Over the weekend, the folks over at 3D Realms were partying like it was 1999, with their Inaugural Realms Deep conference, showcasing a whole host of action-leaning retro-inspired video games. Much of the lineup was made up of what is lovingly or perhaps mockingly referred to as “Boomer Shooters”, first-person shooters that evoke the tone and feel of early games in the genre, such as Doom and Quake. The event took place over several days, and you can catch the entire archive of the stream over on their website, but we’ve highlighted some of the most attention-worthy announcements and trailers here, for your convenience.
It’s not often that a trailer focussing entirely on an inventory system would be noteworthy, but then most games don’t have an inventory system as noteworthy as Gloomwood’s. This is a game that is blending together elements from the classic first-person stealth game Thief: The Dark Project, with some more traditional shooter elements.
This inventory system builds on similar systems from games like the original Deus Ex, Resident Evil 4, and Zombi, where you have an on-screen visual representation of an actual briefcase, and you have to perform some inventory tetris to manage which items you can fit in there. Gloomwood is taking it a step further, where it’s not just a visual metaphor for a briefcase, but the briefcase is a physical in-game object that you interact with, which makes mechanical clicking and whirring when you’re interacting with it. It’s more of a pleasing aesthetic detail than something that will significantly change how the game plays, but from what we’ve seen elsewhere, this game is full of those stylish visual flourishes.
As you can see towards the end of this trailer, Fallen Aces is indeed a first-person shooter, but for the bulk of this footage, they’re instead showcasing the first-person brawler mechanics. There’s a varied moveset, with punching, kicking, stabbing, and a host of melee weapons on offer. I love the use of high-resolution comic-book style sprits for each of the characters. This was a technique that was used out on necessity for many early 3D games, where PCs at the time couldn’t handle rendering 3D environments in addition to 3D characters, so they used characters that looked like cardboard cutouts. With Fallen Aces though, they’ve leaned into this as a deliberate artistic choice, and by designing these characters with expressive details, and adding physics-based interactions and lots of frames of animation, they are able to use this approach in a way that looks far more expressive.
This was our first look at fantasy first-person action game Graven, looking to me very much like a modern update to the Heretic and Hexen formula, where you’re entering a world of dark magic and mysterious creatures, and then killing everything in it. You’ll be using a mix of your trusty crossbow, an assortment of magical spells, and environmental elements to take on these nightmarish creatures. In addition to this reveal trailer, we got a 30-minute demo of unedited gameplay, which you can check out here.
This announcement was a little light on details but did a good job of conveying some of the tone and feel that they’re going for. Core Decay is clearly inspired by titles like System Shock and Deus Ex, presenting a futuristic sci-fi world full of cybernetic enhancements and robotic enemies. There are RPG systems layered on top of shooter mechanics, and we saw glimpses of hacking and other immersive sim elements, including of course a nod to the iconic 0451 keycode, so it’s clearly wearing its inspirations on its sleeve.
Nightdive Studios are perhaps the masters of bringing classic PC games from the 90s to new audiences, with their fantastically produced remasters and rereleases. They’ve worked on projects like the recent rerelease of Doom 64, the brilliant remasters of both Turok and Turok 2, and the enhanced rereleases of System Shock and System Shock 2. They’ve got lots more in the pipeline, and over the weekend we got updates on some announcement projects, plus some new announcements.
First up from Nightdive was news that they’re going to be giving classic shooter Sin the remaster treatment with Sin Reloaded, along with a trailer that highlights the extensive work that they’re doing to bring this game up to modern standards. It’s getting a comprehensive visual overhaul, so this looks like it will be a perfect way to revisit this game.
Then we got our first proper look at Shadowman Remastered. They announced this a while back, but this is the most in-depth look we’ve seen of it in action, and it’s another fantastic update. This was always an interesting game, but kind of difficult to revisit it in its original forms. It blends occult and dark-fantasy elements with a modern setting, and was quite ahead of its time in a few regards. It’s one of the earliest examples of a fictional Black protagonist in a video game, and it deals with some pretty adult themes. It’s going to be interesting to revisit it when this remaster comes out.
A spin-off from the movie of the same name, based on the Phillip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, this classic adventure game is an interesting curiosity. It’s a totally separate story, set in the same world, but time has not been kind to it, where particularly the original FMV cutscenes look pretty rough these days. Night Dive are using a variety of techniques to clean up the image quality of these cutscenes, including frame interpolation to make the playback smoother, and various upscaling techniques to increase the resolution and image clarity. This side-by-side comparison highlights just how significant these improvements are.
Having released a remaster of the original game back in 2015, Night Dive is now working on a full remake of the original game, completely rebuilt from scratch. This is intended to take the world, story, and mechanics of the beloved original, and bring it all up to more modern standards. Here we take a look at the game’s reimagined Cyberspace, an in-game virtual space created in a computer simulation.
That was the biggest news from Realms Deep. 3D Realms have said that they intend this to be a recurring annual event, so we can hopefully look for more interesting retro-inspired news from them in years to come.