FPS Review

Powerslave Exhumed – Review

Have you ever felt like exploring the past, strapping your boots on, tightening your bandana, grabbing your machete, and treasure hunting? Then get in! We are going back to the land of 1996; This is Powerslave Exhumed.

The Night Boat To Cairo

Let me dust off this tome and spin you a yarn. The year is 1993 and a bunch of friends had left Nintendo of America to set up their own studio, Lobotomy Software. 

They went onto port titles such as Quake and Duke Nukem 3D to the Sega Saturn. Anyone who knows anything about the console knows what a feat that was.

Before they attempted those historically well-received ports, they had a stab at an original title. It was an Egyptian-themed first-person shooter with heavy exploration elements; Powerslave, or as it was known in Europe, Exhumed was born.

Scarabs and Slaves

The story puts you in the boots of a special forces member whose helicopter has been shot down over Egypt. A country that just happens to be under siege by an alien insectoid race called the Kilmaat. 

You soon discover that the Kilmaat have quite literally exhumed the mummy of King Ramses. They are trying to bring him back to life and exploit his power to rule the world. Ramses doesn’t fancy being anyone’s Powerslave and assists you. He’ll tell you where you can find various artifacts that can halt the invasion and send the insectoid freaks back to where they came from.

The story is about as standard as you can get for the genre. Maybe a little more involved as it’s broken up at regular intervals by a briefing of sorts from Ramses himself.

You can’t skip any of the cutscenes which will get annoying on later playthroughs, but I would suggest listening to it – at least on your first time around. The cutscenes tell you exactly where to go to progress the story.

Walk Like An Egyptian 

As touched upon earlier, Powerslave Exhumed is a 90s first-person shooter. These are known nowadays as a “boomer shooter” but funnily enough back then were considered as “Doom clones”. 

Where Powerslave on consoles broke tradition was that unlike its PC counterpart which was a linear adventure, the Sega Saturn and PSX versions were “Metroid” inspired in their gameplay flow.

Early on in the game, you’ll come to the area called Karnak. This is where you’ll find a few areas you’re unable to access. Later on, you’ll get a pair of Sandals that allow you to jump higher thus finding a new exit from Karnak.

The game is cleverly navigated with a map screen which has been redrawn from the original release. It not only indicates how many exits there are but even beeps if there is a hidden item to find in that area.

The levels are about as one would expect from a mid-90s shooter. A lot of corridors, plenty of enemies, tons of environmental traps, and everyone’s favorite mechanic; hunting down keys to get through doors and flipping switches to progress.

While the Metroid aspect was really ahead of its time in 1996, everything else was about average for the genre.

Powerslave Exhumed - Weapon Power

Send Them Down The Nile

The weapon choice in the game ranges from a revolver to a machine gun and ends up with weapons like a Cobra Staff and other mystical Egyptian goodies. Sadly no Shotgun which struck me as weird.

Rather than specific ammo for the weapons, each weapon pulls from a “Weapon Power” pool. While it shouldn’t be an issue, with there being only 1 collectible for all ammo, you have to do a lot of switching to make sure you have the right weapon equipped to top it up.

Fatigue can start to set in due to slightly iffy pacing. The enemy variation isn’t quite as robust as it could be. In the early game, you’ll start to tire of fighting scorpions and eagles. The new weapons come in very slowly when compared to their peers and the consistent Egyptian setting can also add to the pacing issue as the areas can start to bleed into one another; that said, there are a few stand-out areas.

I know some of you must be thinking that the name doesn’t quite make sense. Well, the developers have apparently fused the Sega Saturn version with the PSX version to create the ultimate way to play this title. While I can’t confirm any additions or changes due to being about as old as Ramses himself, it’s fantastic that the developer has gone the extra mile once again with their port.

Powerslave Exhumed - Fire

King of Twilight

Powerslave Exhumed has seen all the benefits of the Kek Engine designed by the Wizards at Nightdive Studio. While already an impressive title visually in 1996 the new engine adds all the bells and whistles to make the title really shine like a gold coin in the Nile.

The lighting is brilliant and the game has been tweaked to look fantastic in higher resolutions. There is an interesting contrast with the pixel art guns and enemies versus the 3D environments but it works well.

Thematically the game nails it. The art direction married with the level design really does wonders to convince you that you are in fact exploring long-forgotten Egyptian ruins. 

Music and sound effects work well for the game, though it could have been done with a little more ambient noise and a little less repeating music. The sound effects of enemies are brilliantly done. More often than not, you know exactly what you’re coming up against aside from the pesky silent scorpions.

Powerslave Exhumed - Green

Verdict

Powerslave Exhumed is the best way to tackle a cult classic game without changing anything in an egregious way. I can’t imagine anyone complaining about the fusion of both console versions or the fact it’s much easier to get running now than the downgraded PC port.

The campaign is around 6 to 8 hours long depending on if you go secret hunting and the game has 2 endings to tackle. Beyond that, there are multiple difficulties for those who want a challenge; This means you’ll easily get the best bang for your buck with this one.

Giving this title a second lease on life is a masterstroke. What may have released to average reception and eventual cult appreciation later on is now one of the most fun and unique experiences from the 90s, cleaned up and put on display in a public museum for the masses to enjoy and take in.

POWERSLAVE EXHUMED IS RECOMMENDED

Platforms: Steam (PC), PlayStation, XBox, Nintendo Switch

If you would like to see more FPS games, you may be interested in our review of Dusk.

Many thanks go to Nightdive Studios for a PC review code for this title.

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