Glitchpunk is a dystopian future presented like a classic top-down GTA game, developed by Dark Lord and published by Daedalic Entertainment. As of August 11th, the game has been available on Steam via the Early Access program.
And good lord, does it look like fun on the surface. It presents itself as cyberpunk GTA, framing the player as an android bounty hunter with a chip on their shoulder. You can cut loose with a massive arsenal of weapons, hijack hover-cars, and generally cause chaos on unprecedented levels. Eventually your reign of terror will extend to four distinct cities – although Early Access currently has just the one, New Baltia.
Visually, Glitchpunk is capable of making quite the statement. It blends old and new graphics styles together, which can look absolutely incredible at times. It’s the finer details the game currently struggles with – menus and the HUD are basic and functional without any sort of lo-fi flourishes to fit them into the overall style. It makes Glitchpunk look a bit cheap and clumsy at times, which doesn’t pair well with the usual Early Access teething problems.
And boy, are there teething problems. I’m not just talking about the usual bugs to be ironed out – Glitchpunk feels like it’s barely been optimised under the hood. My CPU cooler was making some extremely alarming noises considering the scope of the visuals it was rendering. There were several times my CPU was maxed out entirely whilst running the game, and obviously as a result performance was noticeably uneven. Maybe it’s just me, but if a game is causing my CPU to run that hot, I don’t really want to play it.
As it stands, the Wanted system needs some considerable work. What is it with cyberpunk games and broken police chases? Carrying out the opening mission walks you through the basics – buying healthpacks and weapons, picking up bounties. I was tasked with killing three androids – as soon as the second one went down, I picked up a wanted level, and the result was an intense police chase that took me halfway across the city.
Try as I might, with my limited amount of time in the game at that point, I just couldn’t shake them. It was frustrating – I’d barely gotten acquainted with the controls, I only had one weapon available to me and that kept running out of bullets. Police just appear out of the ether when you commit a crime, which never results in a rewarding player experience.
Just as Glitchpunk‘s wonderful, hellish future was beckoning me in, it was utterly rejecting my interest, rewarding my time with performance issues and an absence of good times. I wanted that chaos the trailers promised – I wanted to see more of that fantastic character art and get into the all the nitty-gritty transhumanistic themes the marketing promises. But it just felt like Glitchpunk didn’t want me to see any of it. I soldiered on, but I wasn’t enjoying myself as much as I should have been.
Every issue this game has at the moment can be fixed. It’s not a lost cause by any means, and if it gets that original GTA vibe down well enough it’ll be quite the success. Glitchpunk will, eventually, have plenty to offer, especially for those of you nostalgic for some good old 90’s gaming.
Glitchpunk Early Access – is it worth it?
I really wanted to be able to say yes, go ahead, get involved in Glitchpunk‘s Early Access period right now. The truth is, the game’s just not ready. It’s half-baked, it’s not polished enough to run properly, and if you play it now there’s a good chance you’ll be turned off forever. There’s also been some incredibly unsavoury rumblings about secret DRM, with players reporting bans from the official Discord for talking about it.
Right now, Glitchpunk could really go either way. The developers predict about 6-8 months before the game’s ready for a 1.0 release, but I suspect we may be looking at a little longer based on the amount of work it’s going to need. I think they’re onto a really great idea here, and I hope they can make it work.