Trepang2 might have an odd name, but recalling the iconic FEAR, it’s also one of the best horror-shooters in a long time.
Don’t FEAR the reaper
The first-person shooter genre is a pretty wide-ranging one. Especially in modern times, there are a whole mess of sub-genres for fans to enjoy, focusing on different kinds of gameplay or aesthetics. But while we’ve got games that fit under the titles of movement-shooters and boomer-shooters, there’s been one class that’s been missing for a good long time.
That series brought together bloody survival-horror and hardcore first-person shooter action, and then bathed all of it in a creepy ‘horror movie’ tone. As a series though, FEAR ended in 2011 (if you don’t count the online game), and there’s really been nothing else like it to come along before or since. That’s to say, til Trepang2.
From Team17 Digital and Trepang Studios, Trepang2 is just about as close as modern genre fans will be able to get to the glory of having a new FEAR adventure. Actually, in some ways it’s even better, since it amps up the horror themes to encompass different branches of real-world monster lore, and quite honestly should make players feel like even bigger badasses too.
What is a Trepang anyway?
And now that that’s out of the way, we can dig into what Trepang2 is really about. Namely, super-soldiers and secret organizations.
Trepang2’s is a world where shadowy organizations work outside of the law, and manipulate events from behind the scenes. And it’s in that world that players are put into the boots of Subject 106. A super-soldier, imbued with the powers to slow time, and vanish from view for short bursts, 106 is being held by the Horizon Corporation.
Horizon is up to some very evil things, ranging from creating super-monsters and what are effectively zombies, to trying to harness the power of global locations replete with high-strangeness.
Some of what Trepang Studios has cooked up is wickedly cool too, especially if you’re into the paranormal. While not all of the game’s lore is, a good chunk is based in real-world paranormal stuff. But let’s get back to the plot, because I could go off on the periphery elements for a while.
Bottom line, 106 is freed by his former bosses, a military group called Taskforce 27. Once out, players (as 106) will invade other black-sites around the planet, battling with the likes of Horizon, as well as dangerous cults and more. And being that this world is rife with conspiracies and the supernatural, you best believe there are some twists and turns to be had in what’s a surprisingly cool (if not that deep) story.
One more thing too; make sure you find all of the drones throughout the game’s campaign if you want the ‘good’ ending.
It’s time for… action
As mentioned above, you have two super-powers at your disposal, and those lend themselves nicely to stealth. But you also have a healthy arsenal of guns, plus upgrades you can attain that do things like allow for the almighty guns-akimbo.
How you use all of that is totally up to you, as the game doesn’t really send you on missions that scream for full-frontal assaults or sneaking. If you prefer the latter method of attack however, you’ll likely find that your efforts will only be marginally successful.
Cloaking to enter a room, and then staying shrouded as you pick off bad guys will definitely work, but it’s really only a matter of time until one of your foes spots you, forcing you to go ballistic. Fortunately, and as I alluded to, you’ll be well equipped when that occurs. The gunplay is sublime in Trepang2, and when it’s combined with the slo-mo in particular, it’s damned near perfect.
You did find that there was a little bit of a learning curve with figuring out how to properly use 106’s special abilities. That basically only lasted part of the first level though. Once got up to speed, you found that cloaking and slowing time down nicely enhanced the ability to take out hordes of heavily-armed bad guys. And yes, even under heavy fire.
A dark tale… maybe a little too dark
The game’s maps are crafted to bring a level of realism into the action, set in down to Earth and even every day(ish) locations. Even in the more wild missions though, and there are a few of those, you’ll find elements of the mundane.
It’s a particularly effective design strategy, and contrasts Trepang2’s more outlandish horror nicely against those relatable settings. Yeah, it can look like a straight-up action game for most of a mission, but there’s something lurking in that same level that’ll haunt your nightmares.
Special effects are likewise terrific, and that goes for everything from the slo-mo effects to the 10k muzzle flashes that can be going off in the middle of a firefight, all of which is highlighted by a driving rock soundtrack.
For one thing, the enemies are not all that interesting. Most of the bad guys that you fight are standard ‘paramilitary’ types. Yes, they look good, but they also look exactly how you’d expect them to, from seeing basically the same guys in a hundred other shooters.
It’s also true though, that mowing down a couple dozen of those guys, and then finding yourself face-to-face with an otherworldly horror is a startling moment. While it can be quite effective, I’d have preferred Horizon to have some kind of cool uniforms for their troopers. Some kind of slick techno-suits would have been awesome instead of just black fatigues.
Trepang2 looks great darker, stunning even with its fantastic lighting, and I assume that’s what the developers were shooting for. But the thing is, I found it to be almost unplayable that way.
The absolute last thing you want to be doing, as you try to escape hordes of creatures pouring out of everywhere, is to be impeded because you couldn’t see that there was something blocking your way. And anyway, turning up the lights doesn’t really ruin the aesthetic if you don’t go too far with it.
Oddball name and all, Trepang2 is an excellent shooter that’s pretty easily one of my favorites of 2023. And the minor issues I had with it here and there are basically nothing compared to how great of a time it was to blast through. If you’re looking for a good horror shooter for the Halloween season, this one should fit the bill nicely.
A copy of Trepang2 was provided by the publisher for this review
Release date: June 21st, 2023
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS5, Xbox Series X|S
Publisher: Team17 Digital
Developer: Trepang Studios
MSRP: $29.99 USD
Trepang2 is one of the best FPS’ of the year. It’s loaded with action, cool super-powers, and looks phenomenal. Add to that a story that works in real-world lore about high-strangeness and conspiracies and you have a game that just plain rocks.