One of the best things to come out of the last decade-or-so is the resurgence of the tongue-in-cheekily named Boomer Shooter. Originally coined by Millenials to describe other Millenials, these shooters draw their power from ‘90s classics like DOOM, Quake, Blood, and Duke Nukem 3D. Dusk brings modern game design to a classic formula, and squirts out a demon half breed that might just be one of the greatest shooters of all time.
Might is a pretty weak word. So weak, it’s woefully inadequate to describe Dusk in any meaningful way. Dusk is simply sublime. From start to finish, it meets, defies, and surpasses any expectations one might have for a game in the genre, and if you take anything away from this review, it’s that Dusk is a shining beacon of retro excellence.
You play as Dusk Dude, a badass, no-nonsense, treasure hunter (apparently), who finds himself locked in a basement filled with redneck maniacs packing pre-revved chainsaws. With a twist and a flick, you whip out a pair of sickles, and the game begins. From the word go you are assailed by relentless enemies whose only desire is to see you dead.
You may start with sickles, and you may originally use them against humble hicks, but Dusk quickly escalates into a blood frenzy of apocalyptic proportions. Cultists, demons, gods, mutants, knights, sentient scarecrows – you name it – all stand before you, and your revenge. To help you along the way is a stonking arsenal of only the best lead belchers.
Super accurate pistols, razor-sharp swords, magical crossbows, and industrial rivet guns that imbed hot, explodey death into enemies, only scratch the surface of what Dusk has to offer. Being an old-school romp, you aren’t locked to only two weapons – you have access to all 10 weapons, pretty much at all times. Every weapon is useful, and by golly, you’ll need them all if you are going to mow down the denizens of what one can only assume is the southern USA.
A diverse rack of boomsticks doesn’t a good game make. No, your stash of bullets and explosives needs to feel good in your burly hands – thankfully, Dusk excels in this area. Controlling Dusk Dude is an absolute dream, and pulling the trigger on practically any gun is like injecting adrenaline straight into your noodle. A combination of staggering power, phenomenal audio/visual feedback, and the glorious return of gibs never get old.
Dusk is also fast – really fast. A classic Boomer technique is bunny hopping. Bunny hopping is a physics-defying trick that allows players to hop around the battlefield at incredible speeds by jumping. Pulling it off is pretty darn hard depending on the game, but Dusk brings this form of mobility to the forefront. It has a button for it, and this button will be your best friend.
Anytime there is any space, anywhere, you will be compelled to hop around the joint like a drugged-up loon, unleashing divine judgment upon every cultist-sucking hillbilly around. Because most weapons are projectile-based, not hit scan, hop, skipping, and jumping drastically increases your survival rates, and, to be frank, makes you feel like a twin-shotgun wielding badass.
Dusk is split over three episodes, with each episode containing 11 levels. As a result, there is quite a lot of content to play through. Games with this many levels can start to grow stale after a while – even classics like DOOM. Dusk, however, says no to that. Each episode in Dusk is drastically different – to the point where you could swear you are playing a different game entirely. The open farmlands of episode one are forgotten in the horror-filled labs of episode two, which are, in turn, completely dropped for the medieval mindfuck that is episode three.
Dusk goes one step beyond, however, with each level feeling like its own self-contained beast. Oftentimes, mechanics will crop up and only be used once. Mechanics that could very easily be the basis for an entire game, are expertly interwoven into single, one-off experiences. I played through Dusk in one sitting because I needed to know what the game had in store for me next – I was never disappointed.
Dusk is also incredibly accessible, with a myriad of difficulty options allowing players of all skill levels to dive in and experience the splendor. Cranking up the dial also leads to one of the most satisfyingly punishing runs in recent memory – so literally everyone is being tailored to here. In terms of bonus content, there is even a survival mode here.
Graphically, Dusk is hideously gorgeous. It takes visual queues from what I can only assume is the PS1 era and smears it in Slavic grit and grime. Browns, browny-greens, and brownish-burlap is the name of the game here – and it’s glorious. The low-poly graphics are complimented by an instantly recognizable style that pulls inspiration from Quake and Blood, to name a few.
The enemy designs are surpassed only by the sheer amount of blood, guts, and explosions that fill the screen. You can tell, in an instant, what it is you are killing, allowing you to effortlessly change your approach – almost without thinking. Topping it all off, it’s also smooth as butter – even on Switch – maintaining a silky 60FPS at all times.
Just to hammer home the game’s feel, Dusk takes no prisoners with its slapping soundtrack. Every stage seems to have its own jingle, and it’s always – and I mean always – perfect. From grunge, eerie, to diegetic – Dusk knows how to set the tone. It sets it so well in fact that parts of episode two could easily pass off as a competent horror.
Sound effects and voice acting are also excellent, with meaty weapons, crunchy reloads, wet splatters, and quiver-inducing tones. Dusk wears its inspirations on its sleeves, so you better believe that a large portion of its dialogue references older games, like Heretic. Oh, and there’s Big John – quite possibly the greatest character in any game. Ever.
Dusk is a game I simply cannot praise enough. It has managed to capture lightning in a bottle, fill it with viscera, and force the entirety of Louisanna to worship it as a deity. It doesn’t just bring Boomer Shooters back from a long hiatus – it actively takes steps to improve upon them. This isn’t just a throwback to Quake and its ilk – it’s the next evolution – the replacement. What few flaws Dusk has are so minor I forgot they existed – if they even exist at all. Pure perfection.
DUSK IS A MUST BUY
Many thanks go to New Blood Interactive for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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Forged in the rainy wilds of northern England, I carved a path of mediocrity through generations and genres. My play style is often described as: “optimistically awful”.