Republished on Wednesday, 31st May 2017: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of June 2017's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Neon Chrome is a top-down, twin-stick shooter set entirely in what looks like the Shinra Building from Final Fantasy VII given a Blade Runner-esque makeover. You take on the role of a hacker who's trying to bring down a ruthless bad guy known as The Overseer, and to reach him you must work your way through all 32 floors of his heavily guarded tower. As a hacker, you might not be much good in a fist fight, but fortunately you can hack into assets – warriors you can control to do your bidding – and they'll be doing the dirty work so you don't have to. These assets could be suited to stealth, gung-ho gunplay, or methodical run and gun tactics.
The loop in Neon Chrome is simple: shoot things, find upgrades, earn coins, die, use your coins to upgrade more, then begin the process again. The idea is that after a couple of floors the difficulty will get too much for you, but on your second attempt you'll be slightly better equipped thanks to the upgrades that you earned the first time around. You'll do this over and over until you're strong enough to make it to the first boss, and killing it will yield a checkpoint meaning that you no longer have to start from the bottom floor on every future approach. After that you can start working your way toward the second boss, and so on.
On each approach the floors of the tower are procedurally generated so you don't have to repeat the same levels over and over again, but this doesn't wholly alleviate the tedium because the basic gameplay never really changes for the entire game. Since upgrades are almost entirely stat-based rather than changing the gameplay in any meaningful way, you're doing the same thing at the end of the game that you were at the start except that your stats are higher. While the frantic gameplay is occasionally thrilling, and scraping through a level by the skin of your teeth is a rare joy, the majority of your time playing will be spent shooting things in the face in exactly the same way, over and over again. Weapon upgrades are also disappointing, since they're almost entirely stat-based too, and the first secondary weapon that you get is better than practically every one that comes after it.
Attempts to spice up the gameplay with different classes for your assets fall similarly flat. Having stealth options is a great idea in theory, but the game arbitrarily throws a warning up saying that more troops will be coming to hunt you down if you don't finish the level quickly whenever you take too long. Since these enemies will make short work of you, there's no benefit to taking your time whatsoever, and so there's rarely a better tactic than just going into every level all guns blazing.
Mixing things up a little could have worked wonders, but as it is, playing Neon Chrome is an exercise in tedium occasionally broken up by the odd exciting moment. The progression system amounts to little more than slowly increasing numbers next to things like 'health' and 'damage', and contradictory design choices mean that despite options being made available to you, the best option is almost always the same one. Ultimately, Neon Chrome is a game that wants you to keep coming back for more, but one that offers few reasons to actually do so.