Review: God's Trigger (Computer)
- Release Date (NA): April 18, 2019
- Publisher: Techland Publishing
- Developer: One More Level
- Genres: Top-down shooter
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
- Also For: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Despite its success and cult classic status, Hotline Miami has spawned surprisingly few imitators and spiritual successors. Cue God's Trigger, a game that attempts to build upon the sub-genre even further, but also perhaps a game that tries to do too much.
After launching the game into a Sin City-style menu with some catchy guitar riffs, campaign mode opens upon some brief cut-scenes introducing us to the game's story and protagonists, Harry and Judy. The broad strokes are that they're hunting the horsemen of the apocalypse in order to prevent said apocalypse, with Pestilence being the first of the four that they need to track down. A succinct enough setup for the differing locales you'll be visiting to take down each of these baddies, but I want to be clear here: the writing in this game is fairly poor overall. In addition, the entire Earth-heaven-hell triangle premise has been done before, several different times and in several different ways. If you're looking for an engaging story-driven narrative, this is not the game for you.
Once in game, you're introduced to all the methods which you'll use to dispatch scores of enemies at a time. Much like Hotline Miami, you've got a fast melee attack and ranged weapons as pickups that have finite ammo, but God's Trigger adds a few combat mechanics of its own; stealth kills, a target priority selection system, a unique movement ability for each character, and a special ability for each character. These additions are kind of a mixed bag. For instance, the auto-target selection system did not prove useful at any time during my entire play-through and may just as well have been omitted. Adding the ability to kill stealthily without alerting any nearby enemies is nice, but later on the game includes a level that forces stealth on the player throughout, which can be frustrating in a game not specifically designed around sneaking. The special abilities are cool and you'll unlock more of them as you play, but you can only have one assigned to each character at a time, and none of them feel like a big improvement over the others.
Painting the town red
Given death is only a single blow away at any time, dancing around corners and doorways quickly becomes habit. Harry's basic attack uses a melee-range sword with a small cone-shaped hitbox, whereas Judy wields a chain-whip with medium range that travels in a straight line. Switching between the two during combat on-the-fly isn't a bad strategy and will balance out your experience gains for the two characters, but it's also very rarely necessitated. I found Judy to be a far more useful and deadly character in the majority of situations, so I would feel kinda bad forcing a second player into using Harry for the game's co-op mode. Enemies come in only a few varieties: standard, fat, and shield-bearers. Fat enemies take two hits to kill instead of one, again proving Judy the better character as her whip hits once on the way out and once coming back in. Shielded enemies simply have to be flanked or hit enough times to cause their shield to be dropped before they can be killed.
Several times the game will open or close a level on a bullet-time sequence with enemies surrounding you. Bullet-time can also be activated by kill combos and executions on enemies that have been knocked down, but the latter tends to leave you too exposed. Though limited mostly to boss fights, the game presents a few opportunities for satisfying environmental kills throughout. There are also special weapons scattered across each level, but much to my chagrin, the developer decided against randomizing them. As a result, all the special weapons chests on a given level are going to contain the same weapon. Sometimes it's incredibly overpowered, and sometimes it's garbage compared to anything standard enemies drop.
In quite the arcade-y fashion, after completing each level you're assigned a letter grade based on completion time, deaths, and your max kill combo. You can get an extra little bump by finding the collectable "magazine," a satirical take on Playboy, on each level. After the scoring breakdown, you're taken to an RPGish screen where you can select improvements to your basic attack, movement ability, and special abilities for each character. Again I have to question if it was necessary to include much of this, given how shallow your options seem to be until you're nearing the end of the game. My preference would've been simply granting the player incremental, automatic upgrades to all three stats (two for special abilities) as they level up. Perks and final upgrades are a little more useful and have more meaningful impact, but I feel as though selecting between those could've been streamlined and didn't require its own individual screen between levels.
Devil is in the details
God's Trigger does include a few puzzles along the way, though they tend to be on the easy side and do a better job of testing your reaction time more than anything else. For example: at the end of one of the levels, a fire breaks out and forces you to flee the building as fast as you possibly can. Blocking the way are metal gates and cracked walls. Judy can pass through the gates with her movement ability, and Harry can break down the cracked walls with his. You'll run into similar urgent situations multiple times. Overall level design is good, but not great.
I very much dig the visual aesthetic that was chosen for God's Trigger. It evokes a top-down Borderlands feel without going too heavy on the cel-shading aspect. Each chapter has an entirely different look and feel to it, and there's no overuse of bright or dull colors, making things extremely readable visually, even in the midst of chaos. The soundtrack is another of the game's biggest strengths. It's catchy and upbeat, based in some electronica sub-genre, and there were points at which I had the tunes stuck in my head well after my play session was finished. The ragdoll physics are on point, another treat which makes slaughtering your foes all the more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, not everything about the way the game presents itself is equally as inspired. The voice acting is both robotic and terrible from beginning to end, so even if there was a story worth digesting here, it would be difficult to muddle your way through. Some of the player character animations are stiff and awkward, and the camera placement can exacerbate the issue at times.
A Unity game that manages to differentiate itself from the crowd, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy my time with God's Trigger. There's nothing majorly wrong with the game, but all the little things do pile up and become harder to ignore over time. It's not much of a challenge. It's also relatively short: I'd estimate time to complete the campaign is about seven hours. On the other hand, it's also fairly inexpensive, and if you're looking for a testosterone-fueled murderfest to relieve some stress, you could do worse than God's Trigger. Just remember to have your cringe face ready for all the dialog in this game rivaling Duke Nukem Forever's worst efforts.
+ Visually pleasing, easy-to-read aesthetic
+ Catchy soundtrack
+ Brutal combat and ragdoll physics effects
+ Enjoyable boss fights, each unique
- Shallow RPG elements have little reason to be included
- Story and voice acting are awful
- Forced stealth level
- Development time wasted on some unutilized/underutilized mechanics
Certainly a mixed bag in the presentation department, God's Trigger is pleasant to look at, and the soundtrack is thoroughly enjoyable. The cut-scenes are in a crude comic book style that seems middling in quality. The absolutely god-awful voice acting and the story-writing are what hurt this score the most, however.
Hotline Miami-style combat is something I can't get enough of, and I'm glad there is another game available which takes up that mantle. However, certain combat mechanics feel useless and/or forced. Use of the auto-targeting system will only hinder you, and the game includes a forced stealth level.
Included are a campaign and an arcade mode, as well as co-op support. Unfortunately the arcade mode seems to be little more than practice for the campaign, and the game states as much. The campaign also isn't any different when playing co-op, making a second play through far less tempting.
out of 10
(not an average)
A fun game held back by some questionable design decisions, I can recommend God's Trigger, but only to a certain niche audience desperate for more Hotline Miami clones to play. A few cuts to unnecessary mechanics here, a little streamlining to avoid annoying the player there, and this game easily could've been in 8.5/10 territory. As a game of middling quality overall, it's likely to be buried in the deluge of Steam indie games instead.