By Andrew Street
Gamers will likely remember the classic virtual reality missions featured in the first edition of “Metal Gear Solid.” The fun, and at times difficult, challenges provided additional content to the base game and enhanced gameplay. If you were a fan of the virtual reality missions then, you will happy to know that “Volume,” the latest release from game designer Mike Bithell, is bringing them back. The new video game takes this virtual reality mission concept and couples it with a unique narrative that lends itself to an even greater gaming experience.
At its core, “Volume” is a modern day telling of Robin Hood. Set in a dystopian future, the game focuses on a large weapons company that has overrun the city and the brave Robert Locksley, who challenges them. Instead of outright stealing from these rich and corrupt oppressors, Locksley uses a military training device known as a Volume to instruct others on how to take back what has been stolen from them.
Players are given complete control over Locksley’s character in a top-down, third-person perspective. They must traverse multiple different stages of the gameplay, all the while attempting to remain hidden from enemies. The levels start off simple and rise in difficulty as you progress further into the game. Players eventually have to navigate through the stealth-based game despite security cameras, automated turrets and the more complex patrolling patterns of their enemies.
The game’s main campaign mode consists of over 100 missions. There were minor instances where some levels felt too easy, but the stages typically offered a thrilling challenge. My main gripe with the game was that some of the levels began to feel a tad repetitive. Certain levels felt far too similar to the ones before it. This would lead me to put the game down for a bit when playing. Nevertheless, I often found myself eager to jump back into the game after taking a break.
In addition to the main campaign, “Volume” also comes equipped with a full level-builder. These easy-to-use creation tools allow you to create and share your own custom-made stages that can be as difficult or obtuse as you so desire. Not only was I able to try out the levels handcrafted by my friends, but I was also able to experience some levels that Bithell himself created post-release. These types of level creators are always a great addition to the game, as they keep players coming back for more time and time again.
Without spoiling much, certain elements of Locksley’s plan to take down the weapons company seem to only work in order to move the plot forward. Despite this, the game has a rather strong and thoroughly entertaining narrative. The script is wonderfully written and excellently delivered by the cast. In particular, Danny Wallace, who plays the artificial intelligence character of Alan, does a remarkable job.
From a graphical standpoint, “Volume” is one the prettiest indie titles this year. The stylized and simplistic nature of the design is something to be admired. The game truly captures a dystopian sci-fi feel and as a result, pulls players completely into Locksley’s world.
“Volume,” which is Mike Bithell’s second independent gaming release, really demonstrates his talent as a creator. Whether or not you were a fan of his previous hit, this one is definitely worth checking out. It is a perfect pick-up and play game that has a surprisingly decent story entwined within. Couple the enjoyable stealth gameplay with a beautiful design and the ability to create your own levels, and you have yourself one of the most enjoyable indie games this year.