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In the back of Earls Court, in the shadow of a popular pizza chain’s restaurant, stood Mike Bithell – creator of Thomas Was Alone. It was here he was showing the world, for the first time, the game that he’s envisioned in some form or another since his formative teenage years playing Metal Gear Solid. And it shows in his latest foray into the world of videogames.
Having teased it subtly in plain sight on Twitter, Mike revealed that he was rather glad to have things all out in the open, and to see the positive reactions that it was getting on the show floor. And it’s well deserved praise too as Volume, while still in an early stage, definitely holds plenty of promise.
The demo build for Eurogamer Expo contained a handful of levels; half were tutorials, half were more complete levels that tested your nerves and skills. It was hard to not think about Metal Gear Solid’s VR missions when sneaking around corridors, whistling, and sneaking past robotic guards in – what looks ike – a projected world.
Of course, I don’t know exactly why this is the case – Mike’s being incredibly cagey on solid story details – but as it’s all seemingly set in a warehouse I can only speculate. Personally, as you play as a diamond thief, I think this is a future where you steal through the Internet, physically realised in this room. But that’s just my take on it. All I know is that sneaking around these puzzle rooms is good fun – if not absurdly difficult at first.
The tutorial levels are still rough, but contain the same gleeful and cheeky instructive humour that made Thomas Was Alone amusing with the volume turned down low. But even after having been given some instruction, I still couldn’t get the damn Bugle distraction tool to work properly.
I quickly realised that this was because I’m an idiot who, instead of holding and releasing when desired, just clicked once. This meant that the distracting noise weapon just exploded instantly, alerting everyone in radius to where I was. When used properly, you can bounce this projectile off walls to lead enemies away.
It’s not ideal as the enemy AI isn’t the smartest, but it’s early days, and it’s nothing that a bit more time in development can’t solve. Currently they just patrol routes on loop and are rather easily tricked, allowing you to lose them by just standing on the opposite side of a pillar to them.
The Blackjack is another weapon that’s rolled out in the Eurogamer demo, but wasn’t really used enough for me to really form much of an opinion about. It seems to knock the robotic guards out so you can sneak past them, but perhaps its use later on could lead to far more interesting applications. Especially if you can switch between weapons as you play through a level.
Seeing as Volume launches on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita before it arrives on PC, it was interesting going at it with a keyboard and mouse. It felt fine, but a little clunky for a stealth game – however, Mike assured us that things feel very nice on the DualShock 4. Which is pretty good to hear, as the DS4 is also apparently PC compatible from release.
Also, it’s great to see a game that focuses so much around the idea of sound that Volume has a rather brilliant audio selection going on already. You’ve got the sounds of footsteps, the whistles, the bugle’s bleet, the music and the subtle noises emitted by patrolling guards.
It really doesn’t come as any surprise that, at this stage in development, there are some issues and some slightly less than desirable things – for instance it takes a bit too long to pop out of lockers once you’ve skulked into one – but it’s all easily solved. Having seen and fallen in love with Thomas Was Alone, Mike Bithell definitely had a lot to live up to; Volume definitely does that and, in the process, introduces the work of some other exceptionally talented individuals.