Cyberpunk is one of the most interesting subgenres of science fiction. It’s a demonstrably solid framework for writing flawed and morally gray characters, beaten down by a world brought to the edge of collapse by the whims of puppeteering corporations and capitalism run amok. Often, it explores the question mark of human consciousness, individuality, and the idea of existence itself via the backdrop of technological augmentation. Even when a piece of cyberpunk media fails to nail these staples—hey, at least it probably sports a pretty neat aesthetic to carry you through the experience.
Foreclosed is a cyberpunk third-person shooter developed by Antab Studio and published by Merge Games on August 12th, 2021 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch, with the PC version being played for this review.
It doesn’t accomplish much of anything I just listed.
Foreclosed places you in the shoes of Evan Kapnos, an employee of Securtech that suddenly becomes the victim of an identity foreclosure after the bankruptcy of the aforementioned corporation. Locked out of the city’s infrastructural blockchain and stuck with malfunctioning brain implants, Evan is forced to decipher the apparent conspiracy surrounding this series of events before his identity goes up for auction.
I say “apparent” conspiracy, because that’s really all it is. Evan is whisked from one location to the next on the grounds of finding someone that’s closely involved with the corporate conspiracy he’s explicitly told that he’s caught in the middle of. But what’s the nature of this conspiracy? Who’s behind it? What, exactly, is their ultimate goal?
Foreclosed struggles to provide these answers in a clear and concise manner. Much of the game’s narrative is delivered between each level via conversations between Evan and other characters through excessively vague and stilted dialogue that consistently raises more questions than it ever answers.
Unique characterization and character development as a whole is almost entirely absent in Foreclosed. If you can think of any generic cyberpunk character archetype, I can guarantee that they’re here, they’re one-dimensional, and they’re present for a few minutes before never being seen again, leaving you to question why they were even there in the first place.
Of course no one should be expecting Foreclosed to reinvent what it means to tell a competent cyberpunk story, but the string of story beats we have here is so messy and unclearly executed that it almost feels like the plot points and characters were generated by an AI that spent a few months grinding its teeth on cyberpunk clichés.
Red Light, Green Light
For all intents and purposes, Foreclosed is a third-person cover shooter with regenerating health. A vast majority of your playtime will be spent crouched behind a wall or similar chest-high object, waiting for an opportunity to pop up and start blasting enemies that are constantly shooting back, whether they can see you or not.
And that last part is a particularly big snag, because it speaks to the greater problems with the encounter design. When enemies spawn in, they seem to have two options: stand completely still while shooting at you, or walk slowly forwards or sideways while shooting at you. The AI predominantly chooses the first option; if there’s a wall between you and any enemy, rather than trying to flank you or rush forward to throw you off, they’ll simply stand still and infinitely fire at the same part of the wall until they need to reload, giving you ample time to get a headshot off. In the rare case that an enemy does rush you, all it takes is falling back to a further piece of cover.
Shooting lacks weight and heft. Whether you’re firing off a single round or a volley, you’re simply waiting for your target to drop, and because enemies are constantly firing from their preset angles, you only have a few seconds to make shots that count before you’re forced to duck behind cover again. It takes between five and ten seconds to fully recover, and Foreclosed gives the player incredibly limited options for taking down multiple targets at a time, categorizing each and every encounter into a game of stop and start. Take down an enemy, wait, and repeat.
Each shootout rewards the player with experience that builds up to an expendable point you can use to acquire an active ability or add a new passive to your pistol. This is the largest attempt the game makes to alleviate its repetition, and to its credit, some of these unlockable abilities do feel powerful when you gain access to them. The first upgrade I opted to go for, as an example, was one that allowed me to essentially detonate an enemy, instantly killing them (and any poor sap unlucky enough to be nearby).
As you progress through the game, some enemies will start to don body armor, helmets, and shields that make it more difficult to kill them quickly with a headshot. It gives more relevancy to your other skills, but when your reward for taking care of them correctly is reducing the game back to its simplistic loop of popping in and out of cover, it ends up feeling more like a chore than an interesting layer of gameplay.
While movement is responsive for the most part, the camera is far too close to Evan for large swaths of the game, and this issue becomes apparent as soon as you gain control of him for the first time. It’s fine for the areas that are more open, but Foreclosed also loves putting you in cramped corridors, and these can be downright claustrophobic at times. An option to even slightly pull the camera back or adjust the FOV would have gone a long way toward ameliorating this problem, but alas.
Speaking of the locations, they’re gamey and don’t feel remotely lived in. There’s a distinct lack of variety to the environments, with most of them being brown or green interiors with reused textures throughout. Some rooms do offer interesting layouts, but they’re so sparsely decorated and offer zero exploration off the beaten path aside from seconds-long detours that reward you with a handful of experience. It’s difficult to go through Foreclosed and not feel like you’re being funneled to the next shooting section rather than exploring an actual world.
Breaking up the combat are sections of forced stealth around patrolling enemies and scavenger hunts for terminals to unlock the next room you need to get to. The only difficulty the former adds is in trial and error, and the latter feels like a series of time wasters when the environments are as uninteresting as they are.
Panels on the Page
Foreclosed sets out to tell its story through scenes and areas arranged like a page of a comic book in motion, and largely succeeds on this front. The presentation is at its best when there are multiple fixed perspectives on-screen at a time, allowing you to guide Evan between the various panels of the page.
It’s neat enough visually and lands as a proof of concept, but much like the other elements of the game, it gets old pretty quickly. Once you see the emulation of comic book panels in the first thirty minutes, none of the ones that follow will impress you.
Completing the sloppier aspects of the story is voice acting that’s pretty rough around the edges and doesn’t always line up with the text displayed. Every cutscene has dialogue that, as previously discussed, is a bit awkward and hard to follow. This leaves the actors with little wiggle room for realistic delivery from the jump, but even with this concession in mind there are some strange choices of emphasis. Evan’s voiceover in particular is hammy to the point where it reaches the threshold of parody.
The soundtrack is typical electronic and techno fare that’s pulsing and catchy. It’s more sparsely implemented than I would have preferred, but it was always welcome when it started up, especially in areas that made sense for it to be there, like a nightclub.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Foreclosed is a complete waste of effort to play. It’s clear the developers were trying to make something cool here, but whether you’re looking for a third person shooter, a cyberpunk game, or a story-heavy game, your time would almost assuredly be better spent elsewhere.
Every system presented to the player works on a functional level, but their implementation simply isn’t up to par with what’s required to make an engaging video game—even one that’s only about four hours long—and this culminates in an experience that ends up being more half-baked than hard-boiled.
Review copy provided by Merge Games for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.