At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is a competitive twin-stick shooter where up to four players pick up arms and murder each other with no real question to motive. Plot twist alert! The game utilizes, to a degree, stealth mechanics to take what could be a stale game and make it a little more interesting.
Let’s kick off with the gameplay of At Sundown: Shots in the Dark. The title isn’t just a cool play on words but actually hints at what to expect. The game uses a lot of lighting mechanics to make each level dark and ominous whilst using unlit areas as ways to hide from your opponents. So not only can your opponents not see where you are, you can’t see them either.
An unusual choice for a twin-stick as they usually offer fast-paced action but instead we get a more tactical approach to the genre. Instead of just running headlong into an encounter you can instead use different methods to try and lure your opponents to yourself or go to them whilst not compromising your position.
There are ways throughout playing that players can be exposed, whether it is by sprinting, which leaves a trail of where the player is going/has been, or through pressing a button to double check your position which is visible to all others in the game. Lastly, there is a particular power-up which puts a spotlight on a random player, therefore even if they are in the shadows they will become fully visible to everyone else.
Whenever you finish a match, you earn XP regardless of how you placed, with winning netting you more points, where every 500 gets you a new unlock in the form of weapons, maps, and new game modes. This is a great incentive as the more you play, the more stuff you eventually end up to play with.
The combat in At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is honestly very standard for the genre. It requires players to use the left stick to move around the map and the right to take aim. It isn’t anything hugely remarkable but thanks to the stealth of the overall game, it doesn’t feel overly stale.
You can also use a fairly varying host of weapons. You start with just a few weapons, each with their own play style, but with more play time comes more weapons to use. The most glaring issue with the weapons comes down to one gun, in particular, the Combat Rifle. A semi-automatic, tri-burst with a grenade launcher attached. The rifle itself isn’t the issue but the secondary feature.
During online play, whilst using the grenade launcher can have very unpredictable consequences. Despite the direction you choose to aim the shot the grenade, it can either land where you wanted it to or spawn randomly elsewhere on the map. This glitch made using the gun quite disappointing as what could have been a guaranteed kill-shot becomes a random explosion elsewhere, regardless of any obstacles between you and its end destination.
Not only does the game have a power-up that exposes a player, but there are also others to benefit you. My favorite comes in the form of a mother-fucking laser. This pick-up grants you with the most overpowered piece of machinery in any game. With a fairly fast charge time, once it does fire, a beam of green devastation streams across the map (stopped only by non-passable obstructions i.e. walls) and quickly puts down anyone unlucky enough to be caught. So if you get a hold of this, pop yourself in a tight space and unleash mayhem on your foes.
The game has a wonderful Noir feel to it and it shows throughout the sound design. The background music of At Sundown: Shots in the Dark has a very dark and foreboding feel and helps to intensify the overall feel of the game. Thanks to it not being as high-octane as similar games the intense music doesn’t feel even remotely out of place and was really enjoyable to listen to.
As for the weapons, once again there wasn’t much in the way of innovation like the combat. As all the weaponry is fairly standard it came down to the usual collection of bang bangs and boom booms. Innovative!
As for graphically, At Sundown: Shots in the Dark isn’t exactly outstanding. Everything from the different stages to the player models wouldn’t look too out of place on consoles as old as the PlayStation 2, to be honest.
The top-down camera angle does limit how basic the graphic design is and really only becomes noticeable once a match has been completed. The camera zooms in on the winner and here is where you see the lack of polishing. Despite this, I want to stress I try not to judge a game to hard in this genre as it isn’t too often you see top-down games with triple-A title levels of graphics.
The one aspect of the game which I believe stood out most of all was the amount of design put into the games different stages. There are varying themes for them, and each holds several stages all wonderfully different from each to make sure that they don’t feel the same.
Each of the stages varies in size and shape and you can even work through the game to unlock more as you can with the weapons. Therefore once you think you have all the maps mastered, chances are you have unlocked another to storm and take on your friends and strangers in new and exciting maps.
As fun as it is to gun down your friends from the shadows with Sam Fisher like grace, At Sundown: Shots in the Dark does eventually start to feel like a chore. It may not be instantaneous but it doesn’t take too long before you feel the tedium set in. Even whilst playing with friends, where the trash talk is always fresh and charmingly vile, you may find yourself debating what game to play next.
Even though playing with friends still nets you points towards unlocking things, it does eventually start to feel like more of a grind as opposed to fun. Therefore making the replayability factor lose its charm.
As great as At Sundown: Shots in the Dark is, it still needs a little bit of a spit shine around the edges. It is huge amounts of fun with friends but, as I said, does end up feeling grindy. I enjoy the gameplay (except that magic teleporting grenade) as well as scaring the living shit out of my buddies as I wait for them to pass me by in a darkly lit corridor, I suppose its fun doing it in the game too…