Project Downfall is a tactile but fast-paced FPS that bears a striking resemblance to Joel Schumacher’s 1993 cult-classing Falling Down. In Falling Down, Michael Douglas’s character, D-Fens, goes on a rampage across LA after having his last bad day without doing anything about it. Throughout the film, his acts come across as unjustified; if someone infuriates you, the go-to response isn’t to put a gun to their head and scream about serving breakfast after 11 – unless you are D-Fens of course.
It’s almost senseless, a loss of inhibitions, but in a pivotal moment at a military surplus he’s asked by the owner if he wants to see the “good stuff”. Good stuff meaning the owner’s extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia and weaponry. D-Fens is disgusted to have any such rage tied to that type of hate and blasts the Nazi owner away with his shotgun. The film understood the fantasy of breaking out of the cyclical nature of a 9-5 to serve a mega-corporation, whilst the daily injustices ravage the working class and doing something about it – albeit through a selfish gaze. Project Downfall, however, misses the mark entirely.
The Downfall Of Us All
You play as the unknown protagonist who looks a whole lot like John Wick – let’s call him Joan Frick – who had a brain injury around a year ago. Frick is on his commute home from work when gang activity causes his train to be cancelled, forcing him to take a new way home. This journey then escalates as his brain goads him into killing members of a Russian mob. This begins the descent into perpetual blood lust as Frick’s life is consumed by his “vigilantism”.
It doesn’t get much deeper than that and in certain instances entirely misguided. Whether it’s the regressive depiction of Frick’s girlfriend, the homophobic undertones of certain levels or even the outright usage of a slur as graffiti, Project Downfall is clearly catering to that cishet audience who get a kick out of a bit of “edginess” in their video games. However, this is completely pathetic and a complete buzzkill, making it worth bringing to the attention of players considering picking this game up.
There are multiple endings to get with different requirements for each of them, but the lack of an actual story to chew on outside of the gross misrepresentations didn’t make me care for what happened at all. Some things are entirely missable like seeing your therapist (very Katana Zero, another comparison) or time-sensitive missions that you’ll have to go out in the hub world and look for. It’s vaguely interesting as a concept but poor in guidance or execution.
Speaking of which, the Nintendo Switch port of this game will be by far the sub-optimal way of playing Project Downfall. From the first-person perspective, you go through a bunch of relatively short but brutal assault courses – mowing down corrupt cops and Russian mobsters along the way. The goal is to kill everyone in a mixture of ways, chaining combos and finishing the level quickly to get a good rating (Hotline Miami). I’ve played the game docked with a pro controller as well as handheld and whilst neither is solid, the controller has at least some nuance with how it plays.
Frick’s movements are sluggish, with his sprint and attacks being tied to an exhaustion meter. It’s completely contradictory to what the game asks of you and when you can die in one hit, it results in a lot of frustration. You die in one or two hits so when your attacks and shooting are slow but require precision, you feel at odds. Picking up weapons is inaccurate and most of the time unresponsive to your command. I also could never find a sweet spot with the aim assist, resulting in my aim diverting to the wrong enemy – it was always a fight with the controls.
To ease some of the frustration is the ability to pop a pill to slow down time (Max Payne) and give you strength towards your melee. You’ll only have three per level, meaning you’ll have to use them tactically but honestly, Project Downfall’s controls are so janky it doesn’t really matter. I imagine this plays a lot better on PC through mouse and keyboard. On top of that, the load times between some of the minor hub levels or into the next scenario are so long for an area I’ll spend seconds in.
Project Down And Out
As a vertical slice in a trailer, Project Downfall looked awesome. The blend of 3D elements and 2D-pixel art with an aggressive neon-soaked colour palette, filled with crudely designed characters really gave me vibes of Post Void (one of my favourites) alongside Hotline Miami. That ’80s interpretation of cyberpunk is always a fun sandbox of design. Having said that, the game doesn’t really achieve the aesthetic as levels are lifeless, enemies become familiar very quickly and there’s nothing truly original to enjoy about the aesthetics.
There’s also an assortment of post-processing visual filters you can add, giving it a retro look but they are all absolute headaches to look at. Thankfully, you can turn them off in the menu but I guess you lose some of the charm by saving your eyes. The soundtrack on the other hand is awesome. Full of original tracks from a bunch of artists that elevate the scuzzy cyberpunk aesthetic that the game goes for. Blood-pumping beats blaring as you’re clumsily blasting heads is always a good time and I’m glad the music did some of that lifting. Though it’s pretty telling that my favourite aspect about the game is not by the ones making it.
Project Downfall is an absolute Frankenstein of a game. Pulling from a smattering of other games and movies to try and emulate the abundance of cool they have. Copying isn’t cool and when you tack on gameplay that is at odds with itself and poor to play, you’re just making something objectively bad. And that’s before the unnecessary usage of a slur or their non-subversive views on the queer community. Maybe the real Project Downfall is about the people making it because this is a sorry excuse.
Project Downfall’s clunky and contradictive gameplay is the least of its worries when it’s also abysmally copying games that do the same much better. The disingenuous attempt at edginess and lack of originality make this worth nobody’s time.
Project Downfall is out 2nd February 2024 for Nintendo Switch (review platform), Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC via Steam.
Developer: MGP Studios, Solid9 Studio
Publisher: RedDeerGames, MGP Studios
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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