It may come as a surprise, but I didn’t actually do a lot of hands-on time with games at E3. What’s more, the actual experience of playing games in a noisy convention hall while PR is badgering you and there’s a line forming behind you isn’t actually all that enjoyable. There were a few I couldn’t resist, though; for instance, the erstwhile Herman Exum’s already written about Street Fighter V, and I made a point throughout the show to play it a few times. Instant thrills aside, even that didn’t get my attention quite as much as a relatively unknown shooter called Hollowpoint from Paradox Interactive.
Hollowpoint looks and feels a lot like the Xbox 360 classic Shadow Complex – a game that was actually offered as an inspiration for the title. It’s a cooperative shooter where you and your team play as the titular mercenaries and battle against waves of baddies to complete missions. Sounds pretty smple, right? It actually is, but this sort of simplistic gameplay with strong fundamentals tends to make for high class coop, and as far as I can tell that’s how Hollowpoint is shaping up.
The demo I played through set me up with four Hollowpoint mercenaries, each with different weaponry and skills. A Hollowpoint carries two weapons and has access to four cooldown-based skills and four gadgets – turrets, mines and the il/ke. They’ve also got four passive abilities, but given the brief nature of the demo I wasn’t able to futz around with these much. You actually enter each mission with all four Hollowpoints at your disposal and can switch between them at your liking, though the act of doing so takes awhile and leaves you open. Your squad takes on procedurally-generated missions, earning experience and money with each success and moving up through difficulty tiers as they go.
Gameplay, as mentioned, is pretty reminiscent of Shadow Complex, featuring 2D movement and plenty of platforming. However, Hollowpoint shakes things up by introducing depth to the mix. Your Hollowpoints are stuck on a horizontal plane, but the enemies certainly aren’t, so you’re going to be assailed from all sides as well as from the background of the level. You can actually fire downrange, as it were, and you can also take cover behind environmental objects to protect you from enemy fire coming from the background; this came up fairly often during the demo, as “hold the ilne” style segments usually involved setting up against some cover and battling waves of dudes coming from the background.
Gunplay felt tight and satisfying; in particular, Hollowpoint featured one of the most enjoyable examples of the LMG that I’ve seen in gaming. Sure, it’s inaccurate. Sure, it takes awhile to reload. None of that matters when you can hose down an area for days while making enough noise to wake the dead. I loved it, but I wasn’t quite as enamored with how platforming works; your Hollowpoints don’t have a very significant amount of air control, so clambering about vertically tended to be a pain in the butt. I also found the variety of skills and gadgets available to each soldier a little difficult to manage in the heat of battle – as was pointed out to me by Paradox’s rep several times, I barely touched the skills – but I feel like more in-depth time with the game might help to address this.
Still, Hollowpoint is a shooter and not a platformer, so the iffy platforming isn’t really the end of the world. Personally, the gunplay grabbed me and I’m excited to get a group together on VOIP. Unless things take a drastic swerve for the boring, Hollowpoint’s looking like a solid coop title that’s worth your time.