Glitchpunk: Neon Lit Carnage is Briefly Fun – Early Access Review
I’ve never played the old GTA games, so I lack the requiste nostalgia needed to fully appreciate Glitchpunk. Unfortunately, I also lack the desired love for all things Cyberpunk and its neon-soaked aesthetic. Nevertheless, I was excited to play Glitchpunk. Its freeform approach to combat and exploration beckoned me in, and its setting seemed rife with potential. Exploring the seedy underbelly of a city riddled with corruption, death and destruction seemed like a profoundly perfect diversion from the cheerfully cartoony games I’ve recently reviewed. Unfortunately, Glitchpunk never proved itself to be more than a hollow shell desperately seeking to captivate you with its unparalleled carnage.
“Chasing after your target, or adversely running from the police is always a treat, and the stakes consistently feel high.”
I want to start of positively before I slowly decend into a tirade of negativity. Glitchpunk is fun. I find it facious to deny that roaming the purtid streets of a fictional city and scrubbing it clean of all its cancerous crime by any means necessary is fun. Violence plays a huge role in Glitchpunk. Regardless of whether you’re crashing into passerbys in your obscenely large car, or riddling a crowd with as many bullets as your gun will pump out, Glitchpunk always seems to want you to be violent. Gun vendors are generously scattered across the vast map, and they sell their wares for scaringly cheap. Suffice to say, it’s not hard to get your hands on a gun.
Glitchpunk never utilises its crime-ridden world to say anything particularly meaningful, or more accurately anything that hasn’t been said before. Corporations being bad, freedom coming at a cost and violence being excessive are the general themes here. It’s nothing inspiring, but its never really to the detriment of the overall gameplay. Regardless of whether Glitchpunk questions the morality of your actions, it’s still ridiculously fun. Chasing after your target, or adversely running from the police is always a treat, and the stakes consistently feel high. I have to admit, it is refreshing to see a Cyberpunk game in which the police actually drive after you.
“The world of Glitchpunk is brimming with life and as a result is a genuine treat to explore.”
Additionally, Glitchpunk can be a genuinely stunning game. Its world, despite being devoid of any originality, oozes personality. Rainswept streets reflect the spasmodically flashing neon signs as you dash into an alleyway populated by drunks. The world of Glitchpunk truly feels alive and amazingly this is only one of the many maps planned for the full release. It’s staggeringly huge, especially for an indie game. Fortunately, it’s not obcenely big, and you do grow familiar with your surroundings. It makes exploration that much satisfying when a character tells you to go somewhere and you know exactly where they mean.
That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of fun offshoots to explore. Nor does it mean that the initial exploration is unenjoyable. In fact, the opposite is true in both cases. Despite familiarising myself with the map after some time, I still found myself discovering a creatively designed building or hidden alleyway tucked away in the shadows. Exploration is further heightened by the huge amount of people on screen at any given time. You’ll encounter gangs shooting at on another, police apprehending criminals, pickpockets and opportunists doing their best to rob you and the rest of civilisation doing their best to stay out of the way. It is a world brimming with life and as a result is a genuine treat to explore.
“While the gunplay is fun, it is widely inaccurate. Shooting at your target will often result in hitting an innocent civilian or a police officer.”
Alas this is where my praise ends. While Glitchpunk’s exploration and gunplay are extremely satisfying for a while, eventually they grow stale and I found myself wishing for more. Initally, being chased down by the police is exciting, and avoiding them can be a intense puzzle in and of itself. Unfortunately, the more I played the more I began to notice inconsistencies in the gameplay. For starters, the police will only chase you until their marker goes down. Once you stop shooting people and begin to run, it turns from red to yellow and slowly decreases. Once it hits zero, regardless of whether the police are mid-shooting you, they’ll stop and walk off. Essentially, to escape the police all you have to do is stop shooting at people and outlast their pursuit.
Dying also becomes incredibly cumbersome. Upon death, which, in my case, happens rather frequently, you’ll be transported to a hospital. However, whatever mission you were doing, guns you’d purchased and items you’d amassed are all lost. You have to go out and repurchase everything you’d lost and restart the mission from the beginning. It is frustrating, especially as Glitchpunk has a penchant for getting you in trouble. While the gunplay is fun, it is widely inaccurate. Shooting at your target will often result in hitting an innocent civilian or a police officer.
Additionally, whenever you attack a member of one of the three gangs, you’ll reduce your reputation with them. This will not only cut off any missions available with them (unless you pay a fee to repair your relationship), but it’ll also ensure that they attack you on sight in the street. It isn’t hard to ruin your relationships with these gangs, and as a result, consistently get murdered while wandering about.
“The way missions are handled in Glitchpunk feels obtuse and unintuitive.”
The driving in Glitchpunk is also rather inconsistent. At times it can be exhilarating as you race your way around the city avoiding the incoming fury of the police. However, you’ll find that simply trying to get from A to B without killing anyone is a significant chore. I found myself wildly swerving into onlookers as I merely attempted to turn a corner. Civilians seemingly come out of nowhere and before you know it you’ve knocked them five feet into the air.
Additionally, the way missions are handled feels obtuse and unintuitive. To collect your next mission you have to go to one of three phone booths, one belonging to each of the three gangs. From there you select your mission and then you’re sent on your merry way. Unfortunately, trekking across the map to find these takes an inordinate amount of time.
This is of course exacerbated by the fact that upon death you have to do it all over again. Once you have completed a mission, you have a certain amount of time to teleport to a phone booth. However, you may not notice this timer going down, especially if you’re reading the end of mission text. Additionally, when I eventually did notice this option, the phone it teleported me to didn’t even contain a mission.
“Glitchpunk’s audio design also leaves a lot to be desired.”
While Glitchpunk’s visuals can be certainly impressive when the video settings are all at max, unfortunately, for those with a less impressive rig, it is a literal nightmare to play with the settings turned down. Turning the post-processing down to even medium renders the entire game pitch black. The only way to counteract this is to increase the brightness to 100. However, even with this patchwork fix, it is easy to fall off edges that appear like an ordinary road or lose your way down darkened alleyways. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case as I’m frankly not an expert in game design. While it is likely to be rectified in the future, unfortunately, right now, if your PC can’t handle it, it’s simply not worth playing.
Glitchpunk’s audio design also leaves a lot to be desired. I found that while exploring the only atmospheric sound I could hear was a baby crying. It happened so frequently, regardless of where I was on the map, that I began to believe it was coming from my next door neighbours. Unfortunately, Glitchpunk’s music fares no better. The general ambient soundtrack is rather unimpressive, merely being a cacophony of escalating dreary sythn music. There are a few radio stations available while driving, but these were so widely different in tone to the rest of the game, that I relished whenever a car didn’t have the radio switched on.
“There is a fantastic game somewhere in here, maybe even one I’ll return to in the future.”
It is a shame too that there are so many inconsistencies in Glitchpunk’s overall quality, as whenever it does something right, it does it superbly. Glitchpunk’s combat and exploration are initially phenomenal. It does an incredible job of immersing you into its world thanks to its large population density and incredible level of detail. Unfortunately, I found that the large amount of issues that plague Glitchpunk were too detrimental to the overall experience for me to truly enjoy it.
Fortunately, Glitchpunk has a lot of potential. There is a fantastic game somewhere in here, maybe even one I’ll return to in the future. With a lot of community feedback and developer intervention, Glitchpunk could be something truly amazing. The large amount of new maps being added in future updates, as well as potential tweaks to gameplay do inspire me. I am honestly very excited to see where Glitchpunk goes from here. However, I cannot recommend it in its current state. It is too inconsistent in design and quality, that it is simply unenjoyable. I especially feel that people with a less than stellar PC or laptop should stay away. At least until Glitchpunk is patched a little more.
Glitchpunk is extremely fun for a short period of time. Running and gunning your way around its beautiful cyberpunk city is a riot. Admittedly, the sheer scale of it all is overwhelmingly impressive at first glance. Unfortunately, once I realised that there's little to no story here, and what is available isn't all that inspiring, I quickly tuned out. If you're dying for a Cyberpunk themed game, then Glitchpunk may be for you. But if not, then in its current state it may not be worth it.