Netmarble’s newest (and first) Free-to-Play gun-related FPS on Steam is good, if you like every other Free-to-Play gun-related FPS ever conceived. There are a lot of guns, though, so that’s a plus.
Keeping an ever-so-wary eye on the free Steam game market means that I use up a good amount of my download bandwidth trying out games that come at no cost until I run over my cap and have to reach for a contraceptive in preparation for paying the overage fees on my monthly internet bill. With that in mind, I don’t normally dive head-first into any free game that that claims to be a new take on an old genre. I do, however, give them the benefit of the doubt, for the first five minutes. Usually by that time I’ve already forgotten what game I’m playing. Thankfully, District 187: Sin Streets gives me no reason to revise my cautious method.
District 187 comes to us shyly, providing just enough freshness to avoid being taken out of the fruit basket for fear of contaminating its better-looking companions with its mouldy underbelly. The developers adopt the “put a tuxedo on a dead body” strategy, hoping that the new, shiny coat you see on the surface will sufficiently mask the decay within. The back story is such: rogue SWAT team members rally against the gangs that overrun Generic City Name #15, in an effort to take back what the corrupt government has handed over to criminals. I had to go out of my way to look that up, because I don’t play an online FPS for the heart-wrenching tale it spins. In fact, nobody does. That’s just a bow tie covering the tracheotomy scar.
Now, anyone who has played an online FPS knows the drill. You start up in a channel select, or the lobby with match-types displayed. Immediately you’ll notice a few things that set this game apart. For instance, three separate windows advertising their Facebook page. One even pops up right in your face, like you’re stupid. Cool. There are a couple game modes with names that deceive you, as well as some old favourites. Aside from the regular death match and bomb planting, we have “Knife-Only Death Match” which is pretty self-explanatory, “Boss Mode” which isn’t even listed on the website, but is essentially VIP protection, and “Scramble” which should actually be called “God-Tier Capture the Flag.” Instead of the regular CTF rules, if the player holding the “target object” is killed, the object is gone, replaced by a new one, somewhere else. Probably far, far away.
D-187 has also incorporated Clan matches into their gameplay. You can team up with a group of people (much like Call of Duty’s clans, or any other game with clans really) and play tournament-style ranked matches called “street fights.” This is entirely inaccessible to me, because I don’t like people and have no desire to “talk” to them. It probably wouldn’t be too bad, though.
If you visit the “Settings” tab and, like me, have a 4:3 ratio monitor, you may enjoy the “1024×768 or nothing” system they’ve employed. Yes, there is an 1150 ratio option for full screen, but that doesn’t work with my resolution anyway, so I was stuck with low-res gameplay.
District 187’s site (brought to you by Netmarble, who apparently wanted to take a break from colonization-era MMOs that nobody plays) brags about new and innovative features. I have yet to find one, but I’ll assume they’re referring to their plethora of guns and and character-related customization options. The Shop offers many weapons and the ability to purchase individual scopes, sights, stocks, etc., as well as clothing and a whopping four or five hairstyles for both of the two characters you play, depending on what team you’re on. Don’t get your hopes up, though, because in the common, aggravating brilliance of the cash-for-game-funds market, nothing you buy is permanent. You can choose different lengths of time to have a weapon, and the prices for each raise as the amount of time increases. This is a flawed and unbearably annoying system. Say I buy a gun for a week, put a nice scope on it, a silencer, basically spend all of the 30,000 Gold you’re given at the start on this wonderful Zeus-rifle. Then my grandmother chokes trying to eat my cat and the housemaid steals her diamond earrings right off of her still-twitching ears. Now I have a funeral to go to and a court case to plan, and no time to earn that money back. Thanks, District 187, what a waste of time. I should also mention that the starter weapons are literally the worst in the entire game, and you would be better off running right up to your enemies and slapping them around until they get upset and leave the game.
So, gameplay. First of all there’s little to no lag, which is great, and gave me hope for the future. There’s also no sprint, which took my optimism into the bedroom, having its way with my naive forward-positivity, over and over, on into the night. Some of the maps are too small (others being too large not to have a sprint button for Christ’s sake), so the dominating team will camp the two or three spawn entrances, just far enough away to wait out the five-second respawn invincibility. The ADS (aiming down the sight, for those of you new to the internet) is toggle. Holding the right mouse button to aim is something that you take for granted until you forget and you’re stuck in aim mode while someone behind you is cleaving your spine in half. However, the hit detection is, for lack of a better word, hilarious. Hip firing is grossly inaccurate, so you’re often better off just precise-aiming forever, because you could be all the way across the map and snipe someone’s left testicle with your sidearm. Running around with a knife is more fun than any other aspect of this game, because you can also purchase an axe or an actual meat cleaver (making my previous metaphor into a literal rendition), and on the small maps you’re infinitely harder to kill.
Also, you had better pray to your respective god that you don’t have to Alt-Tab for anything taking longer than five minutes, because upon returning you’ll be bombarded by an endless stream of pop-up messages entirely in Korean.
District 187: Sin Streets is a decent (or average) pick-up-and-go expansion on a few already-established MMO shooters. The graphics aren’t awful, the gun customization is diverse, you’re given a good amount of health and the respawn timer is short enough to drink something between deaths. If you’re tired of the same four maps on Combat Arms, CrimeCraft’s RPG-style questing system, Arma 2 free’s terrible realism, or running all over walls in GunZ, give it a try. For a week. If you really want to enjoy the experience, don’t take it seriously; just buy a cleaver and play Scramble.