- Publisher: Bithell Games
- Developer: Bithell Games
- Release Date: August 18, 2015
- PlayStation 4/PS Vita Download
Volume is an indie Stealth Puzzle game created by Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell. The game is heavily influenced by the VR Missions from the first two Metal Gear Solids and the witty humor that was in Thomas was Alone. Note that I said puzzle rather than action since it relies more on lateral thinking and use of the level design. Compare this to the latter installments of Metal Gear which had a sandbox-esque approch. It’s stealth at its purest and lacks the long range weapons from the genre’s conventions.
In the game you play as Robert Locksley (Played by UK musician Charles McDonnell) who is a data theft and uncovers a device called the game’s namesake, Volume. The Volume allows the user to simulate raids for a coup attempt. The volume has an AI built in who acts as Locksley’s aid called Alan who makes sarcastic quips as well as help move the plot forward. The main antagonist is Guy Grisborne (Andy Serkis from The Hobbit and the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens) who now runs England as corporatocracy. As he goes through the various simulations, Locksley acts out what is basically a Post Cyberpunk take on the Robin Hood Legend. I found the narrative engaging, funny, and consistent in tone. The lore which can be found in e-mail and various journals do a lot to build the world outside the simulation, and great voice acting make it a stand out. There are even references to MGS itself, 007, and Warren Specter’s Thief if you look hard enough.
The gameplay objectives are simple, Locksley must collect the dots much like Pac Man and head to the goal much like the VR Sneaking Minigames in MGS. Instead of relying on gadgets or pre equipped weapons you will have to use the level’s design, and the tools given to you by it. In a time were more games are giving you more tools to deal with a situation, this is a great throwback were the levels themselves are the key. It hearkens back to the trial and error gameplay of stealth gaming’s past but is accessible with its clear goals helpful checkpoint system and short play times through levels.
The game’s length is about 6 hours with various trophies you can get by collecting documents, and doing various tasks. The level design is sublime and does have a great difficulty curve which requires a dash of dexterity and effective use of the tools at your disposal. From the sound emitting oud to the enemy debilitating blackjack, the tools feed into a cooldown timer which balances out the strength between the player character and enemies which are as dimwitted as the guards on Shadow Moses Island forgetting were you’re at as you creep back into hiding, but ‘kill’ in one hit. A little nitpick would be the lock on system which is a bit finicky, this could’ve been alleviated if one of the face buttons allowed you to toggle through targets in range. The 100 levels can be completed in 1 to 5 minutes and is great to play in chunks.
The graphics have a simplistic blend of low poly models with two tone Tron like backgrounds which gives it a unique art style with a haunting dynamic soundtrack which rachets up when you get spotted, and slows down when you go back to hiding. The replay value is bolstered by a level editor with a community of user made ones online. From the user side you can play challenging levels such as the loop and even recreations of the dock from Metal Gear Solid. The editor itself is robust in the amount of usable props it has, but is in need of an in game tutorial.
Overall Volume is a smaller game worth checking out if you like Stealth Games, Thomas was Alone, or witty humor. People who lack the patience for stealth or want graphical ‘fidelity’, or a cinematic experience need not apply. A 5-6 hour campaign with a level editor and a fair amount of community created maps help round out a great package.