Serial Cleaners Preview – Stealth action that scrubs up well

Serial Cleaners Header

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. In-between the excitement that big year-ending parties bring and the fear that the Y2K bug is going basically wipe out civilisation as we know it, there’s time to reminisce on the year, the decade, the century that is drawing to a close. For the motley crew of serial cleaners, that means looking back on the past few decades of cleaning up murders, sweeping away evidence and, of course, dodging the cops.

Serial Cleaners is the sequel to the quirky stealth ‘em up antics of the similarly named 2017 game Serial Cleaner. As the name would suggest, Bob is now joined by a few colleagues. Learning from his solo antics in the early 1970s, he has assembled a crack team of specialists: the hacking specialist Vip3r, the athletic street artist Lati, and the more confrontational Psycho. I mean, he turns up with a chainsaw…

As the gang reminisces, you look back on their various careers and how they came to meet Bob. While you can choose the order of the missions and stories that you play through, the jobs they pulled will gradually reveal an overarching story that trickles through to one of the game’s multiple endings.

Serial Cleaners Bloody Mess

If you played the original, there’s sure to be some familiarity to how Bob approaches a job. He’ll have a handful of objectives — to grab the bodies and get them to a disposal point, pick up some key bits of evidence, and (of course) to pull out his vacuum cleaner to suck up the copious blood spatter — all while evading the rozzers coming to secure the scene.

The demo we played was set in a tight and compact apartment, showcasing all of Bob’s abilities and a more freeform ethos to the world design. Serial Cleaners aims to be a bit more systemic in the vein of the recent Hitman trilogy; guards will have keen ears drawn to your hoover-based antics, they’ll notice when you turn on loud music or switch off the lights, and if they happen to spot you while investigating, they’ll chase you down.

Of course, these are ways to drag the AI around the map and then evade them. You can lean on your ‘Cleaner Sense’ to highlight the things you need to know about, drawing the patrols one direction as you head another, and then slide on the blood slicks to get around just that little bit quicker.

Serial Cleaners Vip3r

Vip3r’s mission had a rather different tone to it, as she sought to prove herself to Bob. This time around it was a case of breaking into a morgue and identifying the bodies you needed to grab using the computer network. There was no blood to deal with, but plenty of mad-cap stealthy shenanigans as she hacks computers, remotely triggers lights, sneaks through vents and the like. She’s got recharging uses of her hacking ability and while there’s none of the interconnected hackability of Watch_Dogs, being the early 90s, it’s a nice thematic shift.

In both cases, it’s pretty easy to be spotted by the cops and guards, forcing you to run and hide to break their line of sight. You can end up cornered in a room, but if you manage to hop into a wardrobe, you can then burst out again and stun them when they get too close. It gets a bit daft sometimes, that’s that just makes it all the more fun.

If the gameplay has taken steps forward, the art direction has made giant leaps. Serial Cleaner had an angular pulpy art style that suited the 1970s setting very well, but as Serial Cleaners leaps forward in time, Draw Distance embraces the grungy, griminess of the setting with an art style that feels reminiscent of critically acclaimed CRPGs from their heyday and modern renaissance. With inspirations from gritty crime movies coursing through the narrative, they’ll be echoed through the soundtrack as well.

Serial Cleaners is out in just a couple of weeks on 22nd September, and I’m keen to play more, pulling out the hoover to scrub those crime scenes clean!

Written by
I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!