Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Gadget Games
Publisher: Gadget Games
Here’s the situation; you’re dumped into the middle of a large map and as soon as the round begins must go scurrying off across the desert in search of buildings that house various weapons while 41 other people do exactly the same. It’s a battle royale, a case of using whatever comes to hand in order to be the last man standing amidst the slowly shrinking field of battle. On paper it sounds like it could be a lot of fun, capitalizing on the enjoyment people seem to get when playing the likes of DayZ and Rust’s battle royale servers and jamming it into a smaller package. There’s even thirst and hunger elements to the game and things like snakes that try to bite you on the ankle. Sounds kind of fun, right?
Wrong. So very, very wrong. It sounds fun, but it isn’t actually fun.
For starters there’s a single map, and while it is relatively large it’s also incredibly dull and lifeless, a barren wasteland dotted with a few meagre buildings. This is, frankly, an ugly game with horrible animations, such as bottles sliding straight through weapons in order to be drunk and some of the wonkiest ladder climbing yet seen. The amount of clipping that’s present might just be the most I’ve ever seen in a single game. Hands pass through guns and weapons or will hover next to them, bodies will go through boxes and walls. It’s awful. Textures are incredibly dated, indeed the game would have looked reasonable back on the PS1, and for reasons entirely nonsensical this is an FPS where your the character’s arms cover portions of the user interface, which might just be the dumbest thing I’ve heard all year, although it’s still early days. I can’t stress how much this game needs at least another dozen arenas to not only bring gameplay variety but also to just let the player’s eyeballs rest from staring at sodding brown, ugly textures. I can’t stress enough how boring this game looks. As for the audio it’s…..well, it’s crap. Hit a box with an axe and it will sound more like flesh being struck.
Most players who have a round or two under their belt will almost always head for one of two locations as soon as the round starts; the US Base or the airfield, because these areas have the highest chance of containing guns and ammo, and in Down to One guns are the most vital thing you can acquire. Sure, you can pick up axes or shovels or such and use them to beat another player to death, but the fact of the matter is guns are the dominating force, their power only kept vaguely in check by having to scrounge ammunition as well. Luck, then, plays a large part in the battle royale; if two players both head towards a building each, one of them is likely going to get screwed over by his chosen location containing nothing and the other guy getting an axe or assault rifle. At least this is understandable; part of the charm of the battle royale concept is that you never know what you will have to work with, and balancing that is difficult. Still, for it to work well guns need to be very carefully controlled, and in Down to One while ammo may be hard to come by it doesn’t take more than a few shots to put someone down, thus grabbing a clip of ammunition is more than enough for an accurate player to wreak havoc. Furthermore the vast majority of the map is just open ground with very few buildings or much in the way of cover, meaning you’re easy pickings for anybody that has picked up a firearm. The only flipside to this open space that I could find is that it means gunplay does come down to whomever is more accurate rather than pure twitch shooting, so at least there’s that. The random spawn game mode is far worse because you’re just as likely to get dumped in the middle of nowhere and have somebody murder you from afar with a sniper rifle as you are doing the same. Not exactly emphasising skilled play, really.
Even such things as moving and shooting struggle to feel remotely reasonable. Guns feel like peashooters with little to no recoil and a sad sound effect that doesn’t exactly convey their power. Standard walking speed is about the same as an old lady who complains about the weather a lot, and you can only backpedal at a snail’s pace, which feels odd in a game involving melee combat, although said combat is utterly imprecise and has about as much sense of impact as two snails colliding, with just as much finesse. Even when the framerate is running smoothly there’s still a continuous stutter to the game that’s bloody annoying and only serves to make the movement, aiming, gunplay and close-quarters combat feel graceless. The rest of the performance hardly fares much better. This is an incredibly small, basic game and yet even then my PC with everything turned up down max was only able to hold about 40FPS on average, with drops being quite common. Strangely dropping the settings didn’t seem to result in a very good increase in FPS.
Down to One attempts to pack some light survival elements into its gameplay through thirst and hunger, both of which are massively exaggerated as mere minutes after downing a bottle of water and some food you’ll seem your thirst and hunger meters depleting quite quickly, thus death via starvation or dehydration is very possible in the fairly long matches which tend to last 30 minutes or more. It’s an interesting addition because it does force people to move from location to location in search of supplies, although by grabbing a good few items at the start a player can camp out for a little while. While they camp out they’ll also enjoy the site of bottles and food passing through the middle of their guns.
There’s also a very basic skill-tree system where you can purchase upgrades provided you’ve got enough points and cash. These cover pretty typical things like increasing the amount of time it takes you to starve or become dehydrated, increased resistance to explosive damage and more powerful melee. At any given time you can have three of these equipped. There’s not a whole late to say about this aspect of the game, really, except that unlike everything else it actually works without any problems.
What other problems need talking about, then? Well, the small community means there’s currently very little in the way of active servers, and when you log on its likely that almost all of them will already have matches in progress, in which case you need to wait around for the end of the round, which is an understandable side-effect of battle royales. Except not only can matches frequently last 20+ minutes, but servers have a habit of ditching at the end, making your long wait pointless. As for watching the match in progress that’s almost impossible as spectator game is incredibly jerky. There seems to only be a few official servers running, bringing the total server count up to around 6-8 on average. Meanwhile dead bodies almost always end up twisted and deformed, and sometimes will do horrific dances as the wonky physics system uses their corpse as a puppet for its own sadistic pleasure. Clipping through walls is common, as is actually being able to walk through them entirely. You can open drawers to fetch items but it’s pointless because opening the drawer doesn’t physically move the item inside and targeting it is a challenge, but why bother when you can simply reach through solid wood and grab the bottle of juice/chocolate bar? You can pummel people with an axe while they use fists and still lose, somehow, and on several occasions I joined a server only to find myself able to fly through the air, unable to interact with anything or see any players. On these occasions I was unable to quit the match and to get out of the game I had to shut it down using task manager. On another occasion the game got stuck on the loading screen, and no less than three times the main menu became unresponsive. Again, both of these involved having to quit the game using task manager. Still not enough? I spawned into a match only and was able to move around the starting area while waiting for the round to begin, only to immediately die at the start of the round and get stuck looking at a wall.
What’s insulting is that this game was in Early Access and somehow still managed to wind up being a horrible mess. What in the name of Hades’ possessed the developers to release the game in this state? It’s clearly not fit for general sale. It’s playable, but only barely. But by far the worst thing is how so many people seem to want to defend it, or even try to claim that it’s good despite all evidence to the contrary. Enjoying something that nobody else does is perfectly fine; I’ve loved some pretty crappy games and movies in my time, but at least admit their bad. It is, at least in my own estimation, a prime example of how the state of the modern videogame industry has totally dropped everybody’s standards through the floor so that they will now refer to something like this as being okay. I kid you not, one person on Steam said, “it’s broken, but it’s a good game.” You bloody what, mate? Sure, it’s as cheap as chips, following a baffling drop in price to under 50p from its much higher Early Access price, but as always my reviews don’t take money into account; I just want to see if it’s a good game or not, and Down to One is not a good game. At all.
What’s really sad is that Down to One isn’t even one of those, “so bad its fun” games. Nope. It’s just bad. The only redeeming thing about Down to One is its basic premise, but then battle royales are better executed in the likes of Rust and DayZ, games that aren’t even built around the concept. It’s truly a shame because the developers are active on the Steam forums and seem intent on releasing updates for their game, but there’s no excusing something being released in this state. When you put something on Steam and begin asking money, there comes with that a set of expectations that the product will be at least of a basic quality. The developers need practice and I hope they continue, but the produce of that practice isn’t something that should be sold. Not yet, anyway. Avoid this one.