Ever since F.E.A.R. was released back in 2005, I've often wondered just what exactly the studio's pitch for the game sounded like. It was such a wild combination of genres that I'm surprised they were not escorted out of the room and labelled insane for proposing such an idea. John Woo meets the creepy ghost girl from Ringu? They must have been joking…
But F.E.A.R. proved to be no joke, flooding computer screens with fountains of blood as players blasted their way through its chaotic and often pants-wettingly terrifying campaign. It was so ahead of its time that it still holds up today, with its intelligent AI and lighting techniques proving to be nothing short of technical wizardry.
Trepang2, developed by Trepang Studios, seeks to finally scratch the itch that the original F.E.A.R. has left with us for so many years. It is a game that invites players to bask in explosions of skin, bone, and all of the icky stuff in between. It's as spiritual as a successor can be, whilst also offering enough of its own originality, helping Trepang2 to really stand out on its own.
The story kicks off with our voiceless superhuman protagonist, Subject 106, escaping from a facility to find himself trapped in a war between a private military and a shady corporation. It took me 8 hours to shoot my way through Trepang2’s story, including the various side missions that the game offers along the way.
Each level is significantly different, throwing players into a globe-trotting adventure that spills so much blood you could flood a small country with it all. One standout mission, in particular, takes place in an abandoned facility in Siberia, where Trepang2 dials up the horror with intense hallucinations, placing players into some very familiar and haunting liminal spaces.
Being the horror fanatic that I am, I was really hoping for Trepang2 to push the horror aspect more than it actually did. There are points where it shows promise, but these moments quickly fade out before they’ve even started to get going. There was a great chance here to really dive into the weird and unnatural corners of the game’s universe, but it never gives the player enough time to really soak it all in.
Thankfully, the shortcomings of its horror are quickly erased by its chaotic action. This is where Trepang2 really shines, offering gunplay that puts other modern shooters to shame. The combat flows at such an insane pace that it becomes a fun and engaging challenge to keep up with, especially at higher difficulties where players are forced to use their enhanced movement to their advantage.
Similar to 2020’s DOOM Eternal, each shootout feels like it has an actual rhythm to it, encouraging you to run toward the enemy rather than jumping behind cover. Combat feels like a frenzied dance, one that becomes more satisfying the longer you spend with it. The more energy you put into Trepang2’s combat, the more rewarding it feels to overcome each intense situation.
The biggest problem with Trepang2's campaign is that it is filled with countless collectible data logs that it heavily relies upon to give players more insight into the world around them. The problem with this is that in such a fast-paced and relentless action game, the last thing anyone wants is to slow the pace to a halt to read another collectible.
There are rooms within each level that contain multiple data logs, and it gets to a point where it just feels like the game relies too heavily on these to explain the plot to you. I love reading and soaking up as much lore as I can within games, but only if they seek to enrich the world around me rather than just becoming a device to tell the story through vague email conversations and journal entries.
The gunplay in Trepang2 is so relentlessly satisfying however that it becomes easy to forgive the poor storytelling. Every weapon in this game packs a gigantic kick, as enemies are sent flying from shotgun blasts and heads explode like water balloons from high-calibre rifle shots. SMGs and machine guns are littered throughout each level, with rare appearances from a minigun appearing from time to time ready to obliterate rooms and people into dust.
Playing as a supersoldier gives players the ability to slow time, allowing you to watch the chaos you create unfold in impressive detail. Watching an entire room erupt in splinters of wood and debris from a well-placed grenade as countless limbs fly across the screen never got old no matter how many times it occurred. It's during these moments that you would be forgiven for mistaking the game for a new entry in the F.E.A.R. franchise, and it is where its influence really shines the brightest.
Trepang2 also features an impressive soundtrack composed by Brandon McKagan. There's plenty of heavy metal material here for DOOM fans in particular to appreciate, but it also creeps into more subtle territory from time to time, offering a moody ambiance that accompanies the game's few horror sequences. One standout track in particular features 808s so strong that it sounds like it was ripped straight out of the trap subgenre. In fact, I wished that it dived deeper into the experimental and unnatural territory, similar to how F.E.A.R. created an awfully uncanny atmosphere from how strange its music sounded.
Between each mission is a central hub that players use to select their next mission, practice with their loadouts and customise their weaponry with unlockable attachments that are found throughout the game. It offers a nice change of pace from the relentless chaos that each mission brings, allowing players a chance to breathe before continuing the story.
Between main missions, the game offers a selection of side content for players to choose from. These are entirely optional levels, taking place in unique locations that are just as detailed as the main content. Unfortunately, they all become basic arenas for players to survive against waves of enemies. One side mission started promisingly, having players explore a creepy abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere, but after a while, it again turns into a wave-based shooter.
They can be a fun distraction for players to lose themselves in between each main level, especially with how good the gameplay feels, but they never seem to offer anything new or interesting. That being said, they are completely optional and do not affect the main story’s progress whatsoever.
As mentioned before the campaign is about 6 - 8 hours long depending on how much side content you choose to do. With the small size of the studio behind Trepang2, there is quite an impressive level of content on display here with a healthy supply of variety to keep players going. There's also a huge list of cheats for players to unlock, allowing players to experiment with infinite ammo and abilities as well as NPC reaction times and accuracy. Players can also find some miscellaneous options within this list including insane gore, clumsy enemies, and a mysterious spooky mode.
Trepang2 is an extremely impressive debut for Trepang Studios, one that shocked me with just how good it felt to play. There are some negatives to be found here and there, and the story fades out with an abrupt and disappointing finale, but all of these are instantly forgiven when the soundtrack kicks in, the bullets go flying and the bodies start piling up. There is a promising foundation built within Trepang2, one that is begging to be expanded upon in a sequel. It’s loud, punchy, and relentless. It brings with it some of the best action money can buy and is a must-play for any shooter fan out there.
Trepang2 is available on Steam.
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