Chorus: Hands-on Preview
I feel like we are in a bit of a renaissance period for the humble space shooter. Everspace 2 is looking hot, Rogue Galaxy has had two quality outings and even Star Wars jumped back in with Rogue Squadron. The appetite for some spaceship action is obviously alive and well and developers are realising this. This leads us to Chorus, a new space shooter from Fish Labs and Deep Silver that made a bit of a splash in an Xbox presentation last year. Since then we have had precious little information on what looked to be an intriguing new title. That is, until now.
I was lucky enough to be able to take the game for a spin over this past week. A press demo of approximately an hour was mine to explore and explore it I did. I have run through the demo three times so far and each time I have fallen more in love with what Chorus is bringing to the genre and just how satisfying the combat is.
The closest comparison I can make is Jedi Starfighter from back in the PS2/Xbox days. Just like that game, Chorus is a mix of starship dogfighting and superhuman abilities, only taken to the next level. While in Jedi Starfighter players could use these powers to influence combat, here the powers are an essential part of the mix. In the demo I had access to I could use two powers (though there are many more to unlock in the full game), the first basically acted like a space handbrake, allowing me to make super tight turns, something that is rather handy in a dogfight. The second power however stole the show and really added to the tactics I could use. This power teleported me instantly behind an enemy in my sights, giving me a clean shot at their backs. While undeniably useful against small ships, it really became a tactical weapon against larger targets. I would head towards them at full speed, blasting them with lasers to destroy their shields and as I was just about to hit them, bam, teleport behind them to finish them off with rockets. I cannot stress how cool it is, just a pure joy to use.
Speaking of lasers and rockets, the game uses a fabulous paper-scissors-rocks weapons system, or should I say bullets-lasers-rockets? You see small unshielded ships are weak to rapid chaingun fire, shields are weak to lasers and stationery and slow targets are weak to rockets. Using the right weapon for the right enemy is key to efficiency and the game makes it easy to do use by simply assigning directions on the d-pad to the different weapons. It makes switching things up quick and easy, ensuring that you have every opportunity to bring the right gun to the fight.
As for the controls, there is a small learning curve to get over, mainly due to the left thumbstick being used to activate evasive manoeuvres. Once that is overcome, everything seems to have been thought of as far as controlling a space machine of death goes. It is all very responsive, precise and satisfying, giving a sense of power and control that is hard to get right. It is certainly on the arcade side of things as far as the overall gameplay goes, but in this case, that is a positive because the game is going for the power fantasy feel as opposed to something more sim-oriented.
Storywise I didn’t get much to go on in my time. The lead character shares a link with her sentient space ship and they are rebelling against an oppressive space cult of some kind. I can say that the voice acting for both the main character and her ship was spot on and there is certainly a creepy undercurrent to what is happening, but apart from that I am in the dark as to her motivations or desires are. This is totally fine because I am very keen to see the game presented as a whole when it is released, not just as a press snippet.
My time with Chorus significantly bumped up my desire for the game. Before playing it I was a little ambivalent about the title, writing it off as just a stock standard space shooter. It is clear from my playtime that isn’t the case, it is much more than that and if the full game can hold up the quality I experienced over its full length there is the potential for a breakout hit here. I can’t wait to see what else is in store when Chorus releases at the end of the year.