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Viscera Cleanup Detail: Shadow Warriors and Unreal

A double review where I create and clean up corpses

Viscera Cleanup Detail:  Shadow Warriors

Played on PC (Steam).  Copy comes free with a purchase of Shadow Warriors

In ‘Viscera Cleanup Detail’ you are tasked with cleaning up the aftermath of a science fiction horror game.  The tag line reads:

Instead of machineguns and plasma-rifles, your tools are a mop and bucket. That hero left a mess, and it’s up to you to deal with the aftermath.

‘Shadow Warriors’ is an action FPS known for it’s over the top gunfights, swordplay and sense of humor.

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I have not played either game.

However ‘Viscera Cleanup Detail: Shadow Warriors’ (henceforth referred to as VCDS for my own sanity), is a mashup of the two games.

The goal is to clean a Shadow Warriors temple post massacre so no trace of death remains.

Blood is splattered on almost every surface.  Body parts and organs are scattered on the floor, piled in corners and stuck in furniture.  Shattered glass, bullet casings, ninja stars and other debris are also part of the mess.

Only when all traces of trash, debris and…human are gone are you allowed successfully clock out for the day.

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Mopping floors and disposing of garbage isn’t the most appealing activity, but VCDS has an impressive ability to tap into that part of your brain which enjoys systematically completing a task.  There is a weird dopamine release after cleaning an area and acknowledging that ‘that part is finished’, before moving onto the next section.

A mop is your primary tool and is used to wipe blood from surfaces.  You also need a bucket of water with which to clean your mop.  Eventually the water will become too bloody to use and the bucket will need replacing.

Body parts, weapons and other items can be loaded into boxes and disposed of in one of the nearby furnaces.  Both buckets and boxes can be replaced through the available vending machines.  There is a risk however, that these machines may vomit a pile of bloody organs onto the floor, which will then also need to be cleaned.

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There’s no logical reason for this random sudden mess.  This mechanic is likely just a way of adding at least some tension.  There isn’t any pressure otherwise.  There’s no time limit, enemies, health or any kind of danger.

The game has its challenging moments however.  Finding the final pieces of trash becomes increasingly trickier towards the end.  Thankfully you are provided with detection tools to locate further blood and dirt – such as a bullet that has rolled under a step, or a near invisible shard of glass.

I spent minutes trying to locate an elusive piece of garbage, only to realize my tool was pointing towards a severed head sitting on a shelf.  It had been in plain sight and staring at me since the start of the level.

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The protagonist is equally desensitized to human remains and constantly makes eye rolling puns related to the surrounding carnage.

Contrary to the subject matter, VCDS is definitely a chill out game.  One that’s a pleasure to play while listening to a podcast or a favorite album.  A rare experience that takes the otherwise irritating design tactic of forcing 100 percent completion and makes it pleasurable.

It effectively replicates the satisfaction one feels when appraising a spotless house after spending hours cleaning.  The same cautions and frustrations are also evoked during the process –  I was careful to avoid walking over recently cleaned floors, as my shoes would ruin the newly shined surface with a bloody footprint.

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The premise, the mechanics, the tools and the humor are exceptionally silly.  The game lasts only a couple of hours and you will likely never play it again – and that’s perfectly fine.  It’s a short break from the norm.  A bite size piece of relaxation and corpse incineration.

 

Unreal

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Played on PC (Steam)

Unreal is comparable to Quake 2, in that it is a science fiction FPS involving a lone survivor battling aliens on a strange planet.  Released around the same time, Unreal mainly differs from Quake 2 in that it appears to have been made with considerably more imagination.

First of all, Unreal’s environments are far more varied.  The game begins with the main character escaping from a prison cell aboard a crashed space ship.  Event’s lead her onto the alien landscape and continues through Aztec like ruins, alien ships, villages, holy grounds, slave mines and floating sky islands.

In Quake 2 you start off in a brown warehouse and that’s pretty much what you get for the rest of the game.  You only interact with enemies and any friendly characters encountered are either dead, crazy or just referenced through text.  The outside world was rarely explored and was usually hostile.

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In Unreal you spend a considerable amount of time outside.  Trees and wildlife are common, as well as rivers, tribes and villages.  You actually get to interact with the race you are attempting to save.

Unreal’s weapons have far more variation than Quake’s guns (which simply fired bullets or lasers).

The Razorjack launches circular blades capable of slicing off an enemy’s head.  The Stinger rapid fires pointy crystallized shards .  The Bio-Rifle blasts globs of toxic waste.

Even the traditional weapons had something unique about them.  The rocket launcher could lock-on to a target and eject 6 rockets at once.  The Sniper Rifle’s intensely close zoom allowed for oddly clean decapitations that never ceased to be hilarious.

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The Flak Cannon is pretty much a staple of the series – a horrifying shotgun alternative, its shrapnel will shred to pieces anything at close range.

Weapons are well balanced so that no particular gun ever becomes useless.  All serve a purpose at one point or another and I found myself constantly switching weapons to suit the situation.

Though Unreal commits a similar sin as Quake 2, where progression involves hitting switches until the level ends, there was at least some conscious effort made in having the switch be a natural part of the level.

For example, an enslaved Nali alien may guide you to an escape route by opening a hidden door.  An elevator might only be activated through the use of counter weights, or force fields may require the cutting of power, which may also release unwanted enemies into the area.

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Levels are well designed in the sense that they remained complex but not overwhelming.  There were some confusing area’s to navigate towards the end, but for the most part the direction in which you needed to travel was clear.

More effort has gone into the narrative than Quake 2’s log dump.  Your vessel is shot down by the Skaarj (a warrior race of slavers) and you are the only survivor.  The initial goal is to escape the planet, but along the way the story of the Nali’s enslavement unfolds through diaries, signs and environmental queues.  As you battle your way off the planet you find yourself becoming their unwitting savior.  It’s not the most original story, but it was at least told through methods other than log entries (though admittedly there is still a lot of those).

There are some issues.  The games goes on far too long.  By about 70 percent in you have experienced pretty much all the guns, enemies and environments the game has to offer.

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There isn’t a great range of enemies either and during the last couple of hours I was wishing it would just end.  Levels seemed pointlessly stretched out and the experience began to feel artificially extended.

It’s difficult to recommend Unreal.  It’s a solid action game but has been far surpassed by many games since it release.

It is a product of it’s time; a time where a game could contain almost nothing but shooting, minor puzzles and a basic plot.

This may still be the framework around which many modern games are made, but they also tend to contain more sub elements – such as AI partners, story important characters, speech, mini-games, more mechanics and so on.  In comparison Unreal just seems boring.

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I reiterate that Unreal isn’t a bad game – my experience wasn’t negative, but there are many other games released since that have considerably more substance, are more enjoyable and are worth your money.

Still, Unreal may be worth playing, but only if you have literally no other games peaking your interest.