Neon Chrome (PC) Review

By Leo Epema 28.04.2016 1

Review for Neon Chrome on PC

Neon Chrome is a top-down shooter from 10tons Ltd, a developer known in some circles for Crimsonland, a well-reviewed, you guessed it, top-down shooter. While it has character with its '80s dystopian synth vibe, does it distinguish itself from its competition enough? What even is 'neon chrome' supposed to be? Top-down shooter is a vague enough term, so what exactly can be expected?

Right at the title screen, there is a sense of the game's dystopian setting, with a kind of overseer sitting on a mechanical throne that's hooked up to all kinds of stuff through tubes and whatnot. Obviously, this is the person we're going to have to beat - just the way he looks out of touch with reality is enough to signal that. This is a very nice retro '80s theme, and it's fittingly accompanied by a clear, catchy song, like old Depeche Mode songs without vocals, or well… any other '80s synth song. The song is strangely upbeat for such a setting, and, indeed, it fits the rest of the game, as it just feels like the kind of nostalgic fun you'd have at the arcades.

Fun is the key word here - don't expect a great story. Wait, scratch that, don't expect a story at all. It's kind of disappointing there is none, because we all know the aforementioned theme (or trope) by now, and it would've been nice if there had been some alleviation of the tedium of all the non-stop shooting. Even just a few cartoony illustrations or so would've been good, because the title screen actually makes you interested in seeing more of this dystopian world. It looks a bit cheesy, and that is exactly something Neon Chrome could've built upon. Instead, the gameplay takes itself fairly seriously.

Screenshot for Neon Chrome on PC

Once the game starts, you find yourself in a room where you can upgrade your character by investing money into stats, which include HP, damage, luck, energy, and slots. Health points and damage should speak for themselves. Luck determines how many times critical hits are performed, and what amount of money and quality of loot is received. The energy stat determines how many times the secondary ability can be used, which can be very helpful. The slots value determines how many body enhancements can be taken on.

In addition to increasing one or more the stats, secondary abilities can also be bought to suit personal play style. These abilities tend to focus on doing a lot of damage at once - some on a single target, some on multiple. For instance, there is a grenade launcher with which to bounce grenades off walls, which can make for some surprisingly tactical gameplay considering there's plenty of enemies that can't be hit unless you go around the corner and expose yourself. Exposing yourself can be rather dangerous if there are a lot of enemies that rapidly close in, or if the room is filled with mines that can spot you and fly toward you. By using the grenade launcher, some sweet mayhem can be caused.

These abilities are already decent enough, but enhancements (passive bonuses) for the desired character class can also be bought, which can either help make your character more rounded out, or more specialised in a particular field. These enhancements are quite varied, because they range from health increases to dealing more damage to bosses. It would've been great if there were a few more enhancements, though, as it feels like there's a lack of customisation in this regard. Why not give bonuses to specific damage types or weapons that you use, or perhaps provide multiple types of regeneration abilities? Anyway, there's even more than just that - there are also weapons to buy, and they are the bread and butter of the gameplay.

Screenshot for Neon Chrome on PC

An assassin (who is invisible in dark places) can also be chosen, and then outfitted with a shotgun, which is particularly deadly at close range, and can take out multiple enemies from a distance. A more accurate weapon like an assault rifle can be picked, which is great at long range, but is a bit slow. Alternatively, perhaps choose an SMG (my favourite), which is good at any range, but has some spread. The combinations that can be made between weapons types, secondary abilities, passive abilities, and stats, make this game surprisingly satisfying from a role-playing perspective. It gets even more satisfying when, within a level, you find a special booth to use to equip another enhancement or replace an old one.

The different classes are hacker, techie, cyber psycho, assassin, and corporate soldier. The soldier gets more damage, but less movement speed, which can end in disaster if reinforcement troops arrive and you didn't make it to the end of the level to avoid them. The hacker gets more energy and speed and can hack things (duh), and the cyber psycho has an HP bonus and two extra enhancement slots for status boosts, making it a balanced choice. It's clear a lot of thought was put into the classes. It's just a bit of a shame that the gameplay is so basic - it really revolves around a lot of shooting, while one might expect the hacker class to be able to hack certain enemies to shut them off or have them fight their friends. It just feels like an element of strategy is missing, because most of the time, you're just pressing the left mouse button with some right mouse clicks interspersed. This fact, combined with the bosses apparently lacking weak spots, as well as not being able to affect enemies' behaviour or status (for example, freezing them, burning them, or confusing them), blemishes the gameplay slightly.

Screenshot for Neon Chrome on PC

Moving on to the actual levels, there are (as far as is known) twenty-five of them, with the bad guy situated at the top. The levels are inhabited by a variety of human guards, as well as machines like mines and mechanical spiders that attack when in melee range. Each enemy type has its weaknesses - mechanical ones are weak against ion ammo types, while organics are weak against plasma. This means that if you have trouble with particular enemy types, you can change your loadout to compensate. Of course, usually it's only possible to choose a loadout before the game starts, not during the ascent of the building. However, during gameplay it is possible to pick up level-ups for weapons, and sometimes different weapons can be found, even with different ammo types.

It's a good idea to gauge what weapon is required based on your state of mind and what body enhancements are equipped. In addition, if health is low, it's good to consider using weapons that work well against enemies that make use of explosions - though it depends entirely on the playstyle and chosen class. On the topic of classes, it's a bit of a shame you need to choose between three of them before playing, instead of having the freedom to choose whichever is desired. This is more negative than positive, because the player should not be consigned to playing as a class they're bad at.

A large part of what makes the game so enjoyable is its presentation, oddly enough. The music is phenomenal, with each song being catchy in its own way. Some tracks sound melancholic, but strangely hopeful, which possibly represent the player character in their quest to (probably) free the world from the iron grasp of machines. Then there's a track that sounds almost restful but stealthy in a way - something that fits the hacker persona. The sound effects are decent, too, with some nods to classic games, such as when guards shout in an almost unintelligible 8-bit way when they spot you. It doesn't completely fit the style of the rest of the game in that sense, considering Neon Chrome doesn't have an 8-bit style, but it does hearken back to it with its simple character models and enemy designs with almost no frills. The soundtrack will be available on Steam once the game is released.

Screenshot for Neon Chrome on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Neon Chrome is a very fun top-down shooter with an excellent soundtrack, although has slightly uninteresting enemy design, lighting, and environments in general. It's not quite as deep as it ideally would be, considering many skills and enhancements are extensions of your character, rather than additions, but its flaws are fairly minor. Play this game if you enjoy top-down shooters, play it if you enjoy role-playing, play it if you like challenging yourself (because you die quickly). Just play it.

Developer

10tons

Publisher

10tons

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I said there are 25 levels in total, but it appears the number changes each time you die and choose a different character (called an 'asset'). Right now, it seems there's 33 levels for me. I'm assuming the individual levels are bigger the fewer there are of them, and they're possibly harder to get through as well.

Yet another interesting game mechanic Smilie

( Edited 28.04.2016 23:25 by Enigma )

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