most I’ve ever said masturbation in a review) as a great outlet, while another compares a weapons ability to inflict pain to your Mother giving birth to you. The trophy list even, tells the story of the game’s illustrator going through the motions of teenage angst and considering a job flipping burgers. I’ve never experienced a game which so fully invests in its vibe, it really sets Drawn to Death apart in the over-saturated arena shooter space.
So how does Drawn to Death perform as an arena shooter? Well, while the mechanics are certainly competent enough to make the game fun, they don’t quite measure up to the level of polish of modern day shooters. Drawn to Death unfortunately feels like an arena shooter from 10 years ago. The shooting mechanics are adequate but a little clunky. Traversing the many levels is quick and easy but takes a while to master. The levels themselves are rarely different enough to be memorable and due to the artstyle, take a backseat. I wish that some of the levels would feature dynamic areas which would really keep the game fresh during extended playthroughs. I do admire the emphasis the game puts on skill rather than weapon progression as I always felt I got out exactly what I put in.
There’s a pretty steep learning curve here, even in unranked matches, the games are incredibly fast-paced and frenetic which is very daunting at first. It takes a lot of experimentation with different characters and weapons before things click but when they do, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Drawn to Death gives you plenty of reasons to keep playing. As XP is collected the player earns blood keys which can be used to purchase new weapons. The ranked section of the game features a tower to progress through, which grants the player stickers showing off their skill level. Mystery boxes can be acquired throughout the game which grant access to additional skins and taunts. Speaking of taunts, Drawn to Death gives you the ability to display an image taunt by swiping the Dualshock 4 touchpad. Each taunt is an original design each of which is destined to become a meme in itself.
The success of a game like this will depend on whether the player base sticks around. Launching the game for free on PS Plus is a great step to making this happen but I fear the game’s jarring style and initial difficulty may alienate players. There’s a great tutorial section but the game requires a lot of practice to get good at.
During my time with the game, matchmaking was generally okay, with only a few instances of lobbies not being filled. I did notice that I was squaring off against the same players a lot though so hopefully as more people start playing this will be alleviated. There are a lot of loading screens throughout the game which do halt the pace of action, which is a bit of a bummer but not enough to get too tedious.
Drawn to Death is unlikely to set the world on fire like other PS Plus freebies like Rocket league did. Which is a shame because it’s a game that at least deserves a chance. The incredible art style and hilarious writing more than make up for average gameplay mechanics and uninspiring maps. The diversity of the game’s characters and the sheer level of originality will hopefully be enough to ensure Drawn to Death is here to stay. If not though it’s certain to gain a devoted cult following.