Well, well, well… it’s another cyberpunk inspired game, though firmly not in the camp of the high profile hot mess from the end of last year. It’s a shame that we can’t now take the genre name without thinking of overpromises and underwhelming delivery, because there’s such a wealth of intriguing ideas that can come from it. You only need to look at Observer and Cloudpunk to get a feel for how a good sci-fi narrative or interesting execution can bring something fresh and exciting. Foreclosed is probably the type of game that sits in with those – a mind-bending story of identity ownership and body modification in an always connected online future; coupled with a distinct presentation style that makes you feel like you’re playing a comic. In principle it sounds promising, though in practice there are some execution elements that could have done with keeping up with the mortgage payments.
Evan Kapnos is a man in trouble. He’s been foreclosed on and summoned to court to have his identity repossessed, leaving him with no life. With a chipset that’s now preventing him from interacting with society, even down to seeing what people actually look like, he’s no choice but to comply with the order. What should be a simple day’s attempt to plead his case though turns into a frantic fight for survival as mysterious entities begin to hunt him down. With a bit of guidance from an on-the-run CEO, and a realisation that his implants are more than they seem, he’s looking to turn the tables on the shadowy puppet masters attempting to ruin his life, and win back what he believes is his. Will he be able to survive long enough to uncover the wider plot? You’ll find out during a tale that’s part scary vision of a future where you don’t even own yourself and part interactive graphic novel, padded out with a standard third person stealth/cover shooter.
FORECLOSED’s initial hook is the brilliant comic book art style that sees you controlling Kapnos across faux panels around the screen. It’s a lovely implementation that lends a distinct character to the game. Interactive elements in the world seem organic without any glaring highlighting rings or button prompts until you’re near enough. It’s bold and bright with a typical cyberpunk palette etched with thick ink lines, and it’s enjoyable to walk through this future dystopia and see how the restrictions of Evan’s life leave him unable to use vending machines or walk down certain routes. There’s no doubting that’s a bleak vision really, despite the colour. The game manages to split itself into a couple of parts – this comic book navigation to tell the story, which includes semi-branching conversations; and stealth action sequences where it switches to a more familiar format. With what’s probably a 50:50 split of styles there’s enough to experience of both… not that you may want to.
Heading into FORECLOSED action sections is pretty good to begin with as it starts by teaching stealth basics and involves observing patrol routes to avoid detection, before moving on to show how it’s possible to overload enemies implants and knock them out, which is pretty cool. The downside is that the view shifts to a not quite isometric perspective and becomes partly fixed, so judging distance and whether you’re fully hidden behind cover can be a bit tricky from certain angles. None of the stealth parts are overly long, so a bit of trial and error isn’t a hassle, but enforced stealth with fixed cameras is never a good sign. At least it’s mainly a route to get you into a secure building to pick up a weapon and start unlocking implant upgrades so that full frontal combat becomes an option. Shooting enemies and clearing areas rewards with XP which converts into points to spend on enhancements for the gun and special skills that can be used in combat. It’s all linked to capacity within your implants though, and doing too much at once will cause them to overheat and leave you vulnerable, which is clearly a good mechanic for regulating special abilities. It never really becomes a factor though because the upgrades and abilities aren’t game changing enough to use maybe more than one or two out of the 12 that can be bought.
Unfortunately it’s in the shooting that FORECLOSED loses its shine. I can’t deny that the DualSense implementation is good – it really does feel nice with the trigger pull and feedback – but the controls are way too sensitive when it comes to looking around. On the default setting breathing on the right stick will cause your aim to shift off screen, and dialling back the sensitivity to its lowest setting doesn’t seem to change anything. There’s an auto aim function with only works about 20% of the time, and that’s with it turned up to maximum, so most combat sections are spent carefully moving an aiming cursor in the hope you’ll get a shot off before being killed. Death comes rapidly too, the AI are good shots with excellent hearing and vision and will take no prisoners. Cover becomes essential and it slows the pace of the game down quite a lot. Kapnos’ abilities do even the odds as you progress through the game, and assigning them to the face buttons is easy, though unfathomably they’ll get unassigned and you find yourself having to delve through the menu during a firefight to bring everything back up. Hardly the slickest of experiences.
Speaking of menus, there’s very little in the way of options during the game (there’s the ineffective sensitivity and auto aim only), so the obnoxiously loud audio cannot be altered without quitting and starting the whole campaign afresh. I have no idea why, but the default sound is about 3 times louder than anything else, and the music often drowns out the narrative elements too. At least there are constant subtitles to help you keep up. That’s a shame though as the voice acting is quite good when you can hear it. Evan is gruff and exactly what you’d expect from a man that’s about to lose everything, and the various characters you meet are very different from each other. It’s not overly clear if the dialogue choices do much more than gain further insight in the world or motivations of the antagonists, but at least it feels like you’re picking Kapnos’ personality and playing it as the inquisitive nice guy, or badass ex-soldier. He is surprisingly likeable as a lead and part of me thinks that there should have been less of the action and more of the comic book style story.
Once you’ve got your earplugs in and trained yourself to only move your thumbs a micron at a time, there’s some fun to be had. Mini-game type interactions pepper the levels, and whilst none are original they give a sense that gameplay is switching up. The inclusion of a Max Payne style dream maze near the end though does bring home the “seen it before” gameplay vibe. With collectibles that will add another layer to the story it adds exploration, and they can take some hunting for even if the levels seem quite confined. Sadly though it’s the shooting sequences that let FORECLOSED down, the controls are frustratingly sensitive and dying can be too frequent and out of your hands. Persevere and you’ll uncover the conspiracy and get to choose the ending, yet I can’t see everyone making it that far, and it’s not as if the runtime is much more than 5 hours. Maybe it’s just the PS5 version that’s problematic, and for that it could be worth trying a different platform, just don’t mortgage your identity to give it a go.
A PS5 review copy of FORECLOSED was provided by Merge Games PR team, and it’s available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Series X|S, Switch and PC for around £20 depending on platform.