These days it’s like you can’t walk down the street without tripping over a bunch of cyberpunk games, from the high-profile cock-ups to a host of indie games that range in quality and scope. Foreclosed is the latest cyberpunk game stepping up, hoping that it’s mix of third-person shooting and stealth, along with a striking art style, will be enough to grab your attention. It’s certainly releasing at the right time – we’re in a bit of a drought when it comes to big, shiny new games, giving the small stuff a chance to shine. But I’m saddened to report that Foreclosed suffers from good ideas but crappy execution.
No doubt, Foreclosed makes a damn good first impression thanks to its intriguing visual style. Typically the cyberpunk genre favours grime and dark colours, but Foreclosed uses what I’d describe as almost pastel colours in a heavily stylized look that the developers say was inspired by graphic novels and comics. Sticking with that theme, the game uses a lot of comic book panels to tell its story, often swapping viewpoints as you move around. At one point the comic book panels show your target coming down in an elevator while you continue playing the game in the other panel, fighting toward the elevator doors.
Available On: Xbox, Playstation, PC, Switch
Reviewed On: PS5
Developed By: Merge Games
Published By: Ant Lab Games
This kind of clever usage of panels in both cutscenes and gameplay really does make Foreclosed stand out from the crowd, and I think the developers should have leaned more heavily into it.. And there are plenty of other nice comic nods, like the speech boxes during cutscenes and the uses of onomatopoeias. It’s also great to see this kind of style combined with cyberpunk, a genre that typically only deals in colour via neon signs and puddles of blood.
Unfortunately, the praise I have for Foreclosed ends here because almost all of the actual gameplay suffers from poor design and clunky execution. Combat is riddled with problems throughout, starting with the aiming which feels floaty and imprecise. The simple act of pointing a gun feels bad, and then on top of that there’s no true cover system. That wouldn’t be an issue if the enemies were not incredibly accurate, so running and gunning or staying out in the open for longer than a few seconds equals death. The result is an awkward style of combat where you edge around scenery until you can fire at the enemy but they can’t hit you. Crouching behind stuff works a little better since holding the aim button automatically pops you up but it’s still clumsy. It’s like Foreclosed can’t choose between a fast-paced style of combat or a cover-based shooter and instead went with…well, nothing really. There’s no direction.
The enemies you fight are dumber than a goldfish in a math competition. They’ll charge into a room from their assigned spawn points, which are sometimes right behind you, and then won’t move from their the positions they initially take up. They won’t try to flank you, they won’t attempt to find better firing positions. Occasionally one might slowly walk toward you, but that seems to be a pre-programmed thing rather than a reactive choice by the A.I. Fighting them is drudgery, a completely rote experience where you line up headshots. There’s no point in moving around because the enemy don’t take cover, so you can easily pick them off.
There’s absolutely no variety in enemy design, either. One single enemy type wielding a pistol is all you get, with the only variations being whether they are wearing armour or carrying an energy shield. These faceless, mindless goons don’t even get some cybernetically enhanced powers to play around with. These are, without any question, the most creatively dull enemies I have seen in years.
As for how they react to being shot, well it’s like watching a high-school play where the kids just can’t be bothered. There’s a single hit animation that plays regardless of where you shoot them, which makes it kind of comical. Worse still, if you use a certain special ability on them that same hit animation plays on repeat until the ability wears off. It looks bloody terrible.
Speaking of abilities, there are a couple that you can unlock and use during the short 3-4 hour singleplayer story. You can stick an enemy in a mind-cage for a few seconds or slam them into the ground (which doesn’t appear to do any damage by itself) or lift them into the air. All of this comes down to some experimental implants welded to the inside of your skull, and then activated by tapping the face buttons on your controller while aiming. Again, there’s a real lack of exciting design going on, and an equal lack of visual and audio feedback.
Fairly late into the game you unlock the ability to hurl objects with your mind by holding down the right bumper, or summoning it to you with a combination of both bumpers. Flinging chunks of scenery around was one of my favourite things to do in Control, but somehow Foreclosed manages to make even this feel boring. There’s too little in the levels to grab and throw, too little opportunity to mess about. I’m also a little baffled by how experimental cybernetic implants are supposed to give you the ability to throw objects with your brain, too, because the game avoids explaining that. That’s hardly a big criticism, but it goes to show how much my attention was wandering.
Foreclosed does try to add some pizazz to fighting by having a limit to how much abilities can be used. Using any of your skills generates heat in your neural implants and if it overheats then you get stunned for a few seconds. It’s a decent idea, but not one that adds much to the gameplay. Since abilities aren’t very useful anyway I rarely got close to overheating.
That weak enemy A.I. comes back with a vengeance when you’re sneaking around, revealing the enemies to be utter morons. Not only will they completely ignore the corpses of their chums, but they’ll also ignore their chums while said chums are in the process of getting their brains fried. Yes, I did say brain frying: instead of a regular stealth kill you get closed to the walking corpses and then short circuit their implants via furious mashing of a button. It’s kind of cool the first time, and then progressively more laborious after that. If spotted you’ll get a few seconds to get out of the way, but even if enemies become suspicious they won’t actually come looking for you properly – they’ll usually amble a few steps forward, stand there for a second and then forget what they were doing. All of this combined with their strict patrol routes and the equally strict level design make stealth utterly boring.
If you do get spotted, enemies will magically know where you are at all times. At one point I killed the final enemy in a room via gunshot, which summoned reinforcements. Before they ever arrived I had moved and was hiding behind cover, but somehow they knew exactly where I was anyway. Again, this is poor design.
Going back to the abilities, you get to unlock a small selection of them for both your implants and your pistol, which is the only weapon you get in the entire game. It’s supposed to be some sort of experimental pistol, but aside from one certain ability it seems to just be a regular firearm, so…yeah. There’s a clear hierarchy to the upgrades that makes them system feel superfluous. Take the explosive bullets: they’re pointless. They don’t do anything. They don’t appear to increase damage, and no enemies ever stood close enough for me to see if the explosive rounds could kill multiple foes at once. The armour piercing rounds, on the other hand, are pretty much required After a while, all the bad guys will be wearing armour, and without those special bullets taking them down is laughably dull The same goes with the energy shields and the energy piercing bullets, although with them you can at least counter them via special bullets or the lift ability. The whole system needs to be redesigned, because I went through the whole game with those two bullet types equipped, leaving just one slot for an upgrade of my choice.
Occasionally the gameplay gets mixed up a little, taking a quick break from the rote shooting and stealth. There’s a forced stealth section where you avoid drones, for example, which switches to an awkward camera angle and in which being discovered forces you to restart the area. You can hack a few doors and explosives by hitting four directional keys in quick succession. There’s one instance of getting to hack some turrets, although you don’t get to use them for much of anything. Somehow, every attempt to mix up the gameplay makes Foreclosed slightly worse.
At least Foreclosed wasn’t too buggy. I did encounter a couple of problems along the way but they were mostly nuisances, like selected gun upgrades unequipping themselves between sections and restarts.
You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the plot of Foreclosed yet, so let’s finally get around to that, shall we? Foreclosed describes itself as a “narrative-driven action-shooter” and going into it I was willing to forgive quite a lot of problems if the game could deliver a good story. As Evan Kapnos you awake one morning to find out that the company you work for has been taken down, resulting in his ID being foreclosed. He needs to get to the court before his identity is auctioned off. But in a cyberpunk world things are never simple and Evan quickly finds out that something else is going on and people are trying to kill him.
As for the vocal performances, Evan Kapnos is played with a dramatic flair and a hefty slice of cheese, constantly making me wonder if it was a deliberate tongue-in-cheek kind of thing. He sounds like he’s been taken straight out of a noir detective film, or like he could have starred alongside Max Payne in the original games. It isn’t bad per say, it just never quite fits properly with the rest of the game which does take itself seriously.
Sadly Evan isn’t a well written or interesting character, either. He’s a blank slate. Perhaps that’s why there are entirely inconsequential dialogue options, which aren’t voiced for some reason, so that you can try to push some of your own personality into the mix. Not that it works. In fact, I can’t say the game as a whole is particularly well-written or interesting. All the basic cyberpunk tropes are there: people being little more than property, big corporations wielding near absolute power and human augmentation via computer chips in the brain. Foreclosed doesn’t do anything with these, though, aside from setting them up and then telling a very basic cyberpunk story that never delves into the numerous exciting and meaty themes the genre has to offer. This is cyberpunk 101, a completely mediocre storyline with no characters that stand out. I honestly can’t remember anyone’s name outside of the Evan himself, nor can I remember any of the story beats. It’s that forgettable.
Although attractive on the outside, Foreclosed doesn’t have much going on inside. Aside from its lovely pastel colours and fun use of panels, Foreclosed has almost nothing that I could compliment and plenty to criticize. Boring, lifeless combat against enemies that could be outsmarted by a gaggle of woke teenagers, dull abilities, painfully awkward stealth and the most basic level/mission designs. The only other thing Foreclosed has going for it is the relatively low price-tag, but you’d be better off spending that money on one of the other terrific indie games out there. Maybe consider something like Ghostrunner, if you want to stick with the Cyberpunk theme.