It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? When Minecraft first arrived on the scene we knew it held wider applications than the original build was offering. We quickly saw the emergence of numerous mods, a great deal of community involvement and before long the concept quickly gained a huge cult following. So when I saw that Exato and Reverb were looking into pushing out a standalone, Modern Warfare styled, Minecraft based MMO FPS, I must admit to “having a bit of a baby” somewhat. It’s a very clever idea approach to reinventing the concept and reeling in the remaining fanbase that may have lingered at the edges of the Minecraft world, but never quite worked up the time or interest to dive in. As a die hard FPS player, I was sold by this title’s very nature. The concept was more persuasive than Minecraft on its own, and this is only emphasized when you jump in and give it a go.
Now it would be easy to assume that Guncraft leans more in the direction of Minecraft than any FPS, but to make that assumption would be to miss the point slightly. Guncraft is a shooter from the ground up, and any resemblance to the original Minecraft game is there by proxy, to compliment the experience rather than to remind you that you’re using the Minecraft engine. Destructibility is a huge part of the sheer level of satisfaction present here here. Where high concept titles such as Modern Warfare boast engaging visuals and sharp textures, Guncraft gives players all of the next gen functionality required of a shooter, but with all of the visual/performance draining elements trimmed away and in it’s place, full destructibility is offered as the trade off. It’s a price worth paying and the performance benefits are clear and satisfying. Bonuses that have become flagship elements of the modern online FPS such as Killstreaks, the ability to build and deploy mounted weapons mid game, level and weapon editors, custom loadouts, all make an appearance. Fans of the modern FPS scene won’t be disappointed here.
Building is an excellent addition to the gameplay as it allows players under fire to dig their own cover, construct bunkers or even (if desired) an entire tunnel system beneath the enemy position. Grenades, C4 packs and RPGs demonstrate the scale of destruction as near limitless. Sniper in that tower? Then take out the whole tower. Simples. The ability to strategically expand or reduce the environment adds a strategic element that you currently can’t find in any other online FPS. For that alone, this game made a big impression.
The level design feature is expansive and simple to use. After saving your map file, head over to the lobby, make a server, upload your map, and there you have it. You’re sharing your map with the Guncraft community, and it took all of three minutes. However the Smithing feature, as discovered when Joe and I ended up live-streaming the Beta, is more comprehensive and regulated than we were once led to believe. Finished weapons need a custom created Iron sight image as well as developer approval before being added to your arsenal, so take your time with this feature if you want to make the most of what’s on offer. In terms of what’s on offer, Exato have generously given players all of the tools used by the development team.
Visually, it has all of the charm of Minecraft. There’s a lego-ness here that affords the title a nostalgic property and yet, it’s most definitely a modern FPS. Latency is barely a problem here due to the engine;s visually lightweight nature and all in all, it works. The menu design, navigation and background images all feel distinctly Modern Warfare, and it’s clear that Exato are treading a fine line between parody and pastiche here. It works to a tee, so there’s no chance of the Modern Warfare crowd throwing a hissy.
The audio is tight, lightweight just like the visuals, but exceptionally well produced. The menu track rings faintly of Unreal Tournament, GOTY Edition, which only furthered the sense of nostalgia. However, the weapon sound effects could have had more depth. They feel monophonic, slightly flat, and at times it does remind you that what’s being played is, however high concept in feel, quite barebones in terms of presentation. But such is the style of the engine, indeed the world of Minecraft. To alter this would be to make it something different entirely, so it’s not a bad move per se.
Overall, Guncraft is full of surprises, packs a ton of replay value and customization and as far as I can tell, is set to gain as big a multiplayer following as any high concept title. I expect a dedicated player base to emerge in appreciation of this title, and with any luck, the servers should still be up, running, and full to the brim for a few years to come. Exato have created a deeply satisfying, highly lightweight and well produced title that should not only pleasantly surprise die-hard Minecraft fans, but bring in scores of new players to boot. A truly excellent title.
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