In a gaming world becoming over-populated by clones separated by different titles, it's nice to see a game try a new approach at an already existing concept. Imagine if you will, a world of GTA proportions with an enthralling plot, hundreds of years in the future and governed by robots. This is the atmosphere superbly achieved in Enlight's new title, Scrapland.
Produced by American McGee, now famous for his dark and disturbing spin on the Disney classic; Alice, players take charge of the enthusiastic and clever robot named D-Tritus. On a voyage of exploration through the universe, our hero comes across a strange asteroid dubbed "Scrapland" which turns out to be more than meets the eye! The orbital rock turns out to be a world inhabited by an odd robotic society concentrated in a city named "Chimera". D-Tritus learns that Scrapland is actually the remains of a planet once populated by the human race that's right, it was Earth! After having been over-exploited and rendered inhabitable, mankind left and that's where the robots come in. Little is known about how they actually got there, but they cared little for the dying planet, which led them to call it "Scrapland". Having seen first hand what the humans had done to their once beloved home, the robotic race came to despise and banish all "viscous" life from their neoteric city.
Immediately after touching down, D-Tritus is treated to a crash course lesson on existence in Chimera, all robots are part of a whole and that whole is what the "bishops" call the "Great Database". Every citizen has his or her "matrix" (equivalent of the soul) archived into it in case of an unfortunate accident, which would destroy or render a robot inoperable. If such an event ever occurred, the victim could be completely restored for a minimal fee. The existence of such a machine has made death all but obsolete on Scrapland, or so its residents thought until key political members started mysteriously dying and their matrixes stolen from the Great Database. As a new journalist, D-Tritus is assigned the task of covering the murders and the viscous creature that is believed to have been responsible for the uncustomary murders. Throughout D-Tritus' stay in Chimera, players will get a chance to interact with a plethora of interesting characters, each as distinctive and offbeat as the precedent. The game progresses as our hero uncovers clues from his investigation or from interactions with other shady characters to ultimately lead to the discovery of the mysterious murder on the loose in Chimera. If you ever get bored of the game's main quest, a small variety of mini-games and missions are available at your disposition. Examples of such could be the options to be able to engage in combat, participate in races with your gunship, take "Crazy Bets", mug citizens or just stroll through Chimera and explore the towering skyscrapers and households. Sadly, these mini-quests and free exploration modes wind up being far more entertaining then the game's main objectives. The big problem with Scrapland's pacing is that it is just too slow. A majority of your time is spent traveling between locations scouring specific characters for objects or information. Annoying enough is the way everyone seems to want to have you prove your trust and worth to them by sending you off on more quests for them, which are unnecessary and seem to only be incorporated to lengthen game time. After a few hours, Scrapland begins to suffer from what can only be described as a lack of new objectives. The missions given to D-Tritus re-appear almost exactly as you've come across them previously for the exception of a few words. For one, D-Tritus is asked to photograph the plans for weapons for a gunship by tricking a mercenary, once completed, the following mission is to photograph the plans for a piece of a gunship by tricking another mercenary who lures you to the same location as the previous objective. The upside is the upgrades gained from these kinds of quests, which may be added to the player's gunship. The main modes of transportation in Chimera are the rapid and effective use of tubes as seen in futuristic movies or the utilization of spacecrafts. Players can create and update ships created at specific locations through out Chimera giving them the edge over their opponents in dogfights or races. Lighter ships are more effective in races yet stand no chance when opposing heavier gunships with more firepower; its little things like these that really help Scrapland. The plot itself isn't the disputed point but its pacing. Everything feels too stretched out and progressing is slow thanks to the fact that everyone uses you for their dirty work in exchange for information or double-crosses which happen much too often. These often lead to missions that are more tedious just to get a clue from a series of four clues that are related to a crime scene. These are but a few of the low points of Scrapland. The game isn't all-negative though, there are some great positive aspects. Enlight's newest offering possesses some intuitive innovations to the genre. During one of his missions, D-Tritus picked up the gift to be able to tap into the "Great Database" and allow himself to rob the matrix of any of the 15 varieties of robotic life forms present in the game. Each character posses special functions unique to their race of robots, i.e: Bankers can rob citizens of money, while archbishops can fire plasma beams from their hands which can damage perpetrators of crimes. All of these kinds of robots are what animate Chimera and help make it feel like a real mechanical and industrial city. Beholder robots scan citizens searching for anything suspicious or any other unnatural activities, if D-Tritus spends too much time in one area or attacks someone, the beholders will catch on and rapidly catch up to him and alert the other police officers to your location, it's amazing how everything fits in together to make the world realistic. If the single player really isn't your cup of tea either, Scrapland includes a very basic form of multiplayer. Functioning in split-screen and not Xbox-Live compatible, players can go head-to-head in Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag or a few other varieties of game modes. While they are all very basic, it is nice to have the option to play against peers or team up and beat down colleagues in friendly matches.
An authentic world is nothing without the graphics to convey the atmosphere to the screen. Scrapland accomplishes this fairly well. The level of attention and detail placed into every one of the many robots manage to relay the appearance of fully fluid robots. D-Tritus' model is the one who truly stands out above the rest. The concern and awareness given to the main character's traits and features give him more of a human allure if you can forget about the scrap metal, nuts and bolts he was pieced together with.
Chimera itself is reminiscent of an almost "Tron" like world. Flashy neon lights and signs plague the world. With a wide assortment of areas to visit, the atmosphere of a futuristic, robotic world built on an almost post-apocalyptic surface is pulled off with a fair amount of credibility. The light sources also reflect off the metallic coat off the robots as they press on with their lives. Everything looks great although some suspiciously low-resolution and blurry textures are noticeable in certain areas. Thankfully, these areas are concealed in darker or less traveled locations in the world. Another downside is the occasional, yet irritating drop in frame rates when too much is going on at once on screen. These happen at the worst possible times in terms of gameplay. While racing or dogfighting, a decent frame rate could mean the difference between victory or defeat, life or death. Those two minor issues aside, I cannot think of many games that can give off such a strong graphical magnetism as Scrapland.
The audio also plays a strong point in this title. The voice work put into the characters in Scrapland is worth mentioning alone. D-Tritus and the other important secondary characters of the game all sound like you'd hope they would, like robots. Everyone you meet is completely voiced and each different race of robot sounds unique and peculiar from the other. The only problem, if you can call it that, is the random and unimportant robots you'll come across. Each kind of robot has the same voice, then again, this isn't really considered a flaw but more as a nice effect given to the robots that goes with the way they all look alike. This feature may be appreciated by some or rejected, it's a love it or hate it kind of thing. The main characters that players will come across all give convincing performances and help emanate human-like emotions, even if they are robots. Scrapland's soundtrack is a mix of techno / trance tracks befitting of a modernistic society. Some ambient music is always playing as D-Tritus travels between areas and picks up during action sequences. Sadly, the ambient track is often more than not an irritating track on loop that may leave many players annoyed. The ambient audio apart, Scrapland succeeds remarkably in all audio departments.
Although Scrapland may not have any redeeming features and suffers from its fair share of issues, it is by no means a displeasing title. Quite on the contrary, a great plot, extravagant graphics and solid audio, Scrapland is tolerable even with its downsides. Launched with a small-budget price in mind, if you find yourself with nothing to play, Scrapland should be on your list of games to buy. Not many titles attempt to achieve everything that this game has going for it, even if it doesn't entirely succeed, Scrapland is perfect for those of all ages and lovers of the genre.