GamingReview: Nether

Review: Nether

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The recent social infatuation with anything zombie related quickly spread to the far reaches of the gaming genre. Whether it be solid, story driven experiences, first person shooters or even thumbstick shooters, modern games have given you a way to expel the virtual horde from the comfort of your own sofa. Nether Productions and Phosphor have got you covered too with the release of Nether, a first person survival MMO that will feel familiar to those who’ve sampled the likes of Day-Z and others of its ilk.

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After creating a character to skulk about the vast, desolate wasteland, your journey begins. Whilst you may be tempted to sprint to the nearest accessible building you can find, the game makes it immediately clear that this is an unwise choice. The Nether you’ll encounter during your (probably) brief initial lifespan are attracted to loud noises at the detriment to their sight, meaning keeping a low profile is extremely beneficial during your early, kitchen knife wielding, forays. You’ll come across many lootable items during your time; some of them more immediately useful than others. Scavenging a gun early on should serve you well enough, providing you don’t go overboard and waste your ammunition on what was once, a seemingly lone enemy.

Acquiring various, miscellaneous items along your travels should, mostly increase your probability of surviving for a little longer. It’s your awareness however, that will be crucial in keeping your goodies close to your chest. Verticality plays a large role in the exploration of the game, with tall buildings being scalable for the many benefits that they possess, lines of sight and fortification to name a couple. Fastidiously checking every corner space for that familiar glint of loot can be a slow process, yet the alternative can lead to potential trouble. Flashing lights and smoke stacks usually indicate good potential looting spots, yet with them come the increased likelihood of a group of Nether, or worse, another human player.

Whilst the game does cater for alliances and tribes, I often found many players were of the shoot first, gather your accrued loot later approach. It’s very much a lone wolf affair at the moment; that can be incredibly frustrating for newcomers, especially so, when the chances of having anything vaguely valuable on your person are so low. There are safe zones which must be captured and maintained where ‘friendly fire’ is not permitted, yet on the few occasions where I didn’t get slaughtered on the way in, getting unceremoniously gunned down in the back upon leaving, wasn’t a rare occurrence either.

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Needless to say, it’s best to play with a group of friends on a game such as this, when even the most basic of confrontations can end in disaster, strength in numbers can most definitely be applied to Nether. Not only will you be able to scavenge loot more comfortably, but should you fall to your demise, at least a friendly face can pick up your loot for you, providing they give you it back at least…

Besides devolving into a (hopefully) unlikely state of affairs where during an age of apocalypse, it’s every man for himself, there are some arbitrary quests dotted about the place. These are usually in the form of carrying an object from one place to another; said object inevitably being so unwieldy that it therefore renders you combat ineffective during the transport. Another, largely group focused, event being the spawn of a rather large Nether called a Reaper somewhere on the map, don’t rush in unprepared for this one as much like the escort missions, it’s best to take a friend or two along.

If getting around the intimidatingly large map on foot sounds a little too pedestrian, you can always vainly hope that one of the special vehicles spawns for you. With a rumoured select few locations and a low rate of it actually appearing, the dirt bike will become a rare sight; that’s not to mention the spike in attention you’re likely to receive either. If buzzing about on a stiffly animated steed isn’t quite your cup of tea, there is also the purchasable hang glider, available from all good wasteland merchants, that’ll help let you get the drop on an unsuspecting foe; whether it’s attempting a stylised kill or simply a quick way downstairs off a roof, you’re covered.

The amount of weapons to play with seems fairly comprehensive in its current state, there are the usual shotguns, pistols and rifles to keep dear; as well as a few buildable items to tinker with. Guns generally feel weighty and tend to have a lot of impact as you might expect, yet it’s the melee weapons where things start to take a little downfall. Instead of timing considerations and proper utilisation of the stamina bar, it seems more prudent and effective to simply flail wildly at the enemy and hope they drop first.

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Despite the game still being largely unfinished in areas, there are some factors which are unlikely to change that do disappoint. The spawning of the Nether(s) look and feel archaic; due to giving them the excuse of teleportation as a way to always keep you on your toes, it feels unimaginative and frustrating. When there is eventually no other choice but to fight, the Nether seemingly insist upon dull guerrilla tactics to win; due to the wonky hit detection of the melee weapons, it can feel futile at times.

In terms of looks, Nether can have its ups and downs. The map looks atmospheric enough and the weapon models are well suited to the overall style, the disappointing Nether creatures themselves look a little generic and devoid of detail however. The ambient sound works well with the dusky atmosphere and the chilling cries of the Nether are panic inducing at the best of times, never mind when in conjunction with other players’ gunfire, helping to create a great sense of immersion at times.

Whilst the base mechanics for this type of game are all there, it’s down to the community to forge what type of game Nether becomes. Whereas some people like to take the lone ranger approach and kill other players for whatever reason, this can and will prove a problem for the more casual player. For a person new to the genre, they’ll be in for a sharp shock upon their loss of the vast majority of, ironically, what little progression they’ve made.

PvP killings, camping and a lack of any narrative will turn away the masses, even in spite of how much potential Nether has. Consistent updates and a more unified community could well change it around however; here’s hoping it can carve the niche it deserves.

SUMMARY

+ Solid mechanics
+ Large map
- No incentive to team up with others
- Lingering feeling of futility
- Newcomers won’t enjoy it

(Reviewed on PC)

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Review: Nether+ Solid mechanics <br /> + Large map <br /> - No incentive to team up with others <br /> - Lingering feeling of futility <br /> - Newcomers won’t enjoy it <br /> <br /> (Reviewed on PC)