Uncovering The Procedural And Secretive Wars Of Hollowpoint

Hollow point bullets, rounds designed to expand upon impact and produce larger and more horrific wounds, have been banned for use in warfare for well over a century, even as they’re still readily available and in use outside of such a specific context. The far flung future, a dystopian vision of the 22nd century in which mega corporations have come to rule the world in the wake of the last great war, isn’t too concerned with this modern day reality.

These corporate factions are not officially at war, but they are fierce rivals and would rather stab each other in the back to gain the upper hand, using paid mercenaries and the thin veil of plausible deniability. “Oh, your warehouse blew up last night?” they say, “Nothing to do with us, mate.” Your existence denied, your actions disavowed, you take on the role of a small mercenary organisation who engages in these secretive operations regardless.

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In Hollowpoint the run and gun action takes place on a 2D plane with directional aiming, but you also have the ability to aim and shoot with a reticule at enemies that are heading your way from the 3D depths of the scene. It’s a trick which you might know from games like last year’s Counter Spy, but while in that game you had to attach to cover to look into the background, here you can do it at any point. Admittedly, firing from cover will almost always be preferable, giving you a slight degree of zoom into the background.

Either way, it effectively turns each room into a shooting gallery, and with four player co-op an option, you can imagine the sheer weight of gunfire that could be flying around on screen when it all kicks off. Playing on your own though, you only have one operative under your control at any given time, which makes picking the right agent for the job important to get right. You can, however, switch operatives on the fly and adjust to the kinds of enemies in front of you.

That’s not something that you’ll necessarily be able to predict, as missions are all procedurally generated and dynamic, taking layouts, rooms, backgrounds, enemies and even objectives from a catalogue of hundreds and spinning them into hundreds of thousands of combinations. Admittedly, these are all in a relatively dull and generic industrial zone right now, but Ruffian are still at the pre-alpha stage, and Paradox published games are well known for being expanded upon after release.

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A major part of the game is how you advance your operatives and build your mercenary organisation from a dynamic duo to a much larger fighting force. It’s not just picking different guns, abilities, power ups and armour and sending them into battle, but each earns experience and has a tech tree of upgrades that spans over 90 nodes. It could be that you upgrade the character in such a way that they can better manage the recoil of the machine gun, and makes it easier for you to keep the cursor trained on your target. Picking one particular node might block off another option though, thereby pushing you to create more and more specialised characters in particular styles of play, while still keeping that breadth and variety within your organisation as a whole.

You’ll have plenty of tricks up your sleeve in terms of the tech that you can use, from turrets to shields and full team buffs (within a certain range), but so do the enemies. Shield drones will follow the enemy troops around, and you’ll have to either drop the shield through brute force or run through the energy field to deal damage from within. Similarly, healing drones will keep the enemy topped up with health, while we witnessed a battle with a large helicopter-sized enemy, that brought hails of machine gun fire down on the two players and went on strafing runs.

The look of your operatives is up to you as well, but armour is thankfully cosmetic, rather than having specific stats that would see you pigeonholed into looking one particular way. These come from drops within the asset packs that you buy using the in game currency that you earn. So alongside things like guns, there will be pieces from the four armour sets in the game, which you’ll be able to mix and match and find in different colours and patterns to work towards a look that you want.

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Randomisation is obviously a key part to Ruffian’s plans to build something with real longevity for the player. They outlined a gameplay loop of playing, earning, purchasing, upgrading and then playing once more, progressively getting better and better without a true end in sight. It’s a kind of system that we see playing out in some of the biggest and most popular games out there right now – well, most played, at any rate.

Of course, that can only really be augmented by adding co-op play into the mix, and it means nothing to have sweet looking armour if you can’t complete the missions. Hollowpoint will very much be playable when taking a lone operative into a mission, but the four player co-op feels like it’s the real focus here, some of the randomly generated missions starting to get prohibitively difficult to deal with on your own. You’ll be able to pick and choose something that’s right for you by viewing a mission graph before going in, to sneakily preview the lay of the land, but you will need to call in back up eventually.

While Ruffian were more than happy to recognise that plenty of this has been done before by other games, it’s a sign of their confidence that they can acknowledge this and then go on and show that they’re aiming higher. There’s the devilish looking gameplay loop that they envisaged, which combines randomised weapons and loot with randomised missions for a constantly shifting game. Certainly, those who have enjoyed those similar looking games in the past should keep a beady eye out for this one.

This preview came through attending PDXCon 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden, for which travel and accommodation provided by Paradox Interactive.

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2 Comments

  1. Co-op, you say? Looks good. Frenetically so. :-)

    • The trailer kind of sensationalises it a bit, picking the more action packed sequences, but yeah, it’s looking good for co-op.

      There’s that smart thing of letting you roam as you wish, but you get the XP from a kill if you’re close enough together, to encourage that style of play.

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