You may already know something about Bedlam as it’s based on a book by Christopher Brookmyre. Packed with pop culture references it featured a chap waking up in an old Doom-style shooter he used to play in his youth. The book followed him as he made his way through multiple familiar game worlds and different gaming genres.
The game follows a similar premise, but puts you in the shoes of a different character for some reason. This gives the writers an excuse to come up with additional dialogue, which often falls a little flat if I’m honest and may even cause a few eyes to roll. What we’re really after though is an experience of playing through some classic genres akin to the experience in the book.
The game focuses on the FPS genre, so don’t expect to be racing around any futuristic cities in flying cars or anything like that. Starting off in the purposefully fugly-graphics of Starfire you’ll have time to adjust to the old-school shooting mechanics that lack the ability to aim down the sights of a weapon, but you can at least look around in any direction, a luxury missing in gaming’s earliest shooters.
After zapping a few Strogg-like foes, you’re whisked away to a World War II setting, and are gifted the ability to look down the sights. Well, the camera zooms in a bit more. It’s here that the game’s rough edges start to lose their charm as it becomes apparent with each transition into a new era that this is a relentlessly ugly game. But hey, that’s staying in with the theme of the book right? Well, up to a point yes, but well, you can see the screenshots.
Lego vomit visuals would be more acceptable if the controls and gunplay weren’t similarly awful. By the time you get to WWII, you’ll be losing all patience as your shots miss from point blank range or headshots only register half the time. You’ll have more luck with the slapdash melee stab.
The WWII levels are particularly frustrating as the map icons pointing you towards objectives seemingly take a break until the end, meaning you’re wandering around an indentikit level for ages trying to work out where the hell you’re going while Nazis shoot you through walls adjacent to the window they’re supposed to be stood by. Later on, you’ll be pegging it around snow-dusted islands being chased by RC-sized tanks and choppers while a wall of ‘corruption’ eats away at the level while once again you try to work out which route you’re supposed to be taking.
It’s not all bad though. Some of the references will raise a chuckle and there are a few clever retro arcade levels that put you inside games like Pac Man or Space Invaders from an FPS perspective. Pac Man is particularly amusing as you need to look up to see the reflection off ‘the glass’ above to see where you are in the maze. The Quake III Arena-esque level is amusingly knowing of online whiners too. At the end of the day though, it’s a shooter game that sadly never gets the shooty bits right.
- Occasionally funny
- Amusing references for retro gamers
- Modern games are much better now
- Aiming is terrible
- So many solid ‘hits’ ignored
- Painful to look at
The Short Version: A great idea executed poorly. £15.99 on PS4 is a big ask for a shoestring budget shooter that handles far worse than the games of yesteryear it seeks to emulate. Nostalgic retro FPS fans would be better off spending the money on a copy of the book.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox One | PC