Friday, 17 May 2013

Abuse (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

At last, some more words by someone who isn't me! This time I've brought alien bug killing expert Jihaus in to talk about about killing alien bugs in frantic DOS shooter Abuse.

Let's do this.

The game doesn't really have a proper splash screen so I'm using the box art.

This awesome run and gun platformer made by Crack Dot Com came out in '96 and gave us an early vision of what you'd get if you combined a platformer with the mechanics of an FPS (such as multiple weapons and mouse aiming). The game sports a control scheme that at the time was crazy different, resulting in a fast paced and unique alien/mutant blasting experience that you didn't really see in platformers at the time (or at least I didn't, I was poor).

I played and finished this game long ago but it's been so long that I am pretty much playing this as a newbie again.

Here is the story. This is the only story you will see in the entire game. I hope you're not a fan of cutscenes because as far as I remember there is nothing but action from here on out.

Different versions of the game were made with different backstories. One has you breaking out of a prison full of mutated inmates; the other has you as a soldier with a power suit fragging aliens. The games are the same other than the backstory as far as I know, and I am playing the DOS version which is the latter. The game and its source code are now freeware and both versions are available on multiple abandonware sites and the like, so it's relatively easy to get. There may be issues with compatibility though, which is why I went for the DOS version instead.

We get dumped right into the game with our basic laser rifle, which has infinite base ammo but also has ammo pickups that increase its rate of fire. The game is pretty dark and atmospheric, with no actual music but lots of ambience in the form of machine/electronic sounds and later, mutant growls/groans.

The controls of the game are stupidly simple - left and right are movement, up is jump, and down lets you interact with elevators/switches. Mouse controls aiming and shooting. I believe there are other ways to change weapons but I found myself just right clicking on the weapon icons.

Downside so far is that I can't remap the keys, so I can't WASD it like I prefer to do so. Oh well, a negligible grievance.

This one shows off the range of motion/aiming you can do. The torso and legs are separate pieces so you can aim in any direction no matter what you're doing, whether running, jumping, flying, etc, and we are definitely dealing with more than just your usual 4-8 directions here.

I run into my first enemies which are flying machines that shoot lasers (sometimes). They are kinda harmless but move fast enough to snap me out of newbie mode quickly. They do a good job of establishing that this is no slowpoke game.

SOME NAVIGATING LATER...

Picking up this circuit gave me the ability to run at twice the speed if I press the right mouse button. It seems the RMB is devoted to these special abilities in this game. Looking at the controls overall, they are very simple and straightforward and all within reach of each other, so it's quite convenient.

MORE NAVIGATING AND FLYING ROBOTS LATER...

Joy, destructible walls. This means lots of secrets and potential missables (I hope not). I guess I'll have to keep an eye out, but then again those cracks are kinda obvious.

The level design is certainly not in a straight line though it's still relatively linear. I haven't really found much of a use for my super speed yet though, the geography has been a bit rough.

I blast open a cracked floor and jump into the resulting hole...

OH CRAP OH CRAP SPOKE TO SOON CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP!

Whew, that actually wasn't as bad as I thought.

And we reach the end of this "level", which is this fancy teleporter with a humming energy sound that I am sure I will associate with relief very soon. It's worth noting that there are no clearly defined levels in this game, there are just segments punctuated by teleporters.

It's also worth noting that this early in the game, not even 5 minutes in, I already have a grenade launcher and rocket launcher which I didn't even realize until I paused to look around. There are no weapon pick ups, just picking up ammo unlocks the weapon it seems. You also don't get hurt by our own explosive weapons, and these weapons fire pretty rapidly AND don't ever need to reload. I've forgotten how good this feels.

The teleporter takes me to the next area, where we are introduced to the aliens and/or mutants of the game. Ants, the intro referred to them as. We'll call them that then. As you can see these things are practically the xenomorphs from Alien in that they can walk on ceilings except these jerks shoot lasers. They don't, however, damage you on contact, and they also drop ammo pickups.

I get further in and run into these turrets. Turrets come in different flavors, shooting different things and are mostly destroyable. These ones have a set pattern. I also found out here that enemies of different types can damage each other. Those ammo pickups you see once belonged to ants.

I'm finding that the game loves to troll you with these. They show you dormant enemies/turrets ahead of time (which can't be damaged), and usually putting a switch at the end of the hall or room which wakes them up. Note the giant spiky ball near the top too.

This is what follows.


A FEW MINUTES LATER


I climb this ladder to find this giant drill thing which I have to frag before it gets me. It actually doesn't damage that badly. Also, that's a nice background.


SOME PROGRESS LATER...


Things are getting very chaotic in this game. I've now been introduced to these blue ants which are tougher and shoot a different kind of laser. Even with this unrealistically rapid firing grenade launcher, I can't kill these things fast enough as they are jumping all over the room and strafing me with lasers all day. I decide to say screw it and teleport out of there.


THE NEXT AREA...


I got on the other side of a teleporter to the next area which was full of things that were actually killing me, such as ants that shoot grenades. GRENADES. The difficulty level is starting to ramp up in a big way.

Here we have a nice display of suspicious video game generosity right beside a save point (that console). Those ants are yellow though, I havent seen yellow yet. Let's think about the progression here...Red = laser, blue = stronger laser, gray = grenade, yellow...

Rockets. Oh hell.

This is starting to become a common scene. These rocket and grenade bastards are jerks, and they're always camping switches. Cramming a room full of them is just inhumane. Note that there are turrets on top of things too...


SEVERAL DEATHS AND BATTLES AND A TELEPORTER LATER...


Ah, this next area with its nice parallax background looks calm...

...never mind.

I have acquired a new gun which is essentially a flamethrower on crack that shoots a huge stream of explosions and wipes things out in front of me. It has some damn limited ammo though.

But oh so very useful.


SOME PROGRESSION LATER...


I got a railgun! But this is perhaps the most badass railgun I've ever seen in a game. It shoots pretty much twice per second and has the most juicy shooting sound. Look at how fast that thing shoots!

Everything is going to die now.


A FEW MINUTES LATER.


...

I should note that I'm skipping a lot of things here. If I were showing every event or battle that occurred there'd be a lot more screenshots. This game is almost non-stop action in some cases, and the amount of camped switches and doors borders on the ridiculous.


LOTS OF EXPLOSIONS AND BLASTED MUTANTS LATER...


Eventually, I got rocket boots, another kind of powerup. It seems you can only have one kind of powerup at a time and powerups disappear when you take one of the big teleporters which sucks. The deal with these rocket boots is that you generate thrust when you hold down the right mouse button, and lose it when you let go. It's still convenient as hell, but knowing how diabolically these level designers designed their levels, im sure this will be used against me in a very bad way soon.

It's hard to see here but there have been a lot of enemy encounters so far. I've run into big grenade launcher robots and smaller flying sentry bots. However, the game puts plenty of quiet stuff in between, which is nice, as when things heat up, they heat the hell UP.


IN A LATER LEVEL...


I fell down a stupidly high corridor while ants fell down with me. I thought it was a nice change of pace, as I found myself shooting aliens out of the sky Saints Row 3-style. The level designers are definitely getting creative considering that when you look at things, they don't really have that many resources to work with. There are only a handful of enemy types and a handful of bullet/projectile types between me and them, and yet they find plenty of ways to vary up every encounter.


WAY LATER...


This level shows that there are other areas in the game, not just the facility, though the palette retains that same muted desaturated feel. I'm also using weapon #6 here, which is some kind of a short range concentrated beam that works like a longer range chainsaw.


THE NEXT AREA...


I've run into what is possibly the most dick part of the game so far - a long "hallway" lined with missile turrets top and bottom, with about 20 of each. At first I was destroying them one by one and was wasting ammo, and got killed anyway. I then noticed there were hearts floating in the middle and decided "let's do this the manly way".

So I flew right through the corridor, firing backwards to shoot down missiles like some deranged Macross pilot.

After dying several more times, I ran into a switch which opened a panel...on the opposite end of the hall. So I had to go through that gauntlet again, from the opposite direction. I think I should have blown up the turrets. Then again this means I can be TWICE AS MANLY.

My paltry animated gif cannot quite capture the RIDICULOUS AWESOME STUPIDITY OF IT ALL.

After dying a few more times, I realized I was shellshocked and going insane and I figured it was probably time to find a stopping point. I'm not quite sure how far I am into the game, as the weapons I have are not an indicator of progression in this case, but I do know there are two more weapons left. Would I go back and finish this later? Hell yes. But first I need to wait for the sounds of ant roars and explosions to stop ringing in my ears.


Abuse is as extremely fun fast paced run and gun platformer with great animation and graphics that still hold up quite well today, especially as indy games have brought attention back to 2d and pixel art. My screenshots and gifs don't really do it that much justice, so I recommend looking up videos to see how this game plays. It definitely will satisfy any hunger for wanton destruction and explosions with its auto railguns and rapid fire rocket launchers that never have to reload and won't harm you (oh so exhilarating). Of course the game gives you a serious need to rely on such destruction, as the challenges and odds you face in the game as you progress become nothing short of ridiculous. If you ever wanted to feel what it's like to solo a zerg rush, this is the game for you.

Downsides include the fact that the game pretty much has a Quake-like palette in its environments and that the "camped switch" level design device will get predictable and repetitive after a while. However, despite the frantic pace of everything, the game does give you enough breather room in between the heavy action parts and tons of save points, so it's paced quite well. The creators also find plenty of ways to innovate on the kinds of encounters you have, even though they all come down to the same basic formula of "frag enemies and move on".

It's been years since I played this game and I think it may be just as good if not better than I remember it. If you are in the mood for blasting the hell out of things with overpowered weapons while still fearing for your life, or playing something so fast paced that you will be glued to the edge of your seat gritting your teeth, I can't recommend this game enough.

6 comments:

  1. Fun game. You apparently got way farther than my skills took me. Is there a difficulty select? I can't remember.

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    1. Actually I think there is at the main menu, only two I believe. Come to think of it I never tried the harder difficulty.

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  2. I played it long ago on GNU/Linux thanks to the source code. Very good game.

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  3. I owned this new back in 1996. Even then I was aware that I had a hold of something special.

    I'm so glad it was open sourced, it's been packaged as one of the few good Linux games in many distros for years. Only in recent times with indies and Steam has Linux seen many games which are of superior quality to this.

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  4. I met it when I was trying linux for the first time, Ubuntu 8.04. Back on those days I had a Pc with low resources and a friend told me about this game. I loved it.

    I can't believe you didn't play Heart of Darkness yet. I thought you did it already so i never asked for it. I don't comment since a long period but i do read the posts!

    Greetings!

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    Replies
    1. By pure fluke it turns out that mecha-neko had a Heart of Darkness post ready to go up, so you're actually in luck. Wish I could get them all up so fast.

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