I salute you and then I shoot you.
My cousin served in the military for a few years and while his time spent overseas seemed largely uneventful, I recently asked him a question that I’ve often worried about. See, with all the violent video games I play you’d think something could go wrong with me at any second but the truth is that I abhor some of the content we see in virtual reality these days. That sentiment nearly exploded out of my chest when Facebook announced its deal to buy Oculus Rift and bring more of the real world into the virtual… or to bring more of the virtual into the real world.
In fact, the very nature of virtual reality probably drove me to ask this question in the first place. I asked him if he had to kill anyone during his time in the middle east and his reply was “no.” I accepted this, but other relatives with military experience have been even less giving and its for that reason that I actually love the premise of Steam Early Access third-person shooter Minimum.
I may sound like one of the most up-my-own-ass elitist game critics when I say this, but the modern shooter market doesn’t give me confidence in mankind and I’ve only been able to stomach the likes of Soldier of Fortune or Call of Duty’s yearly releases thanks to the idea that all of the energy young people spend firing virtual assault rifles actually ends up accomplishing something good (outside of confidence building or improving things like reaction times). In the recesses of my mind I’d rather think of a multiplayer match as an immune system attacking a cancerous cell or even just a stomach ensuring the food passing through it is broken up properly.
There is so much gore and violence in gaming that the constant nagging of nationalistic heroism oozing out of each “oo-rah” and “oscar mike” leaves me a little sick. While I could never willingly enlist, I think most people respect the honor that draws someone to the military and its that respect that has me firmly recommending Minimum today. You’ll almost immediately recognize Minimum at a distance thanks to the blocky, low-fi art style though the game’s charm actually reaches back through the ages to lean on arena shooter mechanics like Quake’s in the best possible way.
Minimum is played from a third-person perspective and pits two teams against each other in classic deathmatch or multiplayer-online-battle-arena-esque “Titan” matches with the opportunity to blast, slash, and generally engage in all-out warfare across a handful of maps. If you’ve played a shooter before, it won’t take long to grasp the game’s controls on PC given that it uses the keyboard and mouse inputs that have become industry standards within the genre.
That doesn’t mean the game is completely without a few differentiating layers. With crafting itself a $2.5 billion game mechanic, Minimum allows you to outfit your characters in unique gear both in-match and in the main menus. You can don a samurai helmet, equip yourself with a more powerful gun, or add armor, though you’ll have to have picked up resources from fallen enemies first. You’ll also have to be careful not to get lost in menus or you’ll lose your life in the heat of battle.
Minimum’s current player base seems healthy and valid for an indie game, though the title’s strengths come from what you don’t see on the surface. If you’ve played GunZ: The Duel, you might have an idea of the game’s momentum minus all the running on walls. Every second of gameplay focuses on delivering an immediate feedback loop for the player such that even exploring the map feels satisfying. Finding a few enemies, blowing them up with a rocket launcher, or whittling away at a Titan’s health with a machine gun prove entertaining so long as you can keep up.
If Minimum fails at anything in the genre, it doesn’t create a believable atmosphere. Far too often I felt perfectly fine dying and as competitive as a close match can be, I couldn’t help but laugh at a few of the encounters I had with other players. When an enemy with two flaming swords flipped in mid air before slashing me to ribbons, it’s only his blocky ass running towards a teammate that sticks out in my mind.
Lots of games tell us that “War… war never changes” or “Aim Down the Sights” or any number of copyrighted one-liners like “something-something, maggot.” War has become an endeavor of the mind and media more than anything else and wealth clearly concentrates at the top where it doesn’t have to go near combat. Minimum says “f*** all of that.” Minimum says “let’s play a game” and then it actually presents the player with what feels fun as opposed to what feels possible in “the next year of military tech” or whatever.
There is a time and a place for decisive tactics aimed solely at victory, though Minimum hopes to draw a line in the sand. Then, it hopes to add a few 90 degree angles and complete a box. Then, it asks you to put a bullet through that box guy’s head. It’s up to you whether you decide to follow through with that or try the flaming swords.
Review code provided by publisher. Available via Steam and PlayMinimum.com.