Running and Gunning With Sci-Fi Shooter Sprawl

Sprawl
originality
addictiveness
prettiness
Genre
Reviewed On
Steam (PC)
Available For
Difficulty
Intermediate
Publisher(s)
Developer(s)

Ever had one of those weeks that leaves you with an intense desire to shoot at some pixelated baddies? Me, too, which is why this week I’m looking at SPRAWL, and frankly, it’s a fast-paced game that scratches that itch, if you like twitch-based gameplay.

Plot Ahoy

Is plot really all that important with a first-person shooter? No, not really. However, SPRAWL takes its name, I assume, from the concept of urban sprawl as most of the title takes place in a dystopian megalopolis that gives Mega City One vibes.

Your character is SEVEN, who at one time was a highly trained soldier and is now devoted to overthrowing the junta, which is just as the word implies, the military government holding sway in SPRAWL. In order to achieve her goal, SEVEN must fight her way outside of the city and to the SPIRE where she will uncover great secrets impacting the world of SPRAWL.

Review Notes

When I say that the game gives me Mega City One vibes, I mean that developer MAETH has deliberately chosen a retro vibe, and the aesthetic really is great as is the soundtrack. In terms of gameplay, you really shouldn’t expect any surprises if you’ve ever dabbled in the FPS genre. SPRAWL does offer you the use of a katana, because of course it does. There’s also a decently developed parkour mechanic that creates some cool visuals. You will also find that SPRAWL strikes the same balance between power and resources with weapons upgrades that you’ve likely encountered elsewhere. Sure, you can upgrade to a sub-machine gun, but you should expect to grind through ammo like a kid through Christmas presents. The title does introduce a decent variety of enemies with different abilities that changes up the gameplay and keeps it interesting.

SPRAWL’s gameplay does place a serious emphasis on flashy finishing blows, which is no doubt why you have that katana. Using it to decapitate enemies grants you adrenaline, health, and drops. Of these, adrenaline may be the unfamiliar currency, though please note, you’ll need the health as SEVEN is definitely not a damage sink. Adrenaline is a key resource because it, among other things, establishes how long you can stay in bullet time, which is a mechanic that slows down gameplay for a bit.

Let’s talk about how necessary that mechanic is for a second. I’m not the biggest fan of twitch-based titles, and SPRAWL very much moves at a frenetic pace. SEVEN has to keep moving as the game seems to actively punish standing still. That’s, in part, why SPRAWL features the parkour mechanics because you’ve got to keep moving. As a result, you should see walls less as obstacles and more as additional surfaces from which SEVEN can do damage.

That sounds great, and sometimes, it is. Unfortunately, SPRAWL’s level designs make almost no sense. In a single level, you’ll go from fighting at street level to platforming to battling across roofs. Y’all, it’s a lot, and sometimes the title doesn’t really allow you to transition between these design elements gracefully. I’m also not overly wild about the tutorial. No, SPRAWL isn’t really trailblazing anything, but I’d really appreciate the opportunity to learn how the mechanics play out, especially given its near-requirement that I do everything on the fly, while sprinting up walls. That, however, may be a personal preference.

TLDR

You will burn through SPRAWL pretty quickly if you don’t find yourself dying frequently as it isn’t very long. I will note that there are some really strange audio choices the developers made that make playing on headphones unwise. Still, if you’re looking to spend a few hours blasting away some of your frustration and like fast-paced boomer shooters, SPRAWL should be on your radar. At just $14.99 on Steam, you could certainly do worse.

Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard

  1. A lot of SPRAWL’s characters remind me of some of the character designs from Jin Roh, if anyone else remembers that anime.
  2. Don’t blame me for the abuse of capitalization. That’s all on the developers.
  3. So. Much. Time. Falling.
  4. Please note, SPRAWL can get pretty buggy.
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