Loopmancer is a gorgeous Cyberpunk-tale, but there’s still some work to be done to make it one to really look forward to. The Finger Guns Preview;
Loopmancer from eBrain Studio certainly had a fancy trailer. When throwing this one out to the Finger Guns guys to see who wanted to cover it, it was mostly a collective ‘wow, this looks awesome’. And you know what? It sure does. The neon-drenched Cyberpunktopia that floods every frame of Loopmancer is certainly its strongest asset, even if we’re beginning to get a little bored with the aesthetic at this point. Let’s not get into what CDPR has done to the ‘cyberpunk’ genre as a whole. Perhaps it belongs in this 2D form? It’s certainly doing wonders for the likes of Loopmancer, Cloudpunk and well, The Last Night, should that one ever see the light of day.
After receiving preview code for Loopmancer, I ended up taking it upon myself to tear through the game and now I finally have a laptop that can run games with a little more visual fidelity than Solitaire, it seemed to be a good one to test out just how shiny I can get my games.
From the outset, Loopmancer is gorgeous. Its visual style is complemented by a cracking soundtrack, immediately grabbing you and making me say out loud ‘yeah, I can get into this’. It feels like a fair more straightforward version of 2077, taking the best of the genre and packing it into a roguelike adventure full of replayability and hack and slashing goodness without the bloat and the nonsensical story beats that plague CDPR’s dull, empty world.
Still, it’s hardly a fair comparison. They’re completely different games in a similar visual aesthetic and that’s about it. Let’s just ignore the central narrative conceit of cybernetic implants and bionic prosthetics that have become an obsession. You’re playing as Xiang Zixu, a detective pulled into the games central narrative to investigate the disappearance of a journalist. Chasing a crime lord you get rather brutally murdered by a brutally generic crime maestro and wake up back in your apartment in your bed. Your memories have remained but the day has begun again. Cyberpunk Groundhog: Day 2046.
And thus, Loopmancer begins proper as you power through the games early levels piecing together evidence and information regarding the disappearance of this journalist and tear through their goons like they’re nothing at all. It’s super helpful being a hard boiled detective and an absolute badass killing machine. Makes you think you’re the right person for the job, eh?
The preview build only offered the single initial level, but it was certainly enough to whet the appetite. The story was certainly setting itself up to play out in various loops and twists and turns, the intricate storytelling in a visual trope we’re all starting to get somewhat familiar with. The beautiful visuals compliment the mechanics well. The eastern-set alleyways and neon shop signs tear through the screen, the darkness of the criminal underworld contrasting the visual style. Damn, it’s pretty this one.
Still, what stood out the most over anything else was the combat, which gave me major My Friend Pedro vibes. It’s fast, frenetic and you can use essentially anything nearby to put holes into the badduns that you come across. From rifles, golf clubs, nunchucks, pipes, swords and well, if it’s lying around you can use it, which is pretty handy. Using platforms and wires to navigate the level is also super fun, encouraging a little exploration to figure out how to progress.
One of the cooler characters in the game is a robot pal named Funk, who I could see me wanting to hang out with in real life should I ever live until the Cyberpunk era. Funk will set you up with weapons or buy weapons using e-Coins that you pick up from your fallen baddie folk. As you get used to the gameplay loop you’ll quickly learn not to spend too much money with Funk until later stages (granted, I’ve only played through the first level but it was enough to learn to be cautious with the ol’ e-Coins) as you’ll lose your weapons upon each restart. Fortunately while your items and buffs disappear, your moneys remains the same along with your skillset which you can upgrade before you take the game on again.
So it’s all shiny and Cyberpunk-goodness through the gameplay, and you can argue that’s exactly what matters in a game like this, but boy do the cutscenes need some work.
If anyone drags down the overall presentation of Loopmancer it’s the cutscenes, which feel and sound very PS2 era, bizarrely. Whether or not this is a localisation issue I’m not sure at the time of writing, but the lip syncing along with the general vocal performances are frankly poor and drags down the excitement. Whilst the writing is corny but ultimately harmless, you could argue the VO actors don’t particularly have a strong enough script to weave some performance magic out of, but boy is it noticeable. The opening cut scenes made my heart drop, and I feared for what was about to come once I had control of Xiang. Fortunately, the gameplay and the visuals are a huge step-up, but it’s an awful jumping off point for the game as a whole.
Fortunately for Loopmancer, there’s still no official release date so it would appear there is enough time to freshen up these cutscenes. It’s probably too late to fix the script and the performances, but the lip syncing and overall presentation of the cutscenes need some real work to bring them up to the level of damn near everything else.
One could argue the important aspects of the game have been focused on rather than what happens in between, the biggest problem is they’re so poor in comparison it makes them stand out all the more.
Still, as mentioned there’s plenty of time to bring the cutscenes up to the level of the rest of the game as Loopmancer has huge potential to be something pretty impressive. I commend the combat, the visual style and the roguelike elements that bring a few genre tropes together making Loopmancer a unique Cyper-tale that still seemingly has plenty of time in the oven to cook into something super fun.
I’m super excited to see the rest of the game. I’m invested in the story now and I’m intrigued to see where it goes next. Even if I have to sit through those cutscenes to get there.
Minimum PC requirements (actually not bad considering how damn pretty this game is);
AMD Phenom II X4 965 or Intel Core i5-8250U CPU
Nvidia GeForce MX150 or Radeon R7 260X GPU
15GB of storage
8GB of RAM
AMD FX-9590 or Intel Core i7-477OS CPU
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 or Radeon R9 390X GPU
16GB of RAM
15GB of storage
Loopmancer is due for release in 2022 on Steam. Wishlist here.
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