Unloved is a first-person horror shooter based on the Doom 2 mod of the same name, by Blue Eagle Productions, brain child of the company’s only employee, Paul Schneider. Paul is responsible for games such as Gungirl 2, and Super Panda Adventures, both on Steam, and calls Unloved his most ambitious project.
Unloved pulls inspiration from other FPS games such as its original base game, Doom 2, along with Killing Floor, Left 4 Dead, and even has some nostalgic sound effects eerily close to those from Rareware FPS like Golden Eye. The game pulls some of the most interesting parts from its inspiration, and builds on them, creating its own unique strengths, challenges, and sadly, its own unique pitfalls.
Unloved’s core gameplay is that of a fast paced shooter, with randomly generated levels. In the main game type, called Ultraviolence, you run through the labyrinth of rooms to an objective based on the map, fullfill the objective, and get back to your spawn. The objective isn’t very clear in the first play through of the map and, a lot of the time, makes no sense in a survival situation. In the basement map, you need to run through, fill several blood bags with your own health points, then make it back.
The other game modes are similar. You have Arcade Mode, which is just the original Ultraviolence mode but sped up. You have Classic Horror Mode, which mimics a horror game, slowing down the player character and spawning fewer, but stronger, enemies than usual. Finally there’s Hot Mode, a single player mode which buffs enemies immensely, but they only move when you do, like the classics.
The game’s small amount of story is described in collectibles, and a paragraph on the Steam page reading, “UNLOVED is a strange place. A twisted reality. A nightmare that comes to life. A place where demons and abhorrent monsters manifest and possess the living with only one goal: to end you. Nothing wants you here. And there is no way out. Only the elevator that leads further and further down into the darkness of your insanity.”
The game boasts a single-player and a co-op mode, when in actuality the single-player is simply co-op, but without partners. Unloved doesn’t properly scale enemies to the amount of players on the map (if it tries to at all) and this leads to single players being overrun, making the game practically unplayable to anyone alone, save for the hardcore shooter fans. The multiplayer experience is genuinely fun with friends, with a team of two probably being the most spooky experience. The first time you watch your friend bend over to pick up ammo just as an enemy is about to lob a fireball at them is actually frightening.
The randomly generated maps craft a strange, alien environment that makes navigation with the small mini-map incredibly confusing. This adds to a bit of the urgency when you return to the spawn, but it mostly just makes everything look the same. The four map types blend together though, as the generator tends to show them all in similar ways, with their textures not being that different in the first place. With the exception of the Town map, everything else is very much repetitive. Town is only different because it has slightly more open areas, which just makes the game even more dark and difficult to navigate through.
Speaking of repetition, the game boasts that you can, “Create your own unique Persona and Play-Style” while the only character customization is the color of your weirdly out of place business-casual suit and sunglasses.
All other customization is in the form of trinkets, which can be found throughout levels, and give you boosts to certain weapons and abilities. Some buff your pistol, while some gloves can increase pick-up time on items. It’s less of a unique playstyle, and more of a necessity to use whatever weapon you currently have mods for.
As a horror game, Unloved has its ups and downs. The ambiance is pretty great when you spawn. You look around the room, and the textures are incredibly dirty. There’s dust in the air and ambient noises that keep you on your toes. It’s a great horror game, until things start to spawn. The spawn mechanics start when you open doors, and enemies can spawn behind you, where you were sure it was safe, in the room you’re about to enter, and in adjacent rooms you haven’t opened the doors to you. The last one is the kicker.
You open the first door, take down an enemy, turn a corner, and your eardrums are blasted with the same moaning and wheezing over and over in an unholy chorus that threatens to end you, all because that room suddenly spawned 10 enemies and they’re all scrambling to get to you through the wall. The cacophony of wailing is only scary for a little bit, before it’s just plain annoying and loud, and you go into the menu to turn down the sound effects to save yourself a little bit of frustration.
In most horror games, the weakest enemies don’t make much noise at all, maybe some growling when they attack, but not much. Popular FPS horror games like Left 4 Dead give the ambient noises to their strongest, scariest enemies. This makes any wheezing or crying into an incredibly tense moment as your team scrambles to find out where the Witch is, so you don’t get blindsided. In Unloved, there is no tension from the enemy noises- you know that behind that door is 20 horrible things, and all you have to do is open it and spray bullets into the hallway.
Unloved has an interesting cast of enemies, all frightening in their own right. While most of the enemies follow the basic theme of gore, blood, misshapen bodies with claws, the stronger enemies look like they barely belong with the weaker ones at all. The one that stands out the most from the others seems to be a thin clockwork resembling a clown, with a rib cage that dangles entrails. It moves slowly and shoots balls of fire reasonably quick. We also have a pumpkin headed nurse who shows up in areas that aren’t hospital-like at all.
The AI is unpredictable, which sometimes leads to the player getting a glimpse of some Big Bad walking across the doorway to the room, but not entering. Occasionally enemies just walk away from you, which would be a bit scary, thinking that the enemy got away and was lurking around any corner, if the enemy spawns weren’t so unpredictable, popping up in front of you, or in a room you just cleared no matter if you caught the straggler or not. Sometimes the enemies even fight each other, after one gets in the way of another’s attack. The enemies also seem to have 3 speeds, no matter the difficulty; shambling corpse without it’s morning coffee, walking, and literally teleporting from across the room, creating the most horrific jump scare.
The use of the Unreal Engine 4 without much change to base functions makes this game even harder to play. Like every other Unreal 4 horror FPS, the player character glides, with very little weight to it. The head bob and base FOV is headache inducing and, at best, just keeps you from escaping groups of enemies. Plus, as you whirl your flashlight around, attempting to get the cone to light up the bad guy, it turns out the light starts on the opposite side of its body, rendering your flashlight useless and plunging you into darkness. The badly lit areas work for the genre, but are a lazy attempt at forcing scares and covering the abundant texture seams.
Unloved needs work. Fans of the original mod will enjoy the new engine and updates, but not many others will. It has all the trappings to make for a good horror FPS, but it tries too hard to be a mod of Doom 2, instead of its own coherent game, which it claims to be. It’s very niche, when some polish could turn it into a game worth the Steam price tag.