The work of Antab Studio strikes for its graphic novel style, but has a playful sector with a few too many flaws.
A playable cyberpunk graphic novel: the essence of Foreclosed, work signed by the independent Italian team Antab Studio who has been able to attract the attention of fans since his first appearances. Also on the occasion of our interview with the authors of Foreclosed, the desire to create a perfect union between video game and graphic novel had emerged, with the contribution of a stylistic approach of undoubted impact. The gameplay videos of Foreclosed released over the months have fueled more and more curiosity around the project, showing a third-person action that, even without upsetting the classic dynamics of the genre, still seemed to offer a solid assortment of mechanics.
The road test, however, brings out more than one aspect that is not as convincing as it should have been.
In Foreclosed we take on the role of Evan Kapnos, a man whose identity and control over his cybernetic systems have just been stolen, and consequently access to the blockchain of the city in which he resides. With the help of a mysterious figure, Kapnos must then find a way to reclaim his rightful properties before they are sold at auction. Thus begins an escape that leads him to discover the existence of a real conspiracy behind the serious theft of which he was the victim, all told through the typical style of a graphic novel, complete with sequences and cartoonish dialogues with a strong impact. visual.
Although the pace of the narrative always remains sustained and captivating, the plot behind Foreclosed follows a predictable and often stingy of twists that they can keep glued to the screen. Furthermore, the presence of multiple choice dialogues does not concretely affect the evolution of the story, revealing itself more as a tinsel for its own sake than an added value to the production.
Net of a story that struggles to take off with the passing of the hours, it cannot be denied that the adventure of Kapnos transmits its good dose of suspense, especially in the early stages of the game where, totally unarmed and still incredulous for the theft that took place, we are immediately hunted down by mysterious individuals ready to stop us by any means.
The beginning of Foreclosed immediately makes it clear that within the game there are several playful souls ready to amalgamate to give life to a multifaceted experience: a first phase in which we can only get by by hiding from the view of our attackers follows the discovery of the first courses cybernetic powers in our possession, useful for silently eliminating enemies and for solving some very simple puzzles based on pressing keys in sequence. It starts to get serious once you get our gun, the only weapon in the game but equipped with numerous active and passive upgrades to be exploited with intelligence along the way. In Foreclosed there is therefore a bit of everything between classic third-person action, stealth phases with isometric views, escapes, puzzles and many upgrades. The broad customization of the weapon and cyber powers is undoubtedly one of the most convincing aspects of Antab production: the experience points accumulated by winning fights or exploring the surrounding environment allow you to obtain improvements for Evan’s firmware, useful for unlocking upgrades for the gun bullets (higher rate of fire, explosive shots and remote guided bullets to make some examples) and new cybernetic abilities to use on the field (such as defensive shields or the ability to raise enemies in the air to make them vulnerable), thus making the combat system more varied.
It is possible to equip only a certain number of these improvements at the same time, but the possibility of being able to change the upgrades set at any time allows you to experiment with different combinations with each new fight, until you find the perfect set for our needs. As you progress through the game you learn additional powers that offer one greater interactivity with the surrounding environment, such as telekinesis which allows the protagonist to lift specific objects and hurl them at full speed at opponents, eliminating them instantly. Kapnos can also count on a couple of hacker tricks useful not only for opening doors, but also for silently neutralizing enemies or sabotaging defensive turrets, so as to move calmly towards the next target.
However, all this offensive power cannot be used indiscriminately. If it is true that the shots of our weapon are infinite as well as it is technically possible to repeatedly use the powers and upgrades equipped, to abuse these possibilities it will overload our firmware up to send him on tilt for a few seconds, leaving Evan at the mercy of the enemies.
The lost energies are automatically recovered by taking shelter behind a cover, however they are enough few hits to be eliminated (and at close range the protagonist is even more vulnerable), which is why it is important to carefully evaluate your attack strategies. Usually the attackers attack us in groups and being too exposed can be counterproductive: it is better to attack and take cover, focusing on one enemy at a time to eliminate the opposing forces quickly and without too much effort.
Firmware update error
The playful heart of Foreclosed rests on foundations that work, while not shining in terms of originality. The real problem with the game lies in the fact that none of these aspects are fully exploited, ending up on the contrary with the quickly lose bite.
While it is true that attacking with your head down and without a minimum of strategy involves an almost certain death of our character, the downside shows us a product that is basically much simpler and less stimulating than it may seem on the surface. The few stealth phases of the game are very trivial as concept and execution, complicit in limited and easy to predict behavioral routines. Similar speech for the puzzles, really simple and rather repetitive, which as they are conceived do not manage to effectively enrich the flow of the gameplay. In firefights the biggest problem is one Enemy AI that is anything but brilliant. Our attackers are threatening when they show up in large numbers, but remain essentially immobile on their position without ever exploiting the surrounding cover, becoming a very easy target.
Someone occasionally tries a more direct approach by getting closer to our position, but with a well-aimed headshot – and being careful not to overload the firmware – it takes very little to eliminate any threat. The problem is that every fight follows this identical pattern, also thanks to the very little variety that characterizes the enemy ranks: just normal guards armed with guns, a few turrets here and there, and soldiers with riot shields, nothing else.
Of course, this is functional to the graphic novel narrative setting at the base of the product, but if the cyber powers were not fun to use at this time we would be faced with a completely forgettable gameplay, and even so the situation is not the best. .
At this point it is perhaps a good thing that Foreclosed does not have a particularly high longevity. On the contrary, his limited duration prevents this playful setting from starting to get unnerving in the long run. The authors have guaranteed a variety of situations acceptable to what their title offers, but the feeling remains that more could be done to create a memorable production on all fronts, even in terms of replayability.
From a purely artistic point of view, on the contrary, there is little to say: Antab Studio has done an excellent job giving life to an evocative cyberpunk world and endowed with style, thanks also to a clever use of color filters that offer an atypical and captivating glance.
Everything moves with fluidity and without any kind of technical uncertainty, and the graphic novel effect is rendered in an optimal way both in the narrative and in the playful phases, where the frequent transitions from the third person view for the shooting moments to the isometric one for stealth portions they occur naturally and without any kind of technical uncertainty. The management of the camera is fine, there is no drop in frame rate even in the busiest phases and the scenarios enjoy a good characterization, resulting in attention to every detail.
The sound sector is also doing well, with atmospheric music that goes well with the settings and themes covered by the game. A thumbs up also for the effective dubbing in English, supported by impeccable Italian texts.
ForeclosedVersion Analyzed PlayStation 4Once you get to the end credits, the feeling that Foreclosed leaves behind is that of a missed opportunity, of a good basic idea made only halfway, of the bitterness in the mouth for what could have been a small, big surprise on the part of the scene. independent Italian. Let’s be clear, the title signed by Antab Studio has arrows in its bow. Using the different cybernetic powers of Evan Kapnos is a pleasure and they offer enough variety to the fights, and the cyberpunk atmospheres that you breathe are engaging enough to push you to want to go all the way without stopping. We also appreciate the developers’ attempt to give the right variety to their work by mixing action, stealth and puzzles. The problem with Foreclosed is that its many playful elements lack incisiveness and are not fully convincing. Monotonous clashes against enemies driven by a very poor AI, elementary stealth phases and a few repetitive puzzles fail to fully exploit Antab’s adventure. It’s a real shame, because the ideas would be there as well and the interactive graphic novel rendering works (although the story is certainly not memorable). The hope is therefore that the team will treasure the important experience accumulated by developing Foreclosed and return to the scene with an even stronger and more convincing project.