- Developer: Blitworks
- Publisher: Digital Legends Entertainment
- Release date: 30/3/2021
- Price: £17.99/$19.99
- Review code provided by Digital Legends Entertainment
It needs to be said upfront, Afterpulse is a mobile third-person shooter which has been ported to the Switch. There have been a fair few games that have been ported over to Switch from mobiles and vice versa, but what we have here seems to be very much dragged and dropped, with all the negative connotations that come with that. How bad can it be, I hear you ask? Read our Afterpulse review to find out!
Check for pulse
Afterpulse isn’t a particularly story-heavy game, in fact, you would need to go out of your way to actually find out any of the backstory, but it is there to provide some context. The titular Afterpulse refers to an electromagnetic pulse which has wiped out most electronics across the Earth. The world’s nations deploy squads of soldiers in an attempt to gain supremacy and take over territory in the post-apocalypse. In practise this sets the scene for some team deathmatch shenanigans, sounds like fun eh? Unfortunately not!
I’m here! Do it now! Kill me!
At its core, Afterpulse is an online team-based third-person shooter. Now that probably makes you think of other shooters where you do things like aim your weapon and get shot. Unfortunately, neither of those things feature very heavily here. To say the gameplay is basic is putting it mildly.
Your mobility options are severely limited, presumably a hangover from the game’s conception as a mobile game. There’s no sprinting, crouching, jumping, or anything like that here. This naturally limits your options in combat and oversimplifies the gameplay.
When you get into combat, you only need to aim in the rough direction of your opponents whereby the game engages the most ridiculous auto-aim ever enacted. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s almost impossible to miss a shot provided the enemy is visible. Some weapons have built-in scopes, which can be utilised using the ZL, but the aiming is so generous without this that scopes only serve to narrow your field of view.
Combat basically boils down to you running around like a headless chicken whilst mowing down hordes of enemies, even when online. I regularly found myself finishing a match with around 30 kills and one death (sometimes none). I’m not sure whether this is a result of a low player base and lots of bots or whether playing on console provides a ridiculous advantage over a pool of players on mobile. Either way, it leads to an experience that is just dull.
Free-to-play, for only £17.99
Afterpulse on mobile is free-to-play. On Nintendo Switch, the game costs £17.99. The price of entry seems to include some additional unlocks and progression but given that I was able to finish every game with around a 30:1 K/D ratio, there isn’t much incentive to work to unlock additional gear.
There is a hefty amount of content to unlock, including a range of different weapons and cosmetics, but given how shallow the gameplay is, there is very little to differentiate between the handling of weapons.
Despite the price tag, the in-game economy is very much weighted like a free-to-play game, with various in-game currencies which can be earned or bought on the e-shop and of course loot boxes. The whole thing feels especially unsavoury when you’ve already paid a premium to get access to something freely available elsewhere.
Visually, Afterpulse is very bland. It could be mistaken for any generic shooter from the PS2 era, with character models and environments fairly simple and unremarkable. The resolution seems to be low, with edges showing significant aliasing. Menus are cluttered and seem unchanged from the mobile version, with everything based around a touch-screen setup.
The same issues can be found with the audio design, with generic and weak sounding weapons which provide very little feedback and little to differentiate. Guns sound more like a typewriter than the fire-spitting weapons of death that they should be.
How does it perform?
Despite running on considerably more powerful hardware than a lot of phones, loading times in Afterpulse are huge. The initial load takes well over a minute while searching for and getting into a game can sometimes take a few minutes. Matches are 4 minutes long, so it’s a real sickener when you spend more time loading up than actually playing.
Once you’re in a game, things run well enough, but getting there is a real chore. The game performs adequately in docked and handheld, but that’s to be expected when it has been designed to run on mobiles.
Level geometry seems to be an issue, with hitboxes on railings extending way beyond the edge of the model. This makes aiming over the edge of raised area almost impossible, as your bullets still collide with railings and fences despite your aim clearly being above them.
The game includes a single-player mode, which is billed as a training mode. This allows you to check out some of the levels playing against bots. There’s not a lot of depth to this as the bots are practically braindead. I found myself laughing at the bots as they wandered around aimlessly often ignoring me or shooting at the walls.
Afterpulse Review – Final Thoughts
If it wasn’t already clear, I didn’t enjoy my time working through this Afterpulse review. The game is basic and includes horrible free-to-play mechanics in a game that’s priced alongside lots of hefty and generous titles available on the e-shop. The movement and shooting mechanics are dull and smashing enemies with a 30:1 K/D ratio gets dull quickly.
The devs have designed the game so that your crosshair is offset to the right of your character. This means that you can peek around cover to your right and shoot at enemies, whilst you need to walk significantly out of cover to your left to get a shot off. Many third-person shooters allow you to change to offset on the fly to account for the cover you are behind, but here that option is inexplicably missing. This is just another bizarre design choice that adds to the pile of complaints.
- Might massage your ego with a ridiculous K/D ratio
- Gunplay is dull
- Load times are huge
- Free-to-play model shouldn’t be used in a paid-for game
The Switch is absolutely brimming with amazing shooters, and free-to-play ones at that. Afterpulse rears its head in an already saturated market and fails to offer anything to compete with the big boys. That it does so at £17.99 seems likely to make Afterpulse dead on arrival.