Review – ReFramed
One of my favorite horror games growing up and probably one of the first games to put fear in me was System Shock. I was only 4 at the time, but I remember watching my older brother playing it and I was absolutely terrified, but completely intrigued. There hasn’t been very many games, bar the first Bioshock, that has given me that same feeling of fear and confusion. ReFramed starts out this way, throwing you into a disaster with no explanation besides a few data and audio files in the opening area. Obviously something terrible happened here, but it isn’t long until you come face to face with an enemy and unfortunately that is when ReFramed starts to show its issues.
In ReFramed you play as a soldier who has survived an infection that laid siege to an interstellar research station. Your goal is to use your arsenal to eliminate the remaining infected crew members and contain the disease. ReFramed is set in the same universe and timeline of Solarix, in fact, it’s basically the same exact game but they turned it into a first person shooter instead of a stealth horror game.
ReFramed is actually a decently fun game. It has all the elements to be a good sci-fi horror shooter, unfortunately, it is completely undermined by its own mechanics. In Solarix it made sense that enemies did extra damage because it was a primarily stealth game with a couple shooter segments. In ReFramed the focus is on combat, there is no stealth. Enemies has 100% accuracy while you can’t shoot the broad side of a barn 4ft. in front of you with you machine gun.
Now, you do have access to a pistol and a sniper which are pretty accurate from a distance, but the damage is completely unbalanced. It should not take 18 shots (2 magazines) or 5 sniper shots to the head to take down a normal soldiers and mind you I’m only playing it on medium. With your shotgun and machine gun, unless you’re 2ft. from the enemy, you’ll miss. This means you’ll need to cheese the extremely dumb AI to get the drop on them, otherwise, they will tear you up since they cannot miss once you’re in their range.
Where ReFramed shines a bit more is in its horror moments when things are a bit slower and creepy. Going through these sections and uncovering data and audio files that give you more story is fun, but again the shooting mechanics shoot itself in the foot again. If it at least retained its stealth mechanics it would help the entire game out. Being able to sneak up to the sweet spot of the gun spread and getting the drop on enemies would have helped a lot more. There seems to be an inventory system similar to System Shock as well, but you never get enough items where you had to manage your inventory. I feel like they could have added that extra element along with the stealth to enhance the over all survival horror theme the game obviously has.
There is a decent amount of variety in the environments ranging from a forest area with a big shuttle crash to cramped corridors. Unfortunately even in the open areas the only thing you’re rewarded with is more data or audio logs. While there is a decent variety in environments, the weapons and enemy designs are very lackluster. It was humorous in a sad way when I zoomed in with the sniper and all it does in put a scope filter in front of the screen. You don’t even actually look through the scope because you can still see the tip of your gun at your hip in your scoped view.
The graphics look like a very outdated Unreal Engine game, apparently it is an intentional look if the game description is to be believed. Even with the outdated graphics engine there are still things that need to be improved. The guns could have easily had better or more unique designs and the enemies all look the same. The rain effects and the level of detail pop-ins need a lot of work.
The sound design is a mixed bag for me. The soundtrack is actually pretty good with some very eerie tunes and ambient noises. However, once you realize the few random growls are just a part of the soundtrack it loses a bit of its edge. The guns also lack any punch in the sound department as well as repeating sound effects when you pull out your pistol, machine gun and sniper.
ReFramed actually has a lot going for it, but in every instance it stumbles a lot. If Pulsetense Games could rework the shooting mechanics, overall balance and meld in the slower stealth elements from Solarix then they could have something special on their hands.
Dated Unreal Engine graphics, character and gun models are bland. Some environments and the lighting are decent.
Standard shooter mechanics that are very poorly implemented and some systems fall flat like the inventory system.
Soundtrack and the ominous sound bytes are well done, but the guns and other sound effects are poorly done.
Fun Factor: 4.0
A decent amount of intrigue with bits of story delivered through data files, but the poor mechanics, bland weapons and enemies drag it down.
Final Verdict: 4.0
ReFramed is available now on PC.
A copy of ReFramed was provided by the publisher.