We currently live in a world where conflict and war isn’t exactly news to anyone. With ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, the war games we’ve grown up with over the years are no longer becoming fictional and it’s dreadful. That being said, it’s these conflicts that could pave the way for a deeper understanding of war and how it affects civilians and refugees fleeing from those countries.
Games have a fantastic way of storytelling in some very unique ways, whether it’s narrative-driven or tells a story in a way that the player themselves must interpret, or games like Path Out which tells the story from a first-hand perspective. It’s not exactly the most stunning-looking game, nor is it revolutionary, but it tells a touching story of the struggles of being a refugee.
In comes Soldiers of the Universe a game which, according to the description is “inspired by the Turkey’s ongoing war on terror in the middle east”. It’s also the first game of its kind to come out of an Istanbul based independent game development studio (Rocwise Entertainment). The game hopes to shed some light by offering a story-driven FPS game made in Turkey which focuses on the ongoing conflict both in the local region and across the world. So surely it’d offer an interesting take on the conflicts in Turkey and Syria. Unfortunately Soldiers of the Universe misses the mark in almost every single way.
I get it, the first person shooter genre, with its Call of Duties, Battlefields, Counter-Strike’s have really upped the bar when it comes to the standards of shooters and it makes it very difficult for newer studios to try and muscle in on that territory. That’s why Soliders of the Universe stood out to me. The mechanics might be a little rough around the edges, but perhaps the game’s story would help it stand out among the crowd.
Upon starting the game the story is set up through two pre-rendered cut scenes. These cut scenes wouldn’t look out of place in a 2002 remaster. The animations are rough, the voice acting is horrific, and the overall narrative is just painful. The first cutscene has the game’s main character Hakan Kahraman receiving a phone call from his father – who has no filters on the voice to make it sound like we’re hearing him through the phone.
Then something goes awry when his father is then replaced by what I can only presume is a Turkish terrorist who threatens Hakan. Then things take a turn as it sounds as if this terrorist decides to shoot his father, to which Hakan decides to recite the script of Taken.
From here things start to get really really weird, to the point where I was actually worried I’d stumbled across some sort of odd Turkish propaganda as Hakkan and the leader of an organisation named “Akinci Warriors” starts talking about martyrs and God. Proclaiming that there is only one true God. It genuinely made me feel uncomfortable.
From here things get much much worse. We’re introduced to the game’s three other squad members, who weirdly introduce themselves as if they’d never met before. Then the game begins. From here you walk around a corner and are immediately shot at, to which one of the AI squad members shouts “kill the bastards”. The story pretty much disappears from this point on. I have no idea exactly why we are where we are and why we’re killing these people, all I know is that they have impeccable aim.
The game itself isn’t a work of art, the level design is incredibly linear, and the textures are a sight for sore eyes. The only area in which the game shines is movement and the visuals of the weapons / arms of your character. What’s more, the game suffers from the age-old problem of shooters from the early 2000s in which players face-off against a group of assailants, then move forward, only to face-off against another group.
One of the biggest issues was Soldiers of the Universe‘s AI who, even on the easiest mode, had incredible aim from even the longest distances. As soon as you were within eye shot, you’d get hit. You’d likely think that this game is a cover shooter, right? But you’d be wrong. The game has little to no cover mechanics aside crouching behind the very few environmental objects dotted throughout each stage, and this isn’t even a toggle crouch either. You’re expected to hold CTRL each time you want to duck behind cover and reload.
It’d be nice if there was a way to shoot from behind cover, whether aiming down sight had you popping up for a second, or even to lean to the side, however there is none of that. You simply have to wait and shoot. And more often than not you’ll get hit which would cause you to flinch as if someone had thrown a bag of sand at your head.
At the beginning, the introduction told you about the Sword of the Universe or something, a secret weapon this organisation is conjuring in order to turn the tides of the ongoing conflict, it’s oddly futuristic and was a slightly promising prospect, however the game quickly switches from what could be an interesting spin on warfare, to a generic shooter that was just far too painful to get through.
If you’re hoping that Soldiers of the Universe is a decent narrative-driven shooter created by a studio which has a first-hand look at a war that’s taking place in amongst their home country, I’d honestly look elsewhere. What promises to be just that, delivers nothing more than a shooter that seems to have been brought back from the 2002 bargain bin.