Developer Blowfish Studios clearly wears its inspirations on its bloodstained sleeves. It's modelled its create-'em-up first person shooter, Gunscape, to look and feel like the classic arena shooters of old, and it mostly succeeds. The low poly graphical style that so effectively evokes shooters such as Quake and DOOM isn't just a design choice, however; it also allows for creative types to make levels and campaigns with very few constraints, due to the simplistic nature of the assets. Indeed, we tested how big a sandbox you're given in which to create your very own map, and it's ludicrously large. It appears that the sky(box) is the limit.
Dedicated players will be able to make some seriously impressive levels within these generous parameters. The editor comes with hundreds of blocks, props, enemies, weapons, and backdrops – all cheekily themed after the FPS big guns. Creating your basic map is simply a case of laying down cubes, enemies, and pick-ups, and you can quite easily cobble together something functional in a matter of minutes. However, the editor can be quite a daunting prospect when you first load into it, with its vast library of items unlocked from the get-go, the ability to configure basic artificial intelligence behaviours, and more besides.
Luckily, Blowfish has included a handful of levels from which to draw inspiration. These levels are arranged into a campaign, with a very loose story tying them together, and they take you through all the themes to give you a good feel for what the game offers and how it plays. The action is very much like the twitchy, fast-paced bloodbaths of Quake Arena or Unreal Tournament. Like its visuals, Gunscape's gameplay harkens back to the influential 90s shooters that rocket launched the genre into the foreground. There's no ADS or regenerating health here; think more along the lines of doors and switches, launch pads, and teleporters, complete with graphical and weapon variety reminiscent of everything from Doom to Turok. Technically, the game holds up fairly well, maintaining 60 frames-per-second for the majority of the time. However, as with most noteworthy games created in Unity, frame rate dips do occur when there's too much going on. Obviously, some user-made levels are jam packed with bells and whistles, which peppers the action with stuttering.
In terms of how the actual gunplay feels, it's a little lacklustre. Weapons go from your standard pistols and shotguns, and quickly ascend into the over-the-top boomsticks that you might expect from Gunscape's touchstones – plasma rifles, flamethrowers, and several different types of RPG are available here. Some of these guns are very fun to use, but they lack punch, and the audio design isn't anything to write home about.
In fact, the presentation in general is lacking, with cluttered menus and a functional but hardly interesting user interface. What's more, the game is clearly designed first and foremost for PC, particularly in the level editor, where a cursor would come in very handy. Laying out levels can be a laborious task, and complex menus ensure that the impressive depth on offer in the editor will likely only be fully explored by a handful of dedicated fans. The rest of us probably won't have the patience to learn the intricacies and quirks of this mode, even in multiplayer – although creating and testing a map with a friend or two can be a lot of fun.
Multiplayer mayhem and collaborative creation are where the game comes alive. Find a decent battle arena, party up with some buddies, and you can have some hilarious online or split-screen fun in the various competitive modes. On the other end of the spectrum, teaming up with some like-minded folks will improve the creative process in much the same way as it did in LittleBigPlanet. The social aspects of Gunscape are what really elevate the game; were it not for the editor and multiplayer, it would have fallen flat. Simply put, if you have some chums to play with, there's a lot to like here.
A love letter to the noteworthy shooters of yesteryear, Gunscape combines old ideals and new ways to play, with mixed results. The level creator is extensive and brimming with potential, but the shooting itself feels detached, and the clunky presentation makes it harder to get into the creative side than it should be. However, once a community of players get to grips with the game's toolkit, there'll be plenty of maps to play, and there's still some fun to be had in multiplayer – if you can convince enough friends to buy it.