April 18, 2024
Hotline Miami has found its noir setting and liquor-swilling in OTXO, and its a bullet-shredding good time. The Finger Guns review:

Video games have a wonderful means of capturing the capacity for being a badass, particularly over other more passive mediums like films or books. OTXO (pronounced oh-cho) feels like it harnesses this capacity into a balls-to-the-wall, no nonsense rush of bullets, action and violence, nailing that feeling of being a powerful, kinetic avatar of carnage.

If you’ve watched the Crank movies, it’s got a similar rush of disorientating, rocket-propelled, endorphin-pumping vibe to it. From a black-and-white retro graphical style, pumping techno synth soundtrack to its unmitigated gory splendor, its quite a thrilling setup for a rogue-like, top-down shooter.

The comparisons to games like Hotline Miami and the like are clear as blood-soaked carpets in a pristine new-build home, but does OTXO do enough to set itself apart from the now over-flowing genre of rogue-likes and violent top-down shooters?

John Stick

OTXO follows the traditional rogue-like formula in terms of stakes and story. In the opening, you pick up a mask dropped by a stranger on a train. Immediately upon doing so, you’re separated from your loved one and awake on a beach. A beach where the waves don’t reach the shore, the sun doesn’t shine and the landscape never changes.

After a brief tutorial, you’re shown into the ever expanding mansion. Your objective is to blast, shoot and kick your way through room upon room of bloody fodder to reach the mansion’s heart and reunite with your lost love. There’s a handful of persistent characters, including a barman who serves your upgrading liquors, a lady that’ll procure you new drinks, a collectible-hoarding stick insect… person and a nun.

There’s not a whole lot of story involved with OTXO as it’s much more concerned with being a limb-exploding, bullet-ridden action thrill ride. However, along the way you’ll stumble across journals of those who’ve traversed the mansion before and the random cast will give you small snippets of dialogue.

Much like the John Wick movies, you won’t be hanging around for the writing, but there’s a bit of plot to pull your avatar along and justify why you always end up awaking back on that dreaded, tranquil, never-changing beach.

OTXO Review

Sin City, The Mansion Edition

Presented in a purely black-and-white aesthetic oozing with the deep red blood of your enemies, OTXO is a fast-paced violent festival of guns. In order to achieve your goal, you’ll need to systematically eviscerate every enemy standing between you… and the next room.

Most rooms will start with about a dozen enemies to eradicate, with further progression doubling and even tripling that number. Thankfully, the hiring agency for the mansion wasn’t on their A-game, so they can’t open doors. Funnily enough, neither can you. Instead, you’ll be busting down doors with kicks and slo-mo blasting through surfaces so frequently Max Payne’s eyes would water.

While booting your foes into a bloody mush of body parts is a one-hit kill, it’s rather short range thanks to your stubby stickman legs. To succeed, you’ll need to scoop up weapons and lay waste to those before you in a hail of gunfire. Much like Hotline Miami, you’ll be felled quickly but your enemies even faster.

Weapon selection is important in OTXO, as each option has a different fire-rate, range and damage output. A shotgun will have you decimating a condensed room of 4 witless goons, but go into an open courtyard and you’ll be gunned down faster than the Expendables burned its CGI budget.

Weapons also have very small ammo counts, requiring you to frequently swap out and acquire a new one. Nothing worse than being left in a gunfight with no shots and two LMG dudes bearing down on you. It creates a frantic and chaotic feel to the gameplay, but the mechanics are tight enough to give you a sense of control and ownership, to an extent.

OTXO review

Oh-Cho Motion

Guns aren’t your only tool to take down the groups of hurtling guards standing in your way. At any time you can use your focus meter to slow down time, allowing you to easily dodge waves of rounds destined for your vulnerable melon. The meter recharges slowly over time and can be boosted through successful combat encounters and liquors.

As a mechanic, slow motion is always freaking awesome. There’s just a visceral thrill that comes from triggering slo-mo, kicking a door into oblivion and then laying waste as your 60 LMG rounds tear more holes into your opponents so as to be a trypophobic’s worst nightmare.

Having said that, OTXO does feel a little too reliant on this system to form its gameplay. Out of focus, enemy movement and shooting is slightly erratic, making it difficult to be precise. Moreover, with a combination of the right liquors and using doorways efficiently, you can effectively cheese your way through a lot of otherwise precarious situations. I purposely tried playing a few rooms without it and OTXO becomes brutal to succeed in, which can present either a great challenge or a bit of an issue in terms of its balancing.

Despite these couple of quirks though, its fantastically fun to gun your way through each level, taking down hundreds of goons at a time and watching the map fill with red as your rampage continues.

OTXO review

Bossing It

After successfully clearing a handful of rooms, you’ll encounter a boss. The first is always the same one, but the following match-ups will be switched up for each run. They’re fairly challenging and well designed battles, though I had one that turned out to be run-killer more than once.

These encounters tend to show the best of OTXO and expose the flaw with the reliance on the Focus system. Each one is a bullet-hell challenge, with unique moves, mechanics and specials. The Legionaire for example, can launch spears which will then fire a tri-arc of bullets from where it’s lodged, while the snake boss can fire in spirals requiring the amount of dodge-rolling a Dark Souls gank squad would be proud of.

They’re a strong test of your twitch abilities without being too overtly or unfairly punishing, but a couple of bosses’ moves can feel stifling if you don’t constantly spam your Focus to give you a breather.

A typical run can last well over an hour on OTXO which provides a real test of your endurance and concentration, which makes it all the more devastating to be wrecked by a particularly punishing boss ability. But then, that’s kind of the whole schtick with rogue-likes.

OTXO review

I Think You’ve Had Enough For One Run

Thanks to the boss battles and the progression in enemies fortitude, you’ll likely end up “Forsaken” (read: You Died) many a time before you succeed in OTXO. The more bosses you fell on a run, the more enemy types get introduced, the more damage they take and the more intense their AI becomes.

Luckily, you’re merely a bottle of Jack or a shot of Scotch away from lubricating yourself into a more powerful dealer of lead. Defeating enemies will earn you coins, which can then be spent at the bar for immediate upgrade-inducing liquors, invested with the lady to make new liquors available for import, or spent at gum-ball machines to grant access to collectibles or new weapons.

The higher your combo when rampaging through the levels, the more coins you earn. Which, I found to be pleasantly rewarding. OTXO wants you to be a barrelling bull of destruction, so that’s exactly how I played to keep up higher combos. Bouncing from room to room, barely taking a second to reload or swapping out a gun at the last second to keep the mayhem spinning.

Weighing up whether to save your currency for a more powerful upgrade at the next bar or investing it immediately to ensure it’s not lost should you fall naturally creates that risk-reward conundrum so synonymous with rogue-like games. It keeps things fresh, especially when you get a new supped-up weapon to slaughter dozens with.

OTXO review

Techno Noir

OTXO’s gameplay and systems are therefore pretty enthralling, so does it keep up in terms of its graphics and style? Well, the noir-inspired look of the game is nicely realised, utilising a simple black-and-white palette to pleasingly juxtapose all the stickman innards you’ll be decorating the mansion with.

There’s some excellent detailing like with the bar, the individual designs of each liquor, boss models and the style with which you throw weapons about or vault over furniture. I appreciate the simple-yet-pleasing approach to the aesthetic overall. However, it does unfortunately suffer from serious repetition fatigue as you work your way through the same rooms, corridors and spaces dozens to hundreds of times.

Musical score wise though? Well, that’s a different story. As you might expect of a violent, noir shooter, the tracks in OTXO are full of bombastic, eardrum-bursting flair, smashing out synth beats to intense rhythms. It’s very full on but in the best kind of way. If you’re into your drum and bass or intense energy music, this’ll be right up your alley.

Considering OXTO has been developed by a single person, the aesthetic and musical choices make a lot of sense. It’s a straightforward approach that lends itself to the rogue-like nature, while still having its own unique sense of style. It doesn’t quite hold up over multiple runs due to the relative blandness of: bland room multiplied exponentially, but it works for what its going for and needs to achieve.

A Relaxing Beach Shootaway

OTXO was almost exactly what I expected it to be. It’s frantic, relentless and brutal. A rogue-like with a cool noir style, heavy synth soundtrack and intense top-down gunplay action. You aren’t coming here for deep lore like you’ll find in Hades or the AAA values you’d get in Returnal, instead you’re coming here armed and ready so you can live out your badass John Wick and Jason Statham fantasies.

When you hit a 6x combo as you burst through another room, whipping up a SPAS-12 to implode 4 unsuspecting fools, before scooping a FAMAS to lay waste to the on-rushing reinforcements as your trusty dog lunges into a poor soul, you won’t be able to contain the sadistic smile that’ll be enveloping your face.

It’s not perfect and has some flaws, but OTXO was everything I wanted from a high-octane shooter that delivers that Hotline Miami type thrill while having enough of its own personality to stand proudly as its own awesome time.

OTXO comes alive when you hit the Zen-like moment of blowing apart enemies, dodging out of fire, booting in doors and stressfully defeating that encroaching foe with your last round of the magazine. It suffers from some repetitive procedural design and relies a little too much on its slo-mo mechanic to get by, but its as close to a Crank movie you’re ever likely to get, and what a time that is.

OTXO is available now on PC via Steam (review platform).

Developer: Lateralis Heavy Industries
Publisher: Super Rare Originals

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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