It’s a tale as old as time: some cult is doing spooky stuff out in the backwoods and you’ve gotta take care of the problem. In CULTIC, however, your method of shutting them down is a lot more, uh, murder-y.
CULTIC is inspired heavily by old-school first-person shooters like Blood and other Build Engine classics. That’s not surprising given that 3D Realms is publishing the game, of course. But sole developer Jason Smith brings that retro mentality into the modern age while paying homage to FPS legends of yore.
We’ve seen a resurgence in nostalgia for these so-called “boomer shooters” recently. (Trust me, I’m not using that term proudly.) They’re commonly associated with gritty pixel aesthetics, fast shooting action, and blood and guts galore. CULTIC has all of that in spades, and it’s a damn good time.
A cultic nightmare awaits
In CULTIC, you’re going up against (what else?) a cult. As a disgraced detective formerly on the case of a kid abducted by the cult, you take it upon yourself to infiltrate their base of operations and stop whatever it is they’re planning. It’s a simple story, and like many retro shooters, it’s more about the gameplay, anyway.
And what awesome gameplay it is. CULTIC runs on a modern engine inspired by the movement and action of classic Build Engine titles. So as you’d expect, the action is frantic and the combat is intense.
Thankfully, you’ve got a decent selection of weapons to keep the tide of battle on your side. You’ve got your standard pistol, rifle, and shotgun, but also a bevy of specialty weapons such as a scoped sniper rifle and flamethrower. Upgrading each one of them unlocks even more power, and you’ll be blasting the heads off of deranged cultists in no time.
Under cover of darkness
With ammo plentiful and firepower abound, you might think you’re an unstoppable killing machine. And you certainly are capable, but the cult is as well. From your average armed cultists to the monsters they’ve summoned, there are plenty of enemies standing in your way.
The levels in CULTIC are sprawling, linearly designed but expansive and vast with plenty of areas to visit on the way to your destination. Each map balances wide open areas where you can feel plenty exposed and tight corridors where there aren’t many places to hide.
And being a Build Engine-esque title, there’s a number of secrets to find as well. Travelling off the beaten path is worth it to find some extra resources. Just make sure your platforming skills are up to snuff, as it’s easy to slip and fall to a gruesome fate.
Guts and grime
There’s something to be said for old-school shooters and their attention to atmosphere. CULTIC follows this trend with a dark, grungy and grimy aesthetic that feels right out of the 90s. With crunchy weapon sounds and a primarily red and brown color scheme, it creates a perfectly macabre and dirty environment.
That’s not even mentioning the excellent pixel art. Emulating the art style of old Build Engine, the character sprites and environments are built with detailed sprites and textures. My favorite might be the explosion and fire effects after you throw dynamite or Molotiv cocktail; they really deliver the impact.
And never fear: if you’re a fan of blood and guts, CULTIC has you covered. It actively encouraged me to go for headshots whenever possible. Not only does it clear enemies out quicker, it leads to some awesome carnage.
CULTIC’s first chapter is a blast
In the end, while it may wear its influences clearly on its sleeves, CULTIC still stands triumphant against a sea of retro-tinged shooters. The frenetic gameplay, awesome weapon selection, moody atmosphere, and engrossing levels all add up to a blood-pumping, thrilling adventure.
For the three to four hours this first chapter takes to beat, it’s a constant joyride all the way through. We can’t wait to play more.