Battle for the Sun

For years, Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing was indisputably the most laughably unfinished and amateurish game to ever see a commercial release. That all changed with the advent of Steam Greenlight, which opened the floodgates for dozens of contenders to the throne. The latest challenger is Battle for the Sun, a bewildering mess of sloppy, uncanny visuals, incoherent dialogue, and stagnant, barely playable gameplay. It’s also choked with bugs – not as many as Big Rigs, but then, “It’s not as buggy as Big Rigs” is literally the faintest praise I can give as a reviewer.

Battle for the Sun’s entire existence is so sloppy and flawed that I can only assume it was created to win a bet. The premise is every eight-year-old’s first idea for a video game (“Aliens are invading, go kill them”), the weapons are a banal roster of standard FPS guns, and levels are more dispersed than designed. The closest thing it has to a purpose is to be a Serious Sam-style classic shooter throwback, but the gameplay is so insipid and broken that any hopes of minimal-thought fun vanish during the first chapter.

The most ridiculous oversight is that nothing resets when the player respawns after death, so the game can actually be beaten using nothing but kamikaze tactics until everything but the player is permanently dead. Alternatively, some of the levels are so open that you can stick to the edges and sprint past every enemy, often without them even seeing you. This strategy isn’t entirely viable, however, because the remaining 50% of the levels consist only of coverless corridors that go on seemingly forever without a single deviation from the monotonous shooter gameplay.

Ironically, these mistakes are merciful in a way, because the game would be nearly impossible without them. Enemy shots all have unavoidable homing properties, and the near-total lack of cover will make sure players know it. Furthermore, when the health meter drops significantly, a slow-down effect kicks in…except the only thing it slows down is the player’s movement. This means that if you lose 75% of your health, you’ll inevitably lose the remaining 25. Lastly, switching to iron sight mode on most guns requires a laboured animation and occasionally positions the weapon at an irregular angle that actually makes it harder to aim.

Really though, nothing about the equippable arsenal works correctly. The grenades handle like they’re made of ice, and explosive weapons in general have such a massive invisible blast radius that using them anywhere but the largest environments is suicide. The shotgun’s default spread is so wide that the weapon is useless unless you use the iron sights, which turn it into a rifle that happens to shoot eight bullets at once. Meanwhile, the actual sniper rifle’s accuracy is perfect even without its scope, so wielding it feels like wielding a deadly laser pointer.

Battle for the Sun’s production values are perhaps even more embarrassing. Most glaringly, the characters all look and animate like lifeless puppets. This even applies to the first-person protagonist; the melee attack motion is so minute and indeterminate that the only reason I knew it connected is because of the glitchy blood splatter particle effect that zoomed up to the ceiling and disappeared. Bizarrely, one mission takes place in an impressively detailed (although still constrained and tedious) cavern that is so uncharacteristically competent that it was almost definitely a store-bought asset. Ditto for an enemy model that’s obviously and shamelessly a StarCraft Hydralisk.

Similarly, the decent soundtrack was likely purchased from another creator, while the remaining audio will make you wish they’d been. The guns sound limp, explosions are silent half the time, and every enemy makes an uncomfortable gurgling noise upon death, inexplicably accentuated by a second of slow motion and a dark scanline filter. Then there’s the shockingly bad voice acting, which would be a hurricane of memes if the game were less obscure. Between the tone-deaf actors, the headset mic-level fidelity, the script that reads as if it was written by someone who just learned English last week, and the confusing censorship of its own frequent profanity, it’s practically Murphy’s Law incarnate.

All of these aesthetic flaws are encapsulated in General Briggs, the most unintentionally hilarious and terrifying character I’ve ever witnessed. The protagonist (known only as Dylan) and the largely nonsensical story are obsessed with him, allowing plenty of opportunities for him to spout lines like, “I command you to die for our values” during haunting close-ups of his embarrassingly inadequate facial animation. Perhaps most strangely, despite being talked up as a war hero and veteran general, Briggs’ model is initially that of a man in his late twenties. That is, until the second mission, where he keeps the same model, but has poorly applied wrinkles covering his face.

Finally, like all “Worst Game of the Year” contenders, Battle for the Sun has more glitches than game mechanics. Glass structures still contain invisible barriers even after being shattered, characters and objects rest on air more often than ground, and at one point I was fatally crushed between an NPC and a wall. Finally, enemies occasionally drop to the ground after being shot, complete with death animation, only to get up ten seconds later and continue fighting. I honestly can’t tell if this is a bug or a feature, because I can’t think of a cause for the former or a purpose for the latter.

Battle for the Sun fails at every sector of game development. Its technical component is an incomplete joke. Its artistic component ranges from horrific to incomprehensible. Even its business component is unsavoury, thanks to its resale of others’ unaltered creations. I can only hope that any Greenlight votes it received were from trolls, and that no one is stupid enough to actually pay money for this abomination.