Ravaged Preview (PC)

Question: Do you want the world to end?

If you like dune buggies, mohawks, reckless driving and not wearing a shirt, then according to Ravaged, you do, in fact, want the world to end, because when it does we’ll all be crashing into cliff faces in our impossible to steer gyrocopters and beckoning friends and well-wishers to hop in to our totally sweet ride.

Hot off the heels of their Kickstarter funding campaign that netted over double their goal, Ravaged is an online, multiplayer only team based and vehicle heavy FPS by indie developers 2Dawn Studios, who include veterans of the Battlefield, Desert Combat and Frontlines series.

Ravaged hosts an array of vehicles to get players into the globally warmed mayhem in style

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise then that Ravaged has its sights so firmly set on cooperative tactics and class based combat in amongst all the vehicular mayhem. In the wasteland of Ravaged’s eco-nightmarish post apocalypse, it’s very much a case of work together or (get really frustrated before you) die alone. Ravaged has a learning curve the size of a sheer cliff face when it comes to getting to grips with helming its range of transport and weapon options, although their unforgiving nature has been scaled back to comfortable, but still challenging levels with the arrival of the latest update.

A healthy chunk of said challenge can be laid at the bumper of the vehicles and the liberal spray of realism the interface affords. Wheeled vehicles only move in the direction their wheels are facing, which can make driving and turning an involved affair, with the presence of a handbrake function making for some surprisingly multi-layered, though still relatively intuitive motoring. Zooming around maps itself is compelling and enjoyably dangerous, even without bullets. It follows that the faster you go, the harder it can be to retain control, the subtle bounce of the suspension urging you to crash into something.

It’s a rite of passage in Ravaged that you get into at least one fender-bender with team mates, flinging roll cages into the air in physics defying tailspins. There’s definitely a line somewhere that decides which crazy plummet will be the fast track to glory and which one will end in a burning heap, but finding it is part of the ”fun” as per your preference.

Vehicles can take some getting used to, but it’s worth it, since Ravaged’s maps tend to be rather expansive, and a lone footslogger will be left in the dust. It’s certainly not all about driving, though, not where Ravaged’s array of vehicle mounted weapons are concerned. The single manned bikes and buggies are all about speed, while the tricked out automobiles boast grenade launchers and the enviable option of hanging out the passenger window for a hands on drive by. Naturally, the bigger the vehicle is, the more guns it has, so the trucks have multiple weapon emplacements; which neatly lends itself to the feeling of being in a post apocalyptic crew, with its own roof mounted minigun and everything.

Driving options host a comprehensive range of customisation when it comes to tailoring the sensitivity of vehicles on offer, which is most useful for what is Ravaged’s wild card vehicle, the gyrocopter. This thing is hard to fly, and really will take some time to master, requiring the virtual equivalent of a pilot’s licence. It’s so ramshackle that it’s the perfect honey trap; its unbalanced whirly charms promising a fiery (and hilarious) death for the unprepared. Those with the skills will be able to soar (or whatever the aerial equivalent of shamble is) above the battlefield peppering tiny ant sized targets with high calibre cannon fire.

Ravaged is shaping up to be a game with healthy sense of reward for the investment of time, with players reaping the amount of anarchy available in accordance with how much they put into it. The class based combat is no exception. It may take a little while to sink in, but there’s a marked difference between the way the classes play, and the roles they fill

Mirrored across the two sides is the fast scout, robust soldier, wily sniper, explosive anti armour expert and the slow but mighty heavy weapons fellow. While the class equivalents across the team divide are identical, the classes themselves have significant distinctions, but it takes a while to really appreciate the benefits. The scout’s speed, for example, might not seem so significant up until the point you realise that sprinting up to an enemy and shotgunning them in the face is a viable tactic.

Even though the classes are pretty standard fare for this type of game, and do adhere to a loose rock paper scissors format (scouts can rush snipers, grunts are hardy and can demolish everyone but are easy targets for a headshot etc), Ravaged seems more concerned with how the player understands how to handle the class’s strengths, rather than one class being an auto-win button against another.

It's not all deserts

Each class gets a range of weapons available to them, with Ravaged’s level of sci-fi technology firmly rooted in the ruined modern day; their primary specialist weapon, an alternate rifle, pistol, explosive (fear the tennis ball grenade) or some other short range option (i.e. throwing knives). Everyone gets a standby melee head bashing tool, because that’s how you know it’s the end of civilised society. The weapons themselves possess a tactile quality to them, with definitive weight and kick, and even possible mirages like bullet drag and flatness of rounds, though less stringently realised than in something like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Notably in the interest of realism (again), the heavy weapons class can’t zoom, or aim down any type of sights; something to consider.

Most subtle about the classes is their relative health, since Ravaged has no health packs or healers to speak of. There is regenerating health and visual cues that indicate a wounded body, like a desaturated, greyed screen, or the audible heart rate (as well as a convenient health/vehicle integrity bar in the corner). It’s kill or be killed, or run away and come back later. Regenerating health might be counter to some of the other realism focused design decisions, but it keeps the onus on fast paced action.

Powered by the Unreal Engine, Ravaged looks great and in keeping with other features, has lots of graphical scalability for the sake of boosting the all important frame rate. The art style, despite bearing some of the Unreal engine’s over the top lighting tendencies (blinding lens flare effect, anyone?), has a nice dichotomy in its ability to combine the familiar and mundane with the fantastically wrecked, and this is exemplified to great effect between the anarchic Scavengers, who look liked they might be at home in Mad Max with their savage punk aesthetic, and the orderly resistance, who look like they want to shoot Mad Max for the good of society, and do it with military efficiency.

The levels themselves, which so far encompass barren desert and new ice age, always seem to have some titanic set piece of urban catastrophe, not least of which is the toppled Statue of Liberty. It’s only a matter of time until the inevitable Planet of the Apes mod. It’s a nice touch that there’s always some upturned relic of civilisation to fight over.

In a game about apocalypse survivors in gang warfare, the key is to blend the different classes into cohesive plans of attack, play to strengths of the role and above all work together, which is best demonstrated by the game modes Ravaged features.

Ravaged has its own take on Capture the Flag, but there’s something oddly taboo about being able to bundle the flag into your car and drive off, almost like some unspoken rule was being broken; still it’s near necessity on the wide, open maps and it sets up games to feature frantic car chase after car chase in hot pursuit of stolen resources, the pinnacle of these has to be trying to outrun a vengeful gyrocopter trying to make scrap metal out of you.

The experience is turned on its head on the smaller maps which exclude vehicles, where Ravaged transforms into a hard bitten team deathmatch, more in line with traditional FPS games, but never forgetting its stony gaze on teamwork, exemplified by the ‘Thrust’ game mode which involves taking over enemy bases until one team holds them all. This takes coordination and strategy to pull off, but usually devolves into a bitter last stand scenario, with the team on the back foot fighting tooth and nail to retain their final spawn point.

Capture the Flag becomes a lot more anarchic when you can drive around maps

The map design for the most part is thorough and detailed with its multiple routes, secret crevices, and generally climbable landmarks, but one map in particular stood out as original and innovative; a Thrust map built around base control, which was one tall, narrow vertical structure that stood multiple levels. Teams had to either climb or descend to take control of the map, and it completely reinvented the already novel game mode.

With all that said, Ravaged is still firmly in the beta stage, and it seems like the best is yet to come, including the promise of dedicated servers, up to 64 player battles and this beast of a mobile fortress 2Dawn unveiled on their site a few days back. With more vehicles, guns, maps and game modes in the works, Ravaged is shaping up to be proof that just because the world has ended, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all get along… and murder those other people different to us.

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