First person shooter? Abandoned streets of Chicago? Alien creatures? In comes Nether: The Untold Chapter, the latest in the franchise from Fredaikis AB. Acting as a sequel to both 2013’s Nether and 2014’s Nether: Resurrected, it feels like not much has changed.
The Nether series are, at heart, first-person online survival shooters. The player is placed in the environment armed with just a knife, and it grows from there. Killing enemies and finding cars and caravans to loot out in the open give you crafting materials to trade for higher grade weapons in the safezone. It can be tiring to go back and forth, but your first shotgun helps curb any negative feelings when you can blow off a Nether’s head with two shots. Just be careful not to get killed because you will lose everything and have to start again.
As for the gameplay, Nether: The Untold Chapter opens with what can only be described as a daunting menu screen which I elected to ignore and clicked on the big ‘Connect’ button instead. Luckily, this was the correct thing to do, and the game begins (after a rather long loading screen) by throwing you into a menu where you can customize your character and add perks and taunts.
Once you are happy with your character’s appearance and perks, you can start the game in a safezone. Once you’ve died, you get the option to choose between spawning in the safezone or the open world. Just in case you’re crazy enough to want that. This is where the game falls short for the first time. There is no tutorial. Nothing to tell you where to go or what to do, as such. I was running around the safezone for a good five minutes before I figured out what task the game wanted me to carry out. And to make things that little bit more nerve-wracking and panic-inducing, in less than a minute a warning flashed up on screen: “A Nether Surge is underway.” Oh, boy….
Leaving the safezone for the first time was genuinely terrifying, and one of the areas Nether: The Untold Chapter excels is the sound design. The Nether are roaming free and are not always easy to see, but fear not as you can always hear them. Or fear A LOT. I know I did. With a fantastic use of stereo speakers and panning, you can always place where the Nether are just by listening. The first time you hear the moaning and groaning of a Nether, nerves are heightened and fight or flight kicks in. The crouch button comes in super handy when trying to watch the enemies for any patterns, except for one.
You see, the Nether glow blue and disappear into the ground. No sign of it anywhere. Then you hear a growl in your right ear, turn quickly and get swiped with sharp claws as it materializes behind you. Let's just say it was definitely 'flight' that time. As with most horror games, you get accustomed to the scares very quickly and the Nether go from a threat to a hindrance as they get in the way of your missions.
There are a couple of things with Nether: The Untold Chapter that I don't understand. The strangest being a hunger bar, which seems a bit useless to me. I guess it's to add another survival aspect, but I don't get the need. There's enough surviving to be done without having to worry about scavenging for food and water, especially when the looting is spotty at the best of times. I looted a number of cars that had nothing in them, which I'm not sure is intended.
The graphics in Nether: The Untold Chapter really are nice to look at, and it feels like the developers have poured a lot of time and effort into making the environments look as good as they do. The Nether themselves are just not great. They all seem to use the same animation designs, and are more a formless blob than anything. And the de-materializing to re-materialize near you becomes the most tedious and time-consuming mechanic of all. Most enemies take three hits to kill but they disappear after one, so fights take three times as long as they should.
Nether: The Untold Chapter isn’t a bad game by any means, but it's also not perfect. I’m glad to find, however, that updates are constantly being made available that will hopefully entice new players to join and keep playing. Best case scenario, they add in a mechanic that means you don't have to start over each time you die, whether it's a box to save some gear, or the option to respawn. Worst case, they fix the hit box on enemies, making them fiendishly difficult to kill, make them spawn a lot closer together to overrun the player, or even add a new, never before seen Nether.
Please, please let it be the first!