There has been an onslaught of Boomer Shooters over the last few years, with the likes of DUSK, ION Fury, and Dread Templar. All of these have been inspired by shooters of the 90s, but it’s about time for us to get some games inspired by the greats of the 2000s. Well, Trepang2 is finally here on consoles, inspired by the legendary F.E.A.R. and aims to blast a hole in your heart with its intense, high-octane action and spectacle. Upon its release on PC, Trepang2 swept in praise and tugged at the heartstrings of ageing gamers like me, who can’t believe F.E.A.R came out nearly 20 years ago ….
Here's Trepang2.What is Trepang2?
Trepang2 is the latest in the ultra-violent, and ultra-intense retro shooter resurgence, but this time the resurgence is from that of the 7th generation of shooters, namely F.E.A.R. Players take on the role of a nameless super solider only regarded as Subject 106, who has some incredible abilities allowing him to be the ultimate killing machine.
These skills come in handy as 106 is on a violent globetrotting adventure, filled with blood, and carnage as he hunts down a shadowy organisation who are conducting immense scientific experiments, involving mutant abominations and the supernatural. Blood will be spilled as players arm themselves with all manner of weapons, and blast their way through military goons, monsters and much worse! OK …. What did I just witness? Some minor spoilers ahead
We see Subject 106 as a prisoner within a top-secret underground complex, watching intense subliminal films featuring imagery that would be much for your worst nightmares. However, he can escape thanks to a masked helper and soon enough he’s blasting his way through squads of armed troopers, never hesitating to pull the trigger, and never asking questions. As he escapes the prison in style, 106 is recruited by an unknown group of specialised soldiers who aim to rid the world of the vilest evil, The Organisation (highly original name).
From here, it’s a massive world sprawling adventure that sees 106 venture forth into a multitude of different locations, all brimming with armed terrorists and …. Supernatural creatures.
So before I continue, Trepang2 offers some stellar gameplay, no questions asked, but is great gameplay truly enough to keep you invested, or do you need a captivating narrative as well? The short answer is yes, and the long answer is …. Yes with a but.
Trepang2’s story is a bit all over the place, with some pretty balls-to-the-wall mad stuff taking place, usually with little rhyme, reason or satisfying payoffs. The core of the plot involves Subject 106 taking on a strange cult, bio-engineered monsters, and all manner of super shady conspiracy stuff, that verges on the edge of the cosmic unknown. I found it a little too silly at times, and I do love silly stuff, but something that feels a bit more focused and together.
F.E.A.R interestingly enough had many rewrites and issues with the story, as said by Craig Hubbard (check out our interview), but I still felt everything was woven together very well, had a compelling and pretty dark bit of lore attached to the plot and antagonist, and of course, said antagonist was amazing!
Trepang2 feels like a first draft for a story, with the developers thinking “Where do we take this idea from such a great opening?” and the answer is “Add monsters and everything else and see what sticks”. There are even random Easter Eggs, which take up entire levels leaving my brain upside down at times.
Even though there are completely crazy ideas, such as the “Backrooms” level, I do appreciate the developers just going for it, and making it all fun at the end of the day. While not all of them work they do fit the hyperviolent attitude of the gameplay, and in the end, the story feels more like you’re taking part in a shooting gallery while on acid.
My main issue really at the end of the day was with the lack of interesting, or just a compelling delivery. Again I bring up F.E.A.R, and while it did have issues with its story, there were plenty of great cutscenes and character moments, and the opening is one of the best of all time (I can see the devs wanted to replicate that for Trepang2).
With all the documentation you find (80% of it useless and adding nothing to the lore) there’s very little world-building, or meaningful backstory developed throughout the game. I get a story can be second place to great gameplay, but having something weird for the sake of it, unfocused and just plain taking ideas which don’t fit narratively just feels lazy and uninspired.
I played Trepang2, read most of the documentation, and still only have half a clue about the plot, I didn’t find it all that interesting, and in general it was just too unfocused and lacked any one memorable character, development, or a bit of lore. I do wish there was something a little more fleshed out, or at least some great character moments, or a cool twist or two to bump up the intensity of the story. But the silly moments do stand out for the better overall, flipping the story on its head for the sake of entertaining gameplay, and I’ll allow this. The variation of locations, setups for missions, and the monsters you face are a heap of fun, but knowing more about them in a meaningful way would have made them that little bit better in my humble opinion. The type of shooting to make John Wick blush
Okay, straight up … the shooting is freaking incredible!
Trepang2 might not deliver on the story front, but it goes all in for the action and presentation. It’s been a long while since I played an FPS that made me feel like a total badass in every aspect of impact. I love DOOM Eternal and the combat is great, but the sense of carnage, and the presentation of said carnage is totally on another level.
Again, the F.E.A.R. influence is clearly on display, with the developers nailing the intensity and brutality and simply amplifying it by 100. The general gist of the gameplay loop is to run through each level, blasting your way through heaps of enemies, picking up all manner of weapons you can get your hands on and seeing the immense particle effect carnage unfold. it’s all that John Woo-style gunplay and action, with Slow-Mo powers, smarter than your average gaming AI and the odd inclusion of DOOM-inspired demons.
And the shooting is just incredible, with fantastic controls, a level of intensity that will challenge even the most hardcore FPS vets, and a variety of weapons and powers (including an epic sliding tackle which is very handy!) that’ll keep the action fresh and engaging throughout the campaign. The shooting feels punchy with plenty of weight, featuring great sound design, and pushback you would expect from firing a massive Spaz12 shotgun. The reactionary nature of the gunplay does pack the ultimate punch on enemies and the environment, as the explosive gore and immense sense of destruction in the world before you is something unseen in modern gaming. Combine this with the fast-paced movement, the awesome Slow-Mo mechanic, light parkour elements, and an intense enemy presence to create an intense, ruthless and demanding shooter.
Honestly, it’s some of the best shooting next to DOOM Eternal, being highly fluent, highly rewarding, and includes some great set-pieces, and arenas to make a thoroughly engrossing experience from start to finish.
The action is insane at times and looks ridiculously good, as a plentiful amount of particle effects will burst onto the screen, from shattered glass, broken wood and mashed-up concrete. You feel the destruction you’re causing with every shoot from your weapons, and a game like this makes it even better with Slow-Mo (which when used right is very visually pleasing).
Sadly, there is a small, but noticeable amount of the environment which is not reactive to gunfire, and this just outright annoys me. Various items such as computer screens and glass bottles on shelves don’t break, which is madness compared to the sheer destructive reckoning you can do on the other 90% of the environment.
Again, it’s a small thing, but they all do add up and looks odd why a game in 2023 can’t fully replicate what F.E.A.R. did in 2005. Still what environmental carnage there is, is indeed beautiful, and the game itself looks fantastic overall. The dynamic lighting, and variety of environments and the weirder enemies all look excellent, and it’s fantastic to see such amazing results from a small indie team.
The action is incredibly fast, where constant movement is a must, and at times, firefights are usually in tightly woven arenas, meaning you must keep moving, or prepare to die a lot. But also making the most of your abilities and trusty slide-kicks creates intelligent and strategic combat manoeuvres which you will have to keep adapting quickly to push through. Using your cloak to surprise a cluster of enemies with a well-placed grenade, or using a soldier as a human shield are things which will keep you alive and well in the action. And Trepang2 does demand quite a bit from you at most times but gives you plenty of tools to tackle the enemy head-on. And overall, it’s immensely fun and rewarding once the dust settles.
And I’m happy to see enemy AI which is pretty decent at reacting to you and more importantly outsmarting you. Again, F.E.A.R. is renowned for its AI, which is good, but there was plenty of smoke and mirrors to get it that way. And Trepang2 does emulate those tricks just as well. There are plenty of small touches in combat to make each encounter feel varied and fleshed out, with enemy chatter being quite fun to listen to, especially the death screams and cursing when you’re ripping and tearing. And seeing those grenades you toss contact some poor sap on the receiving end never ceases to amaze me. The booms, blasts and aftermaths of an epic gunfight always make me feel like I have spent my time well.
And I almost forgot, you can dual-wield! Why don’t more shooting games have dual-wielding? It’s mad, and such a great inclusion for any shooting game. Trepnag2 again just makes it feel so satisfying to do, especially with two shotguns. Also having the chance to dual-wield grenade launchers just makes me moist (I’m so sorry to tell you that…. But it’s true).
Simply put, the gunplay here in Trepnag2 is the god-tier level of great! Oh yeah, there’s a cheat mode too, which you can unlock by completing various tasks and side missions, adding an immense amount of replayability! What Trepang2 does better and worse than a 2005 classic
While I can’t help but gush over the gunplay, carnage, and brutality of the combat in Trepang2, there were a couple of small things which held it back overall.
Generally, the roaster of weapons is solid, if not a little typical, with some classic staples such as pistols, shotguns and grenade launchers all here and present. And yes, they’re all fun to use, and do the job extremely well, with having one of the best handling and explosive shotguns in recent gaming. I found it just a little too generic and a game with secret ops, underground labs, and literal monsters, I do wish there were more crazy-style weapons. F.E.A.R had the likes of the Penetrator and Particle Beam, which were just heaps of fun, especially in multiplayer.
But I never came across anything that made me go “holy s***”, even during the moments of the campaign which made me go “holy shit”! I also was not a fan of only being able to hold two weapons at a time. Except for Halo, most classic games didn’t do this, and I wished we were able to hold at least a third. But I can understand if this is done for balancing.
Lastly, While the AI is pretty good in Trepang2, it can sometimes be a little cheap. By which, I mean it can pull off some stupidly cheap tricks to ruin your day. There are balancing issues from time to time, either with too many enemies in small confines, or they’ll all just decide to throw grenades at you if you’re cornered, randomly appear from nowhere or better yet completely dodge your grenade with a split-second timing. It could be the AI is damn good … maybe a little too good. Or Nah, they just do pull some BS moves from time to time. Although this was one of the harder difficulties, it’s not entirely bad.
It’s a hell of a lot better than most AAA games, including the likes of Control, which is another high-octane, high-spectacle shooter where the AI is awful. So, plenty of props to the developers for making great AI, when AAA games don’t offer even half of what is here.
However, I do give massive props to Trepang2 for some neat additions compared to its inspiration, including the gun parts you can find in levels, allowing you to customise your weapons throughout the game. And more importantly, the variety of enemies, ranging from super soldiers to gross mutants that spew acid. The cool set pieces that see you running through your life through hostile environments. And the multiple locations take you from underground labs to castles in the mountains of Europe. There’s plenty of variety to spice things up.
The inclusion of side missions is also a good thing, with some excellent (be it frustrating at times) wave-based shooting sequences, which ramp up the tension, and made my hand cram from all the shooting and moving. Good fun, but wished there were more types of side quests, other than these hoard modes.Overall?
2023 has been an amazing year for gaming, with plenty of brilliant games from every corner of the industry. It’ll be a difficult job for me to put together the Game-News end-of-year list together with so many games that have brought joy, immense fun and something special to their selected genre. But Trepang2 will be on the list, most likely within the top spots for sure.
Trepang2 might not be perfect, but it is a shining light in the darkness of modern FPS gaming. It’s unashamedly brutal, confidently spectacular and balls-to-the-wall insane, offering solid and engaging gunplay and action. Bringing in something utterly refreshing, engrossing and totally enjoyable, as it breaks away from the live service formular, and generic military shooters of old and new.
I hope Trepang2 influences other studios to go nuts with their gameplay, injects a ton of style and visual spectacle, and above all makes the FPS genre a creative force as it once was long ago.
I hope all these Boomer/Retro Shooters do, for the sake of the genre.
+++ Amazing gunplay and stellar action
++ Great destruction and spectacle
+ Looks and sounds great
+ Neat small mechanics including gun upgrades
-- Story is not good and the campaign feels like a random mess
- AI can be smart but use dirty tricks too often
- Lack of small destructible features does impact heavily the overall experience
A review code of Trepang2 for Xbox Series X/S was kindly provided by Team17 for the purpose of this review.