Those of you that follow me know that I enjoy a concept that’s fun, fresh, and unique. That said, I took the opportunity to review At Sundown: Shots in the Dark for those reasons alone. On paper, At Sundown stands out. What we have here is a top-down multiplayer arena shooter, with a heavy focus on stealth. In practice, however, the game lacks the refinement that it needs to stand the tests of time, which, for a game of this type, could put the overall experience in some muddy water. Though, let’s step back and go from the top.
Booting up the game takes you to a well laid out menu. Here, you’ll find the ability to play locally or online, hit training missions, profile browse, and alter some of the game’s settings. It’s all pretty standard stuff, but then, it doesn’t need to be anything other than that. I found that training was the best place to start. I should point out that At Sundown arrives with two level-up systems; one for online play, and one for offline play. This is relevant, because much of what you’ll want to unlock can be achieved in both local multiplayer and training.
You’re free to chart all of your progress via the profile area. Here, you can track your level, your unlocks, and a decent variety of stats. The game’s core level-up system is capped at level 17, much of that you’ll reach by fulfilling training missions. Training missions help to feed you into the fields of play, and vary from movement to weapon handling. Each and every training mission has a basic task and an advanced task for each field; shotgun, sniper, revolvers, and so forth. Furthermore, you can earn medals for each task if you do well.
These medals are time-based; rewarding bronze, silver, and gold, depending on how quick you are to fulfill each goal. These training missions typically demand that you eliminate a set number of targets in rapid succession, and as such, encourages you into toying with how each weapon handles overall. There’s roughly half an hour of fun to be had here once everything has been unlocked, which coincidentally moves us onto the unlock system. Starting out, you’ll not have much choice to select from when diving into the core game.
However, as you begin to work through the 17 levels, you’ll gradually start unlocking new weapons, new game types, and new battle zones. There’s a fair bit of content on offer, but I suspect much of this will be wasted without a local player. We’ll get to local play shortly, but first, I want to discuss the online mode. The online mode has its own ranking system, starting you out at Rookie status, before you ultimately work through the ranks. I’m sat here at the time of writing, on the game’s launch day, and I’ve yet to find a single online match.
Perhaps the game needs a bit of time to populate, but I would have expected to have found a match after fifteen minutes of lobby waiting. Nevertheless, online play allows you to enjoy matches of ranked, and unranked variation. Players can select 1v1, 2v2, arcade, and free for all. It’s all bog-standard stuff. Whilst in the lobby, you can indeed change your character and select the weapon of your choosing, as well as invite online friends along for the ride. There’s also the ability to host and join set matches, using room code-like functionality.
Outside of that, you’ll see your rank for both 1v1 and 2v2 variation in the upper right corner, as well as being able to browse the leaderboards if you want to see where you sit in the world. The game supports the capacity for four players in total, for both online and offline play. When you’re done hopelessly searching for an online game, local play is where you’ll want to be. Mercifully, At Sundown allows you to fill-in empty slots with bots; further allowing you to alter their difficulty, their team color, and what weaponry they’ll utilize.
The ability tweak game settings is also present. Here, you can set the game mode, the respawn timer, the number of kills needed to win, and so forth. These options will indeed vary depending on the mode that you select, but in any case, it’s all made clear and easy to understand. When you’re happy with your selections, you’re ready to dive on in and enjoy some brutality. To its credit, At Sundown is a very simple game to gel with. It helps, of course, that the controls are fluid and precise, and well mapped out to ensure accessibility.
Movement and aiming is tied to the left stick and right stick, respectively. You can also momentarily reveal yourselves whilst holding the A button, with sprinting tethered to LT, and dodge to LB. Firing your weaponry can be achieved through the use of RT, with RB housing your alternate fire, and the X button used for reloading. It’s a very straightforward affair to say the least. So far, this all sounds like your run of the mill top-down shooter, right? Wrong! At Sundown’s interesting twist of stealth implementation is crucial here.
Each map takes place on a single screen, with players spawned in at random positions. By and large, most maps are shrouded in darkness, with only a few sources of light dotted throughout. The kicker here is that when you’re in the light, everyone can see you. However, when you’re in the shadows, no one, not even you, can see your character. The reveal button will allow you to find out exactly where you are in a moment, but this leaves you wide open for attack. Equally as such, sprinting will emit a path of smoke behind you.
This also lets other players know where you are, or, where you’re heading, as does shooting. The aim is to use this mechanic to your advantage. Now, there’s a number of ways in which you can do this. I personally enjoyed toying with my foes, oftentimes revealing my location and then swiftly moving further down the map for them to then shoot at thin air, seconds before I blasted them to their knees. If you allow yourselves to be swallowed by the game, you might find a surprising amount of fun to be had. The problem is that it’s fleeting.
Despite its various modes, maps, and weaponry, I grew pretty tired of the whole thing after about two hours of play. Sure, whilst getting additional weapons such as the sword, new maps such as the subway, and new modes such as capture the flag, is undeniably neat, it all gets too repetitive, too quickly. The best mode by far is akin to Call of Duty’s Gun Game mode, here known as Arms Race; get a kill, move to a new weapon – rinse and repeat until you win. It’s a wonderful addition for sure, but even so, it all feels too stale before long.
Funnily enough, the game shares another trait with Call of Duty; poor spawning. Several times I’ve found myself spawned pretty much on the toes of another player or bot, and although there’s a small cool-down before being able to be killed, it’s not enough. This only leads to frantic moments of desperation, which takes an edge off the game’s core stealth design. My final issue with the game is that of its price. At Sundown will set you back $19.99/£15.99 once its limited current sale offer of a twenty percent discount has ended.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is far too high for the content that you’re getting. Indeed, there’s a nice variation offer here, across its modes, its maps, and its weaponry, but even so, it’s not worth that much. I would heavily advise waiting for a decent price-cut. I don’t want to be too hard on At Sundown because if anything, it does a lot right. Its hide and seek foundation plays well with the light/shadow system, pushing forward moments of genuine tension in which you constantly question the risks of your position, and your next move.
I’ll also commend the game for its weapon handling, which is as precise and as responsive as needs be. Every weapon has its primary attack, and a more powerful alt attack. For example, the shotgun can shoot one slug at a time, or, you can use the alt attack and fire both slugs at once for wider damage. On top of that, each weapon is usually good for unique play-styles. If you fancy yourself a run and gunner, the SMG or the auto-rifle is a safe bet, but, if you prefer melee, the sword or the heavy juggernaut hammer will see you through.
There’s even pick-ups that may appear on the map, such as that of a huge laser that will level anyone that stands in its path. Should you bite the bullet, you’ll be given a brief moment to change your weapon if you want to mix things up a bit. This is oftentimes quite necessary when changing through the game’s various and distinct game types. When all is said and done, At Sundown achieves what it set out to accomplish. Though, I think the developer maybe put too much faith in their product, made apparent by the achievements.
One such achievement requires that you win 500 games, or another, pull in over 1000 kills. Now, had the servers been a bit more active, or the game had a better level-up system that was more rewarding in the long run, I might have been able to get behind this. Though, as it stands, it just gets far too samey-samey before long. I do appreciate the game for its map variety, ensuring that there’s no shortage of arenas of varying designs to take to, but it just spreads itself too thin in the grand scheme of things. Now, onto the visual and audio design.
At Sundown isn’t going to be winning any awards for its presentation on either front any time soon. The game, although befitting for a top-down shooter, lacks refinement across the board as far as its visuals go. There’s a nice variation of detail, that much has to be said, but it’s hardly going to drop your jaw. It’s just standard for what you would expect for a game of this type. Nothing more, nothing less. I’ll say the same about its audio design, being that it’s crammed with a mixture of both solid voice-over work, and generic sound effects.
At Sundown sports a tense and interesting hide and seek-like style of play through the use of its cleverly implemented light and shadow stealth system. However, despite its fairly healthy variation across its weaponry, its modes, and its maps, it all falls victim to repetition a lot sooner than expected. It doesn’t help matters that, even on launch day, its online component seems painfully devoid of popularity.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.