A stealth-puzzle game based around rewiring the circuitry of buildings, Gunpoint is unlike anything else on the market. The game sees you take control of freelance spy Richard Conway just as he is launched out of his office window by his new trousers.
The trousers are actually Bullfrog brand Hypertrousers, a high tech gadget that gives the user the ability to jump to impossible heights and will be invaluable as you delve into the game.
Although the Hypertrousers are the only gadget you start out the game with, you’ll pick up many more as the game introduces you to new mechanics. Soon enough you’ll get the crosslink, a tool that allows you to rewire the circuitry in buildings to engineer yourself a way to your objective, and the wirejack, which will let you gain control of other (colour-coded) circuits via access panels dotted around levels.
These two items, along with your trousers, will be the basic tools you’ll need to work your way through the game’s storyline. You will, however, purchase more gadgets to help you as you play, such as a gun, the ability to smash through windows silently and the option to connect circuitry to guards’ guns. Some of these use battery power, which is replenished by picking up batteries scattered throughout the levels.[drop]Told almost entirely through pre-mission briefings from your clients, the plot isn’t really a deep web of intrigue. It may raise a little interest, but the real highlight of the setup for missions is the genuinely hilarious dialogue options you have available to you as the dry, sharp Richard Conway. This is perhaps enhanced by your clients’ responses, which are usually completely serious.
You can also choose to lie to your clients about your findings during missions, and even cooperate with one client against another if you so choose. These decisions don’t really affect the storyline beyond the immediate response you get, but it’s a nice touch that adds a little depth, with the dialogue remaining brilliant throughout.
Where Gunpoint absolutely excels, however, is with its gameplay. You are usually tasked with hacking a computer that’s locked away in a room and protected by guards. Thankfully, Gunpoint is set in a world where everything is controlled by electronics and computers, so you can rewire the levels as you see fit with the help of your trusty wirejack and crosslink.
Connect a light switch to a door and it’ll open the door instead of turning the light on. Connect a motion detector to a guard’s gun and it’ll shoot as soon as someone walks through the detector, possibly damaging any guards that are unlucky enough to be in the way.
The system’s deceptive in its simplicity, as you’ll need to not only find your way to your objective, but also to numerous access panels to seize control of other circuits and, optionally, find a hidden laptop or two for a little background exposition.
If you feel like getting a little more complicated you can, for example, connect a security camera to a door, then connect that door to the lights, and the light switch that was originally connected to those lights to another door.
This will cause the first door to open when the security camera sees you, meaning the lights will go off. With the room in darkness, the guards will attempt to turn the lights back on using the light switch, which will then open the next door, letting you sneak past them in the dark while avoiding the guard’s patrol.
Alternatively, you could simply smash your way into the building through a window, jump on every guard you meet, and beat his face into a bloody pulp if that’s more your thing.
Much like Monaco, it’s the planning involved with each level that makes Gunpoint come to life. Pulling off a mission without leaving a trace of your passing is every bit as satisfying as in any other stealth game, whether it’s Dishonored or Metal Gear.
There’s various enemy types you’ll need to make your way past, whether it’s by stealth or combat, in each level. The standard guard has a gun and exceptional aim, but can’t see in the dark and can be easily dispatched by jumping on him and punching him in the face. Enforcers have body armour, and will only stumble momentarily if you try and jump on them, while Professionals wear suits, can see in the dark and will shoot you even if you hold them at gunpoint.
You have plenty of options for dealing with each of these enemies, whether you want to get around them or through them. One of my favourite ways to take a guard out is to hold him at gunpoint and edge slowly towards him so he backs away until he falls out of a window.[drop2]This flexibility means that there’s multiple ways you can complete every mission, with a grade coming your way upon completion. It’s not too difficult to get an A+ on every mission, but it’s considerably more difficult to get ratings like Ninja (for silence), Gentleman (no violence) and Ghost (no witnesses), especially if you’re going for all of them. Add to this the game’s level editor that lets you create and share levels via a simple text file and you’ve got a game with a considerable amount of replayability that’s a real threat to your free time.
Personally, I had been looking forward to Gunpoint for months. The game clicked for me from the first time I saw the trailer and I knew it was going to be exactly the kind of thing I would enjoy. This isn’t too common, but it’s even rarer to see a game like this live up to my every hope.
I cannot see how Tom Francis (creator of the game who also happens to write for PC Gamer) could possibly have delivered any more. After three entire years of working on it in his spare time he deserves to see his hard work pay off, not only because he worked hard, but because the product of his labour turned out to be exceptional.