If you’re a boomer like me, chances are you’ll have played the FPS Blood by Monolith Productions, and have been hankering for more ever since its sequel did damage to your soul. Cultic: Chapter One published by 3D Realms & solo developed by Jasozz Games is an offering that potentially may soothe that damage, and bring you back into the arms of the Boomer Shooter Cult.
Cult of Personality
Cultic: Chapter One opens with a brief introduction sequence where your character is investigating mysterious disappearances and the rise of a shadowy cult. Of course, your character does what any sane FPS protagonist does. He grabs up his pistol and heads right to the heart of the cult. His mission: to take them down and stop whatever insidious plan they have in store for the world.
As you explore the levels, you’ll find plenty of readable files. These will enlighten you on what the cult is up to and what happened in the lead-up to them taking over.
While there isn’t much in the way of cutscenes or dialogue there is plenty of environmental storytelling. To the game’s credit, it is based on shooters of old, so some leeway has to be given for it not forcing a narrative down your throat.
Cultic: Chapter One takes inspiration from first-person shooters from the 90s. Anyone who played Blood will get soaked in its similar vibes. That said, the more time you spend with it not only does it manage to carve its own niche, but you see it’s also learned from the school of FPS that is Dusk.
First off, the controls in Cultic: Chapter One couldn’t be smoother if you buttered them up with a metric tonne of KY Jelly. Aiming is responsive and your traversal options include a slide reminiscent of Indiana Jones, and a flying kick along with a sprint that would even make a certain blue hedgehog break into a sweat.
When you make a certain amount of successful headshots, you’ll trigger a slo-mo feature. If you combine this with the fact that you can dodge any bullet, it means that more often than the game is a brutal and bloody ballet. You’ll find yourself sliding between incoming fire and popping skulls with extreme prejudice.
The weapons on offer are the usual suspects. There’s a handgun, axe, shotgun, machinegun — you get the idea. What I can’t gush about enough is just how damn good gun feels and how viable each of them remains through the campaign. When you’re still switching to a handgun out of choice towards the latter half of an FPS, you know that it still has the stopping power you can use!
On top of the arsenal of firepower at your disposal, you also have the ability to throw lanterns, chairs, eyeballs, and soap in a cheeky nod to Dusk. Fire can be your best friend or worst enemy. Nothing quite tips the balance like shooting out a lantern above an encroaching group of cultists.
Where Cultic: Chapter One really nails its niche in the brilliant pacing and combo of first-person boom shoots and the pure horror feeling to it. Despite some of the levels feeling rather similar due to being set around the same locations, the game never misses a chance to put you on edge in ways you wouldn’t expect.
A fine example of the pacing is the asylum levels. By this point, you’re a powerhouse of pain and your assault on the asylum has you taking down near enough an entire army. Once you get into the asylum the tone shifts. You’ll find yourself creeping through the halls, jumping at shadows, and listening to every sound until the climax of the level has you sprinting for safety.
The level design in Cultic: Chapter One is absolutely top-notch. Each level opens up in different yet intuitive ways. Despite the sheer mass of some of the areas, I never once felt like I was aimlessly walking around hoping to trigger the next area.
A Reasonable Sermon
The combat options, weapons, and levels all present you with around 5 hours of near-perfect FPS horror, aside from a rather meh boss around halfway. The steady introduction of weapons and new enemies along with some brilliantly designed levels keep you firmly invested until the credits roll.
If you haven’t quite had your fill, there’s the option of several different difficulty settings to wade through, along with an endless horde mode which is a fantastic stress reliever. Despite the short run time which is due to the episodic nature of the title, you’re still presented with plenty of content to keep the bullets and blood flowing.
Setting and Sweating
Cultic: Chapter One is set in what would be best described as a European mining village. If you imagine Resident Evil 4 or 8 as a comparison, then you’re on the right track. It’s gritty, dirty, and dark, and absolutely leans into the horror brutally.
As I mentioned earlier, the levels don’t wildly differ. This is because the game tells a consistent tale from start to end. Your investigation has led you to this mountain area, and the level visuals stay consistent in telling that tale.
Cultic: Chapter One employs an unusual but impressive art style. It’s dark and moody. If I was to hazard an uneducated guess, it may use some kind of technical wizardry to mix voxels with sprite work to achieve this.
Enemies are clearly defined. Not only can you tell them apart visually, but they also each have an attack prompt sound so you know what to expect and how to react to them.
The music is outstanding here, flipping from an all-out attack to a tension-building hum seamlessly. It really did a whole lot to draw me into the game and know when it was time to fight and when it was time to take flight.
Cultic: Chapter One is quite honestly my favorite horror experience of the year, with some of the finest booming and shooting I’ve done. In a year that’s also presented Turbo Overkill and Metal: Hellsinger, that should show you just how highly I think of the game.
I only have two real issues with the game. The similar feel of the levels in nature is one of them. The only other is the episodic nature of the game leaving me I’m chomping at the bit to get Chapter 2, especially after the way this one ends. Aside from those, Cultic: Chapter One is an essential purchase for horror and shooter fans alike. It’s up there with the absolute best games of 2022.
CULTIC: CHAPTER ONE IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to 3D Realms for a PC review code for this title.
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