Dec 02, 2023

Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance Of The Slayer Review

How do I begin a review of Slayers X? This boomer shooter/retro FPS would be judged harshly if taken at face value, but the layers and backstory behind this new game by indie publisher No More Robots and developer Tendershoot (Jay Tholen) the work of that for what's intended to be, might be actually a good game.

Maybe we should start at that point. Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance Of The Slayer is, in-universe, a creation by one Zane Lofton, who had this unpublished video game he made back as a teen in the late 90s with another friend, and decides to release it now. And this is not just some Zane, but "ZANE_ROCKS_36", a Hypnospace user you might have encountered in Hypnospace Outlaw. But he's not just a character, he's out there on Twitter these days, and has even given interviews on other gaming sites. Wild.

Apologies for breaking the kayfabe a bit with this, but essentially Slayers X is a Hypnospace Outlaw spin-off based on the creation of an in-game character. It's an FPS designed to look like a 90s boomer shooter because it's time-appropriate like how Hypnospace Outlaw brought out the aesthetic of late 90s internet. And its many design choices, from crude to edgy, stem from the mind of a teenage edgelord from that era.

With that all out of the way, is Slayers X any good? Surprisingly yes.

Slayers X looks awful. Amateurish in some parts. The 3D models when the in-game cutscenes play are a nightmare, with even more horrifying animation.

Which is to say, since the intent is to create that aesthetic which is now horribly dated by today's standards of CG and 3D modelling, they did a fantastic job creating that look.

And it's not just that. The heavy dithering, muffled and compressed audio, and terrible voice acting. It all adds up to the experience of playing a supposedly janky FPS made in the 90s.

In particular, it riffs off Duke Nukem 3D, complete with an egomaniac of a protagonist. Sort of. Zane is all good about toilet humour and tremendous gore, but doing the "happy-slappy"? Nah man, that's gross stuff. Appropriate, given his age at the time.

The world has a mix of 2D sprites and 3D objects. Enemies and items are sprites which always face the same way as you even if you rotate around them (there are multiple sprites that cover different angles so that's cool). Enemies spill blood, gore and produce gibs on death. Some objects can be interacted, so there's always a reason to go to the toilet. Mirrors work, unlike most big-budget games.

The soundtrack is cool if you’re into punk and metal music. We get to hear more music from the in-universe band Seepage. And yes, that one song you heard from Hypnospace Outlaw is in Slayers X. The music is actually dynamic, it escalates and de-escalates depending on if there are enemies around. Zane quips and the quips are lame (but in an endearing way, look at this dude trying his best to sound cool but didn't quite land there). But the enemies cackle and cry which makes them feel slightly terrifying.

And it would be remiss not to make note of the many, many spelling errors. As someone who speaks English as a second language, it gives me a kick out of seeing a presumably native speaker struggle with this nonsense of a language. But it's also real enough that it made me do a double take if it's an actual spelling mistake or if is just American English.

"Glass Sharts" seems very believable but it could be a spelling mistake, or a pun given the game is full of shit. Like literally. From piles of poo being littered to enemies made out of sentient litter.

Slayers X looks rough and that's by intention. I don't like it so subjectively it's bad. But is it objectively bad if the brief was to make it look bad?

Unlike Hypnospace Outlaws’ wild wild west of the Internet aesthetic, which has a lot of people look back with fond memories, Slayers X's aesthetic choice is too specific and personal to have that same universal love. Heck, I would believe if it Zane looks at all this and calls this cringe.

Just to keep our game review scores consistent, I’m going with Slayers X's presentation being objectively bad, but the devs should be proud of the work of capturing this specific look, however dated and cringe it may look today.

In Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance Of The Slayer, you play as Zane, part of the X Slayers (but isn't the title say Slayers X and not X Slayers?). The Psyko Syndikate has decided to attack the X Slayers, and Zane has to use his arsenal of weapons, and unlock his Hackblood powers, to take them down.

Gameplay wise, it's a boomer-shooter through and through. Plenty of different weapons to blow up enemies. Plenty of enemy types that attack differently, and figuring out which weapon works best against what enemy, while making good note of how much ammo you can spare, is the name of the game here. Back peddling against an onslaught of weak-but-numerous melee enemies. Dodging projectiles from range enemies. Suprisingly tough enemies that appear halfway through the game that soaks up too many damage and do a bunch more. The usual suspects.

And at that, Slayers X feels competently made. Like, damn Zane, I know you can hack but you can program a game this well.

Seriously, the moment-to-moment gunplay is great stuff. It helps that the weapon arsenal, despite being all in your usual boomer shooter archetype, is well designed. Your shotgun in the game the Glass Blasta (or however it was spelt in-game) uses the aforementioned "Glass Sharts" as ammo, and you gain that by smashing windows found in the level. The Sludge Launcher shoots a lobbed projectile that deals splash damage, so it's good in crowds. But if your aim isn't good enough, it's still worth using for the extra ability to spawn rats, which are friendly, which will deal damage to enemies on your behalf. Hackblood doesn't make sense early on, but once you unlock its full power you’ll be glad Zane is a powerhouse of an X Slayer.

On Normal Gamer difficulty, Slayers X ramps up its difficulty rather nicely. The first few levels are easy enough, but by the time you see werewolves shooting rockets you’ll be more conscious of your limited ammo and mortality, forcing you to pay more attention and play smarter.

And with the tools available, the game becomes more fun as you find satisfaction in surviving an encounter whilst draining the least resources as you can get by.

I’m surprised it doesn't feel janky. I’m no boomer shooter expert, though, but from an untrained casual player I feel the gameplay's rock solid. A gem, even.

The maps are decently sized, and for the most part you do go through a linear, critical path. But there are secrets to find and discover, like any good FPS of its time. Some are really obscure though, I accidentally dropped into a hole and thought the game was bugged that it didn't respawn me back up there. Only for me to accidentally find the developers’ room. There are also secret bosses.

For better or worse it is designed like an FPS of its time, and sometimes that means getting lost and not sure where to find the next key card. You can consult a map once you find one to get your bearings, but other than that, if you got lost, then you’ll be lost for a while until you bump into the thing that you need to progress.

Still, Slayers X absolutely slays it with its gameplay. It understands the appeal of a boomer shooter that even a non-boomer-shooter enjoyer can appreciate.

Slayers X is a short game. With its handful of levels you can finish the game under 5 hours.

Don't expect anything extra. What you see is what you get.

But at least the levels all feel unique and imaginative. You’re not going through the same hallways of doom over and over. You’ll be visiting the sewers, a budget shopping mall, an arcade, a local fair and other normal and maybe not-so-normal places in Zane's quest to stop the Psyko Syndikate.

I love the idea of Slayers X as a thing, the layers on in-jokes here is astounding. But since I don't grow up playing FPS games, my familiarity with this genre is entirely thanks to my healthy consumption fo Civvie 11 videos, so I was unsure if I would have enjoyed this game personally.

Yet I did. Even with the gross fart and fecal jokes, its edgy aesthetic and all its gameplay got me right and proper. It clicks rather quickly and before I knew it I started bunny-hopping (or at least I like to think I was doing that by timing repeated jumps continuously) around the map and circle-strafing around enemies switching to the right tool for the job.

And its relatively short playtime works in its favour. I don't think I can stand 20 hours worth of poop jokes, but under five, with this solid of a shooter? That's a good time (even better if it's without the poop jokes but that's just me.)

Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance Of The Slayer is a competent shooter that successfully evokes the good and bad of a first-person shooter made in the late 90s. Its dated presentation is backed up by great moment-to-moment gunplay and fascinating levels.

It's not an easy recommendation to anyone, but if you stumble upon this game on Game Pass and decide to give it a shot, you might be pleasantly surprised by how high-quality this low-quality-looking shooter is.

You can't polish a turd. But what if underneath the turd is a polished gem? That's Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance Of The Slayer.

Played on PC. Review code provided by the publisher

You can't polish a turd. But what if underneath the turd is a polished gem? That's Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance Of The Slayer.