SubLevel Zero Redux – Review

Being in my thirties I remember the likes of Descent and Forsaken, the Six degree’s of freedom shooters that where widely heralded as the next best thing in gaming technology.
The genre received an avid following but has never really found it’s place on consoles thanks to so little being released outside of the confines of the home computer world until now.

Trapped inside your gravity defying ship, the sole purpose is to progress forward, survive and shoot everything in sight.
For those unaware 6DoF allows you to twist, turn and move in any direction, like a hover-bird floating in mid-ai, with zero gravity and enough boosters to move you as quickly as a nimble footed ninja on steroids, able to adjust your bearings at a moments notice, and evade incoming projectiles while firing back a few of your own.

SubLevel Zero Redux is exactly what you’d expect from a 6DoF shooter, there’s plenty of twisting corridors to Vandoeuvre through, with exits on walls, ceilings and floors meaning there’s a strict requirement for getting used to your bearing as quickly as possible.
Procedural levels throw some variety into the mix, but regardless of whether your twisting, left, right or upside down this time, there’s a very familiar feeling to shooting repetitive foes over and over again, regardless of which direction they’re appearing from.

There’s a certain saving grace with SubLevel Zero, and that’s because it’s so unique, many will say that a top quality 6DoF shooter will help anyone get to grips with twin stick controls, and maybe improve performance on other titles as well, so it’s well worth considering even if you’ve never experienced the genre before.
Sadly there’s not much else to really shout about, SubLevel Zero has a very limited story, it’s much more a case of getting to the exit, for the sake of escaping, and shooting everything in your path.
A deeper story-line certainly wouldn’t have been missed, but let’s not forget that exploring such a fresh direction for modern day consoles, it’s tough to be too critical.

So where does SubLevel Zero go wrong, and why does it still feel so right?
Well, firstly there’s a lack of any major direction, enemies feel repetitive and once you’ve worked out the best technique for taking down one of those annoying hovering turrets, you’ll utilise the same technique time and time again, likewise with the levels, when exploring exits and tunnels at every angle imaginable a level isn’t going to be as memorable. So having procedural levels really doesn’t make that much difference, you don’t know if you’re facing north, east or at the floor half the time, so whether you’ve taken that twisting left corridor is the least of your worries.

Graphically SubLevel Zero isn’t a bad performer at all, the textures are clear and precise, edges are sharp and clear and while there’s a lack of freshness as you progress, everything maintains a clean and tidy appearance, with a very nostalgic vibe to the presentation it all looks like a retro step into the future.
The same repetitive nature of the game-play works it’s way into the surrounding as textures, walls and enemies appear again and again, it’s not a major down point, but I would have loved to see more variety in surroundings and the AI enemies showing a little more tact rather than following the same patterns again and again.

Sound didn’t quite massage the ear-drum, at times it was more of a tickle and others like a brass gong set off inside your skull, unfortunately this never truly related to the game-play, but what maintains a steady background tone does provide some level of atmosphere to your surroundings.

Longevity is also a tough one to call, It’s great to see such a unique genre explored, and there’s definite browny-points for bringing a 6DoF shooter to consoles,
sure it could have been better, and it’s repetitive which could raise ea few question marks, but the fact you’ve got nothing else like it on the Xbox One will keep you coming back to it time and time again.

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