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Shattered Horizon (PC) artwork

Shattered Horizon (PC) review

"Shattered Horizon is certainly an original and unique addition to the FPS genre, but the lack of content and variety, the small number of players online and the lack of Windows XP support make it a difficult title to recommend."

Shattered Horizon is a multi-player FPS title that adds an interesting and relatively new element to the genre: zero gravity. The result is a general absence of the limitations on your movement that you would associate with conventional shooters. That unique twist lays the groundwork for a compelling shooter experience, but an overall lack of variety and content mean that the final product is disappointing and doesn't do enough to justify its $20 price tag.

The problems start immediately. There’s only one weapon in the game. Yes, you read that right: only one weapon. You carry around an automatic weapon that can be best described as an assault rifle with 3 types of grenade, a sniper mode and an attached knife blade. That's it. Every player in the game, regardless of side (more on that later) will bring the exact same weapon to every level. There are no power-ups and no different ammo types, just that one weapon for every match. That sort of design decision is beyond me, frankly, as no other shooter in recent memory has featured only a single gun.

Though your gun does at least have three functions, all but the standard shot are useless. You can use the afore-mentioned sniper mode alongside your grenades, for instance, but it's difficult to snipe in a zero-gravity setting because you first have to land somewhere to make your shot. There's also too much recoil. Meanwhile, standing still makes you too vulnerable to the players who might be floating around the area. Sniping is essentially useless, then, and the dagger should be reserved for those instances where you find yourself battling in close quarters and must use it as a last resort.

Three types of grenade are available to offer some welcome tactical assistance. The EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) discharging grenade corrupts enemy radar and other equipment upon exploding. Next there is the ice grenade, which resembles a smoke grenade and hides you from radar detection. Finally, an MPR grenade basically serves as a frag grenade that you can use to knock down your opponents.

If you're looking for some sort of history that explains the battles that you must fight, don't. There are a total of only two factions to choose from in the game: the ISA (International Space Agency) and the MMC (Moon Mining Corporation). Their reasons for fighting were made clear to me only after I turned to Google to read up on the game. The actual game itself makes no effort whatsoever to explain the source of the conflict. You might not care anyway, though, because there's no unique ability or power that separates one faction from the other aside from uniform color. You're unlikely to end up preferring one faction over the other.

With that said, there are eight available maps. Each scenario unfolds in outer space. In one map you are fighting on what’s left of the International Space Station, while in another you are fighting on a broken off piece of the Moon. While fighting in outer space seems cool for the first few hours, you'll soon tire of jumping around rocks on the same few maps. The game features only three game modes to keep you busy and all of them have long since become FPS staples. In Battle Mode, you must capture and hold as many of the three available control points as possible for as long as possible. Skirmish Mode is the equivalent of Team Deathmatch, where your team wins by scoring more kills than the opposing one. Finally, Assault Mode finds teams taking turns capturing and defending control points. The only twist is that if you lose a control point while defending it, you can’t recapture it.

In spite of its numerous limitations, Shattered Horizon is actually a solid shooter. The matches are lag-free, the graphics quite sharp, the controls responsive and the sound effects up to the mark. Above all, the game captures the vastness and silence of space very nicely. Floating around in zero gravity feels natural. You'll find yourself firing at your enemies while upside-down or sideways in no time at all. Sometimes you may find yourself prompted to return to a main arena that you didn't know you were leaving, but that hardly ever happens once you grow accustomed to each map.

The real problem with the game is that after a few rounds, you'll find yourself wishing for something different: a new weapon, a power-up, a new map or game mode... anything that will change the game's tempo. Unfortunately, nothing of that sort happens. The limited number of other people playing online doesn't help, either. I found only around 16 players each time I logged on to play, all on one map. More than thirty other servers and maps were available, but they were all completely empty. Perhaps that's because the game will only run on computers that are running Windows Vista or Windows 7. If you don't have one of those operating systems running, don't think for a second that this game is a reason to make the switch.

Shattered Horizon is certainly an original and unique addition to the FPS genre, but the lack of content and variety, the small number of players online and the lack of Windows XP support make it a difficult title to recommend.


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Freelance review by Sohail Saleem (April 23, 2010)

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Halon posted April 27, 2010:

Cool review, I pretty much entirely agree with this one. I played it during the free weekend since I didn't want to shell out the money on a game with less than 30 players at any given time and it was a huge disappointment.

Cool idea and very nice graphics, but between the system requirements and lack of depth it's no surprise to me at all that this game didn't take off.
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Halon posted April 27, 2010:

haha funny I just made this topic, guess the developers read my mind:

Still underwhelming, but it's a start!
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WilltheGreat posted April 27, 2010:

I think the system requirements are probably this game's biggest obstacle. Given the standard length of development cycles, SH's requirement for DX10 means that it was conceived well before Windows 7 was an item of note on the horizon, meaning it was envisioned from a very early stage as Vista-yes, XP-no. It was then released around the same time as Win7, and thereby ran into the same problems that console release titles often have: with little to no preexisting userbase to support it, sales were less than stellar.

Smart move would have been to go the Crysis route, and make all the DX10-only content modular - though whether that's even necessary is doubtful given the existence of an app that unlocks Crysis' supposed DX10-only features on Windows XP.

Bottom line is, Windows XP remained the dominant operating system despite Vista's efforts to make people love it, and Windows 7 will be dealing with Vista fallout for some time before it starts to phase into common use - if indeed it ever does. Releasing a game that can't even be played on the dominant PC operating system is a shot in the foot however you look at it.

Addendum: Statistical breakdown of the most common operating systems on the web

Assuming these statistics are accurate globally, I submit that when a game is playable by less than a third of Windows PCs at release, it's going to encounter some issues with sales.

On the other hand, it's possible I'm just talking out of my ass and bitter about the fact that I can't play Shattered Horizon.

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