PSX 2016 – Divide Preview – Split Impressions (PS4)
When most people think about top-down shooters, they start thinking about games like Geometry Wars and Robotron where the player is constantly shooting enemies. It’s often a non-stop barrage of foes, and the action stays at an intense level the entire time. That isn’t the case with Exploding Tuba Studios’ Divide, a top-down shooter that is attempting to show that the genre has a lot more to offer.
Unlike most titles in the genre, Divide has a focus on storytelling not action. That’s not to say that firefights won’t be had (although I was told that the game didn’t have combat originally), but that the game has a bigger focus on narration and letting the player explore its world. Even during the short demo I played, I was able to go minutes without firing a shot of my rad laser-equipped gun, so this definitely isn’t the typical top-down shooter.
Exploding Tuba Studios was showing off two separate demos for Divide, and I got to check out both of them. The first one I played took place right at the very beginning of the game, and was meant to show off the game’s combat in action. I controlled a guy named David, who was seemingly infiltrating some sort of base with a female partner. The story was left to be pretty ambiguous at this point, as it’s one of the game’s core focuses, so I didn’t get a great feel for much of the narrative beyond that David somehow gets sucked into another world and has some cool spy gear he can use to interact with the environment.
The main issue I had with Divide was that the shooting felt really rough. The character didn’t have a full range of motion to aim his gun (the aiming indicator would often lock up at a certain spot), and just general movement felt clunky. I’m hoping that it was just a problem with the PSX build (which was apparently impacted by the PS4 dev units being a different firmware than what Exploding Tuba Studios had expected), but it didn’t feel fluid like other games in the genre such as Assault Android Cactus or Nex Machina.
My difficulty shooting enemies was furthered by the game being pretty hard, and the frame-rate getting shaky at points. The player can’t take many shots, and there’s a long reload time associated with the default weapon. This meant that every missed shot usually resulted in my character taking multiple bullets, and likely dying. Luckily, the action mission paired me with an AI partner, and I just let her do all the shooting and hid during combat encounters. I wasn’t very heroic, but who can argue with results?
The other gameplay demo I played was set slightly later in the game. This was supposed to give me more of a feel of how Divide would play since combat isn’t a constant occurrence. This time I was exploring a giant lab, interacting with items awkwardly because the game uses the right analog stick to select button prompts, and running around without any real sense of purpose since I didn’t have a map available.
A few highlights were had in this section, as I encountered robot guards that I could hack and disable, but I was mostly confused as to what I was supposed to be doing. I quickly got frustrated running around a giant location with no guiding force and ended up getting pretty frustrated. It didn’t help that when I finally made it to the point where I was supposed to be, I had to backtrack to find some key cards (or some equivalent to it) in order to continue. I’m all about the sci-fi setting, but neither demo did much to actually excite me for the game.
I believe that Exploding Tuba Studios has some really cool ideas with Divide, and that’s why I wish I had more fun actually playing it. The shooting did not keep up its end of the bargain, which is pretty jarring for a top-down shooter. I’m hoping that things will get fine-tuned before it is released, but the launch date of January 31, 2017 is quickly approaching.