Homicidal All-Stars Preview: XCOM Meets The Running Man

Homicidal All-Stars is a mixture of turn-based combat and real-time exploration, developed by Artificer and published by Good Shepard Entertainment. It's a game set in those over-the-top, bloodthirsty game shows of '80s action films, where turn-based strategy battles and real-time deadly puzzle segments are played across the backdrop of roaring crowds and the ever-present voice of the commentator.

Homicidal All-Stars is also the name of the titular TV show, where mercenaries and criminals battle it out among deathtraps as part of a bid to earn fame or reduce their sentence. The player takes on the role of Scarlett, a new contestant in Homicidal All-Stars who quickly starts blasting her way through the competition. Scarlett has a score to settle with one of the high-ranking Homicidal All-Stars players and uses the show as a means of getting revenge, but that means playing by the deadly rules set by the producers.

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Screen Rant had a chance to play a preview build of Homicidal All-Stars, which contains the first seven missions in the game. Homicidal All-Stars is set across different episodes of the show, with the player able to rest in a hub area between stages. The real-time element of the game involves solving puzzles and avoiding traps, with the latter depleting the party's health if they set them off. The traps range from basic trip wires and mines that need disarming, to more elaborate party-member switching puzzles that involve precise timing. There are also hidden treasure caches hidden around the stages that provide cash, but have their own unique environmental hazards that need bypassing.

Homicical All-Stars Battle

Once combat begins, the game shifts to turn-based strategy battles. The combat system will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played the XCOM series, with each character able to take two actions per turn. The player assembles a team with different powers, such as Tybollt the hacker, who can send a hologram projection of himself onto an enemy, causing their allies to fire at them.

The enemies in Homicidal All-Stars are criminals with a costume design that wouldn't be amiss in the Borderlands series of games, with colorful post-apocalyptic gear. Different kinds of enemy units are gradually introduced over the missions and each has special abilities, such as Drone Monks being able to dispatch Attack Drones in combat, or create swirling defense drones around allies. Enemies tend to arrive in waves around the arena, so the player needs to keep switching their focus and preparing bottlenecks to weaken the enemy team's numbers advantage.

The three main currencies in Homicidal All-Stars are cash, experience points, and fame. Cash is used to buy new gear at shops spread around each stage, including medkits and grenades. Experience points grant skill points upon levelling up, which can be used to buy new passive buffs or special abilities for each character. Fame is a unique mechanic in Homicidal All-Stars, where completing bonus objectives or defeating enemies in a cinematic manner earns the party more fame. The group has the ability to take on sponsorship deals with different corporations, granting additional buffs.

Homicical All-Stars Intro

There is more to taking on sponsorships than a high fame score, as corporations want specific kinds of people to endorse their products. Homicidal All-Stars has dialogue points for different categories, such as comedy, and the player can earn these by interacting with the fans. There are audience members hanging by the barricade in each stage and each one has a mini-conversation with Scarlett, where the player's responses will net them points. The player can also talk in a reality show-style confessional chair in the hub area for some extra points.

All of these interlocking systems might seem complicated, but they work together really well. The combat in Homicidal All-Stars is just brief small-scale battles with lots of gimmicks and bonus objectives, while the exploration element is about timing and staying alert. What's impressive about the game is how it keeps introducing new gimmicks in each stage. Homicidal All-Stars has the reality TV show feel of always introducing new elements and quickly cutting to new things, with levels quickly switching from disarming bombs on a timer, to avoiding moving trains in battle. Homicidal All-Stars is never stagnant, and it's never boring.

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The aesthetics of Homicidal All-Stars merge 3D models with comic art for the character portraits. Story segments between each stage are also comic art, with some gorgeous (if gory) visuals to flesh out the narrative. It bears mentioning that Homicidal All-Stars is a very bloody game. The colorful world and comic book art helps to sell the violence and grimness of the setting, with the bloody dismemberment always being treated as entertainment for the masses.

Homicical All-Stars Challenge

The only major concern with the game is on the technical level. The preview build of Homicidal All-Stars had numerous game-ending bugs, some of which required a full computer restart. The visual/performance options are also rather slim for a PC title. The A.I. is mostly solid, but there were a few instances where enemies would waste turns running back and forth from the same positions.

That said, Homicidal All-Stars is trying something different with its approach, and it's exciting in spite of some technical flaws. For the most part, its systems work together well and gameplay is fun, with combat that combines strategic planning with on-the-fly adjustments. Exploring the bloodstained arenas and evading the traps in Homicidal All-Stars is exhilarating and surviving another day feels a genuine accomplishment, regardless of how victory was achieved.

Homicidal All-Stars will be released for PC via Steam and GoG in Q3 2022. Screen Rant was provided with a digital code for the PC version of the game for the purposes of this review.

2022-09-29T16:07:50.000Z

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