PAX East ’16: Let It Die Hands-On Preview with Suda51 – Free to Pass Away (PS4)
It’s because I’m playing it at 4:30 on the last day of the convention, I kept telling myself. I’m tired and it’s affecting my concentration. But whatever my “convenient” excuse, the truth is that Grasshopper Manufacture’s Let It Die kicked my sorry behind during my hands-on preview session. And while I wish I’d performed better in front of the game’s creator, celebrated lover of all things weird Goichi Suda (aka Suda51), I honestly had a great time letting it (read: my poor character) die over and over again.
Beat Up Mutants in Your Skivvies
In the spirit of just about every other game in Suda51’s catalogue, the demo began with a dude waking up in his underwear — naked and unarmed in a derelict amusement park full of angry mutants. I began exploring straightaway, discovering a piece of equipment in a box that provided my character with a bit more clothing, and began to encounter my first enemies. Since I was unarmed, I had to go at them with my bare fists — with mixed results. Things went a bit better once I defeated a few enemies and collected some weapons; the game has a nice management system where you can equip up to three items on each hand, then toggle between them using the left and right buttons on the D-pad.
Come for the Death, Stay for the Loot
Since the game is Suda’s first foray into the free-to-play category, I asked what sort of things would keep players coming back to the game. It turns out that those very items — which include both weapons and pieces of gear you can equip to your character — were the answer. Apparently, the game is going for a light version of the “loot grinding” mechanic found in recent games like Destiny and The Division, and there will be new equipment added to keep players interested in returning to the mayhem. Plus, there’s a bit of a roguelike inspiration; while the first few times I died, I was given the choice to be revived by the game’s “Insurance Girl,” but my demo-ending death got me a Game Over and saw me returned right back to the start in my underwear. In this way, it seems Let It Die is taking cues from roguelikes, Dark Souls and other games that emphasize difficulty and survival.
When I asked if the game would feature an open world, Suda explained that the game’s emphasis was more on exploration within the individual “levels” of the game’s tower setting. Plus, he said, those levels were actually procedurally generated and offered a different layout every time — and even featured enemy “ghost” characters of players who had previously died failing to conquer it. Both these things are additional incentives for people to keep playing; since you’ll never quite get the same level layout twice, and have the opportunity to run into all manner of wacky characters with different equipment loadouts, you’ll presumably be able to get excited even about returning to old levels.
Dark, Grungy Style
I really dug the look of Let It Die; while the game is darker and more grungy than Grasshopper Manufacture’s average project, it still has a lot of the things iconic of his style: surreal designs, outlandish equipment, goofy humor and not least of all the wacky Grim Reaper mascot that greets you every time you’re killed. The amusement park area was perfect for the kind of hyper-violent, stylized combat Suda’s games are known for, and I was told there’d be plenty more of these weird settings in the finished product. And speaking of weird settings, while he had to keep a tight lid on the whole narrative of the project, Suda said there’d be a sort of “game within a game” aspect to the story that players could look forward to in the final release.
Prepare to Perish
If you’ve been clamoring for a new Suda51 game since Killer Is Dead released three years ago, fear not — there isn’t long to wait until you’re hacking and slashing your way through this new death-filled adventure. The No More Heroes developer’s first free-to-play project will launch later this year exclusively on PS4.