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G String is like Half-Life 2, except that I like it

Bach to the future

Old school shooters are still in vogue and that's basically a good thing. But I wonder where it'll lead.

G String might offer a clue. As well as having possibly the worst name in history, it's a strange sort of throwback to the early/mid 2000s, an era you might, if you had to say these things for a living, call "middle school". I'm surprised at how refreshing I found that.

Comparing it to Half-Life 2 is inevitable. Not only does it run on the Source engine, but it has practically everything you'd expect. Light physics puzzles. Riot cops. Underwhelming weapons. Turrets you can defeat by picking them up and putting them in a corner until they learn to behave. It even has the infinite bomb crates, and your very first 'weapon' is telekinetic powers that fill in for the gravity gun. Mercifully, there are none of the interminable vehicle parts, nor is it full of NPCs who fall over each other to tell you how amazing you are. I disliked Half-Life 2 a lot (invite defeat by fighting me), but I like G String.

A hallway in G String, the lighting yellowy green. Some kind of large piece of circular stained glass is propped against one wall. There is a patchwork of different coloured, patterned rugs on the floor

It also doesn't have quite the motivation it really ought to in the opening hour or so. You're a test subject in somewhere when... something happens. Then you escape because of reasons, climbing and running and jumping and fighting through filthy tenements and cramped urban infrastructure on your way to... somewhere. It's not clear at all. But those environments are positively dripping with detail. The occasional loudspeaker adverts and propaganda broadcasts aren't subtle but they sell the atmosphere along with the murky ambience, creepy robots, and fantastic graffiti, piles of art and debris and garbage.

The downside of going all in on atmosphere with little motivation is that you only need to get stuck for a minute before losing momentum. It's also in sore need of a directional damage indicator. But once you're a way in, you'll get a feel for how it likes to hide the path, and acclimatise to the Old Way of slightly greasy first person stunt jumps. It's got some of those old trial and error frustrations, and it's super linear in a way that the maze-based old school weren't. But it's also got that sense that you're making your own progress by discovering the path forward yourself, rather than being dragged around by an NPC or having markers forcibly tattooed on your eyeballs. Middle school, you know?

An outdoor shot from G String. There's a large ship in the sky, which is pink transitioning to orange and yellow. The floor is littered with different bits of circular scrap metal

It's a shame that you don't really get to run around the kind of open areas that, say, EYE Divine Cybermancy indulged in with the same engine. It makes sense that you're crammed into tiny spaces most of the time though, with exceptions mostly being areas you're harried across under fire. It feels like the world around you is huge, but you mostly see it only vertically as you scrabble through the decaying hell city in the midst of an apparent revolution that might mean little better than what you're running from. It's a mood, innit. Do I miss that era? I didn't think I did, but G String has got me rethinking that.

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