Regardless of when you were born and what you grew up playing, chances are you agree with me when I say graphics in videogames have come a long way. From being able to count the number of pixels comprising our favorite Italian plumber, to seeing individual bullets feed into a machine gun with gritty detail, the artistic style of our favorite games has made a steady climb towards realism. With each successive generation of consoles we see a boost in visual accuracy, but have you ever felt that such an aesthetic focus may draw away from the quality of the actual gameplay? At what point does a videogame simply become a movie with limited player participation, because so much time was spent on graphics and not on content? My suggestion here is that sometimes you just have to dress down to really deliver (this in no way applies to the pizza guy, please don’t show up without pants), and that’s exactly Human Head Studios tried to do with Minimum.
As a third-person shooter with PvP as it’s only option, it wouldn’t be absurd for me to say the developers run the risk of losing players due to boredom. Sure, everyone bought Call of Duty just so they could rush home, jump into a server, and trash talk hundreds of other people, but the game’s single player storyline actually developed quite a large fan base, providing interest and continued traffic for the game as a whole. It’s easy to see how a game missing single player capabilities could turn away more than a few customers, and overall it could be absolutely damning. With that being said and from what I’ve experienced, what Minimum lacks in terms of different game types, it attempts to make up for in exciting combat, awesome upgrades, and a novel game mode, all while disregarding today’s graphic demands, but it’s honestly hard to tell if it succeeds.
Keeping true to its title, Minimum poses as a Braque-Picasso interpretation of today’s mainstream shooters. You, and every other person, place, and thing, are comprised of untextured blocks, creating what I can only imagine to be a cubist’s wet dream. Focusing only on the visuals before getting into the gameplay, I must say this was oddly refreshing, and even somewhat beautiful. Through the simplicity you begin to appreciate just how smooth everything looks, and the use of vibrant colors and vapor effects only does more to add to the environment. The various maps you fight in (space, temples, what looks like my room, etc.) offer an amazing amount of detail, regardless of the fact that it’s all totally composed of 90 degree angles. If Minecraft looked less like a kid’s show and instead followed a more Halo vibe, you’d just about have Minimum.
Once you get over just how badass you look carrying a boxy shotgun and running around in even boxier armor, you begin to notice just how smooth everything runs. Having just recently left early-access, Minimum operates with the grace of a well-oiled machine, with only a few issues involving a bad ping (I know, I know, I’ll change my ISP eventually). Running, jumping, shooting, and dying is all done seamlessly, and I found it next to impossible to get stuck in a wall or fall out of the map. This may be minor in the grand scheme of things, but you’re a bold faced liar if you tell me you don’t mind a jumpy game.
Overall, you have the choice to play three different types of games. The first of course being Team Deathmatch, which I can’t really say is all that different from the likes of Battlefield or Call of Duty. You and your team manically run around, kill the bad guys (always in red, because we’re color oriented creatures), and collect experience and in-game/in-lobby currency and building materials. Apart from that, it’s just as fast paced as any of your popular PvPs, and certainly does a good job replicating a mode that has been utilized in almost every shooter released within the past 5 years. Along with the classic Team Deathmatch, Minimum also offers a Horde mode, where you must face off against waves of what look like firemen, giant crystal bugs, and velociraptors (which sounds way too much like a bad acid trip). This too is fairly standard, though it hardly holds a candle to Gears of War. One interesting problem I did run into is that, upon killing all but one enemy in the first wave, I was booted from the party for being inactive, though all I was trying to do was actively locate the final target (consider this my formal bug report, Human Heads Studios!).
The last game mode available is by far the selling point of this whole operation. By choosing to play Titan mode, you and your team not only have to seek out and kill the other players, but you must also hunt for supplies and upgrades that will assist your team’s titan (a giant, murderous robot bent on destroying the enemy team’s base). Each team’s titan advances down the main drag of the map, meeting in the middle to battle it out in a serious bout of fisticuffs. Depending on how well each team did in collecting titan-based power-ups and how much damage each team does to the other titan, the two colossal giants pummel each other until one explodes. Once both robots are destroyed, the lull in battle focuses on collecting supplies to recharge your mechanized badass for the next titan-fight (holy shit I love the use of that hyphen). It’s excessive, brutal, and the epitome of almost every good dream I’ve ever had, and for that reason you will have a hard time not spending the majority of your time here.
While in-game, regardless of mode, you’ll find you have the chance to upgrade both your weapons and your armor. By collecting crystals and material from the environment and fallen foes, you can craft upgrades to your armor that carryover whenever you die. Each segment of armor bestows upon you different perks, and the more you play or pay (with the use of the game’s pay-to-win store), the more armor choices you have for upgrades. Each weapon you use, through killing baddies and picking up crystals, has five upgrade levels, with each level increasing damage, boosting fire rate, or adding effects. Sadly, these upgrades die whenever you do, forcing your well-armored block soldier to attack with the equivalent of a pea shooter after each resurrection. Ultimately this is fair, but damn does it suck to lose a level five assault rifle after absolutely cleaning house.
Though it claims to introduce elements of team spirit and MOBA-esque qualities, Minimum still feels very much like the meathead shooters that dominate today’s market. Though you could choreograph a strategy with your teammates to divide up the tasks of gathering titan material, defending the titan, and a main assault, the communication, or lack thereof (via onscreen text box) is far from constructive, and you’ll soon find the same crowds seen in the late-night hours of Call of Duty: Black Ops. This isn’t a bad thing if that’s what you’re into (or if you’re one of those people), but while the PvP combat is really well done, it isn’t for someone who easily loses focus. As interesting as the Titan matches are, the rest of the gameplay becomes dependably predictable and the overall experience will begin to lose its charm when you realize that it’s just another multiplayer shoot-em-up.
Minimum scoffs in the face of aesthetics and abandons fancy graphics in an attempt to deliver a product built on substance. With simplistically gorgeous settings, a novel PvP mode, and a host of customizable armor and weapons, it will certainly draw the attention of any seasoned online warrior. Unfortunately, with a lack of advertised MOBA qualities, any type of single player option, and worn out game modes, this latest piece from Human Head Studios resembles every other shooter on the market, minus its physical appearance. As great a feature as Titan mode is, it isn’t enough to carry the game past a couple hours of play, but don’t take it from me, I’m just a square (cube, whatever…shut up).