Severed Steel: Game Review

Severed Steel: Game Review

Every month, the industry pleases the public with dozens of various news – sequels, prequels, remasters, rethinking of the classics, you only have time to read the editorials. And although many premieres look curious, a rare announcement can evoke a strong response in a soul spoiled by masterpieces: after so many years, everything looks familiar, hackneyed, as if the most interesting is already behind. Over time, there is a suspicion that only a miracle can get rid of gamer apathy – but in fact, sometimes just one impact trailer of an equally impact action movie is enough.

Nothing extra. No CG bacchanalia instead of real gameplay. Only one and a half minutes of brutal action, spectacular acrobatics and slow-mo. Who shoots whom, why, and why the heroine has a blaster instead of a hand – it doesn’t matter. What is happening looks terribly impressive. And this is the main point.

Temper the ardor

Some games are born contrary. Despite the available technologies, budget, common sense, it’s scary to think how many small teams brought an ambitious idea to release with sweat and blood in the hope that it would someday find its audience. However, hits are born not only from the blind pursuit of a dream.

Severed Steel: Game Review

A few years ago, Matt Larrabee dreamed of making history with an open-world action game. The founder of Greylock Studio wanted to captivate gamers with scale, spectacle, voxel scenery that can be broken, a whole bunch of amazing mechanics – but it’s hard to make revolutions when your company’s staff consists of one person. Reflecting on the failed debut, Larrabee asked himself the question that every aspiring artist faces sooner or later: “What can I draw in this case?” The answer was not long in coming – a chamber first-person shooter.

The starting point was the same destructible environment – at first it was supposed to be the main “chip” of the newly-minted FPS. However, this was not enough. As development progressed, the project acquired other important details: inspired by F.E.A.R. and Superhot time dilation effect, now popular cyberpunk setting, acrobatic manners worthy of Mirror’s Edge. And in the center of everything stood a harsh heroine – a one-armed mercenary who, in the best traditions of John Wick, instead of reloading, prefers to change weapons on the go.

Severed Steel: Game Review
Due to the music and the appearance of the central character, Severed Steel sometimes seems to be an unofficial offshoot of Ghost in the Shell.

This collection of borrowings and the complex background of its creation give rise to the idea that the project is doomed to imminent oblivion. Like, behind a beautiful wrapper hides an ordinary low-budget dummy, of which there are so many on the open spaces of Steam. But no. From the world by thread, the small Greylock studio managed to put together an extremely curious work – to say the least.

To the mercy of fate

Severed Steel is about… something. It is difficult to clearly outline the synopsis when the story in the action movie is given five minutes at the most. A girl named Steele wakes up in a mountain of garbage, finds herself crippled, and goes to war against her offenders – this is the beginning, and until the very last shot, the script will no longer throw food for thought. No notes and audio diaries explaining the essence of the conflict were also delivered: the warrior has no time for such trifles, she needs to punish impudent corporations.

Severed Steel: Game Review
The avenger is not able to reload – having shot all the bullets, she sends an empty barrel into the face of the nearest opponent and automatically picks up a replacement if she is lying nearby.

Fortunately, the loss of a limb had practically no effect on the combativeness of the main character – even without the second five, she is fast, cold-blooded and deadly if she has a gun or something worse in her right hand. However, her main weapon is not a machine gun taken from the floor or someone’s belt, but incredible, almost supernatural dexterity: running along the walls, making crazy somersaults and pirouettes, the mercenary is absolutely invulnerable – the warriors standing in her way, fortunately, about this almost magical conventions have not been heard.

This, perhaps, is all that can be said about the gameplay: Steele rushes through office buildings and penthouses, jumps, mows down various soldiers like grass and slowly approaches the main villain while bullets whistle past her head. The scenery alternates, new types of opponents appear on the way to the finale, and over time, a blaster in the spirit of Mega Man appears at the place of the stump at the mercenary, but the essence remains unchanged. Directly, do not say anything. And this, if anything, is only a plus, because the local shootouts are a miracle how good.

Severed Steel: Game Review
Each killed enemy restores the girl’s health (which is called luck here) – this is how designers motivate to climb into the thick of it and trick like Neo.

Despite the fact that Severed Steel is very concise conceptually (run-fly-shoot-kick), and the vast majority of levels are easy to overcome in just a minute, any action movie scene is infinitely replayable. Yes, each segment has entry and exit points, but what happens between them, in what order the corpses fall and where, is up to the gamer-director to decide. Break down the door, fly into the room like Max Payne and snap the bastards in flight before they even had time to turn around? Or blow up the wall and rush past the resulting hole, pouring everything and everyone in the room with lead? How about luring the bastards into the great hall and recreating the lobby scene from The Matrix? Do what you want – this is not so much a linear FPS as a sandbox, in which instead of shovels and buckets you have to have fun with the help of rifles and machine guns of various stripes.

Interestingly, however, another. Although the shooter does not have a clear system of ranks (an unfortunate omission), and points are taken into account only in the “Shootout” side mode, the authors skillfully motivate to experiment with the environment and opponents, to take risks, even if it makes no sense. This is partly due to the incredible abilities of the heroine, but in fact the reason for everything is the competent design of each level – countless windows, loopholes and balconies excite the imagination, inspire acrobatic feats. You can, of course, sit in a corner and wait for each villain to come for his portion of lead, but how tempting that inconspicuous ventilation hatch looks – that’s what the soldiers were surprised when a Valkyrie slipped out of it at full speed with a shotgun in his right hand!

Severed Steel: Game Review
After especially hot battles, the locations begin to resemble Swiss cheese – destruction sometimes dictates the course of battles very strongly.

Oddly enough, budgeting makes its contribution to the fascination of the lawlessness happening on the screen. Severed Steel is designed on the basis of Unreal Engine 4, it does not slow down, does not crash, but outside of special effects and style it looks rather poor, and the physical model does resemble the European trash of the late 2000s. Doors fall apart as if they were made of cardboard, corpses fly off funny after being hit, the heroine’s head gets stuck in window frames every now and then… But here’s the paradox: all these crazy, inexplicable flights of Steele, her ability to change the direction of the jump right in the air and instantly slow down head (yes, it happens) make the cyberpunk FPS only better. They add a flair of unpredictability to it and make it related to the Hong Kong action films of the 80s, the follies of which (together with contempt for the laws of physics) have long become legends. Even when a mercenary dies due to the fact that she accidentally flew into the abyss between two trains rushing through an endless tunnel, this is just fun. It would be something to get annoyed with – the levels are short.

There is plenty of all this goodness in the story campaign, but it feels more like a warm-up – delicious in its own way, but a little rustic. All the genius of the novelty is concentrated in the “Shootout”, where on already familiar maps they give not only to polish their skills in killing hostile warriors, but also to turn on a dozen modifiers one another brighter. “Big Heads”, “Low Gravity”, “Triple Threat”… Larrabee even provided outright perversions like the “The floor is lava” mutator, which serves as a great excuse to practice virtual parkour. Nothing compares to the adrenaline rush you get as you hop around the armory like a grasshopper, dodging between bullets, grenades and rockets in search of an unused barrel.

Severed Steel: Game Review
Tumbling over a shield soldier, stealing his spare pistol, and headshotting him headfirst in slow motion – even F.E.A.R. this was not a dream.

And against the background of the foregoing, the claim “There is nothing else besides shooting”, which arises at first, after an hour or two seems frankly sucked from the finger. Yes, theoretically, the Greylock Studio team could throw mini-games, collectibles, stealth segments, and other tinsel familiar by the standards of the industry into the campaign, but all these, no doubt, extra elements would inevitably begin to pull the blanket over themselves, distract from the main landmarks of a futuristic action movie. Variety just for variety’s sake does not lead to good – and Larrabee understood this very well.

Burning steel

Naturally, Severed Steel is far from ideal – a rare budget FPS from a little-known team does without annoying blunders. However, even here everything is not so simple with the new product: bugs are bugs, but there are surprisingly few really serious shortcomings.

Severed Steel: Game Review
In order to access the most interesting modifiers, you need to grind a little.

Among them, for example, the script – or rather, its almost complete absence. The heroine got up from the mountain of garbage, the heroine went, the heroine killed everyone and left – even the original Doom at least got over the wall of text describing the immensity in Hell and Doomguy’s head during his incredible adventure. Yes, there was no smell of high art either, but you can’t argue with any tell. And here even the plot outside the battered “They wanted to kill her, now she is going to take revenge” seems to be shrouded in the fog of war. Who is she, this Steele? What corporation had she thrown into the mail of fate? Who helps her and what is the mysterious Wall that the heroine breaks through in the finale?

On the other hand, the unexpected dash-dottedness also has a peculiar plus: the appearance of other underlined “B-shny” militants, here the story never gets across the main thing – action and acrobatics. There are beginnings, there are conditional villains, you don’t need more for immersion: with the alleged threads, you can weave in your head. In this regard, Severed Steel easily outperforms, shall we say, Superhot with its strange claims to designer accessories – really, let’s just focus on the fights.

Severed Steel: Game Review
Out of context, many frames seem completely unreadable. Where is the floor, where is the ceiling? What is going on and why does the staircase look so comical? In motion, fortunately, there are no problems: no one even bothers to remove / correct many visual effects if they are distracting.

But what the shooter really lacks is additional modes. “Single” is completed in two hours, the entire contents of “Gunfight” opens in three – and nothing else the creation of Greylock is able to offer. Which, to be honest, is a bit surprising: just one regime with endless hordes of villains would be enough for the eyes. The problem will surely fade into the background over time (talented craftsmen will find use for a very sensible level editor), but so far the content is slightly disappointing. Everything is great, but I want more. More!

As for the gameplay, it is almost perfect – the mechanics complement each other perfectly, nothing more, the amenities are just right. Finding fault draws only to the arsenal: there are a lot of guns, but many of them feel like “repetitions”. Machine guns shoot plus or minus the same, two types of heavy pistols finish off almost any enemy from a pair, a maximum of three hits and differ only in design. This would be a nail gun from F.E.A.R.

Severed Steel: Game Review

In a word, a game with flaws is sparse. Severed Steel works well (the frame rate sags only during battles with hordes of enemies and monstrous destruction), looks good, offers a lot of settings for everything – if you find fault, then to mere trifles. Not bad, especially since this is not a long-term blockbuster, but “just” someone’s ticket to the big leagues.


There are a lot of games on Steam (and on any platform) with a unique or at least interesting concept. Their pages are full of beautiful screenshots, descriptions promise unprecedented gameplay, but in fact, alas, they turn out to be zilch, a curious but unsuccessful experiment. Many aspiring teams fall into the trap of their own ambition – fortunately, Greylock Studio managed to avoid it brilliantly.

Spectacular, addictive, easy-to-learn, and stylistically accurate, Severed Steel is absolutely mind-blowing: it’s the shooter that Max Payne, F.E.A.R. fans are talking about. and Vanquish have been dreaming of for years. Yes, technically it is far from perfect, and the plot with the script was written as if on a napkin at lunchtime, but Matt Larrabee managed the main thing – to capture the spirit of “Hard Boiled”, “John Wick”, “Raid” and carefully reproduce it in the cyberpunk FPS format . Dozens of much more experienced designers have tried to achieve this – but by no means everyone has succeeded so brilliantly.

Pros: great gameplay; good visual style; excellent and complementary mechanics; a variety of game situations and scenery; well-balanced difficulty levels; sensible soundtrack; accessible management; an abundance of settings; built-in level editor with great potential; translating to Russian language.

Cons: missing plot; slight lack of content; budgeting; small technical roughness.