Dust off your poncho, break out the chewing tobacco, hit play on the video up there and maybe, just maybe we’ll have captured some of the essence of PixelMetal’s debut title; Sombrero. If you hadn’t figured it out yet, Sombrero is a local multiplayer shooter in the style of a Spaghetti Western (we figured our choice of music was a giveaway). A local multiplayer doesn’t play so well on your own, so I grabbed Arkworthy and played western music at him until he agreed to play with me. So the two of us saddled up and rode into the sunset together. Alternatively we booted up the preview build and in a fit of competitive rage ended up waking most of South Wales with our expletives.
Even though the gate is still in the development stages, the preview build is stylistically stunning. The game describes itself as a spaghetti Western and everything about it confirms this. The soundtrack created by Bubble Pipe Media is reminiscent of shoot outs in a dusty, wild west town, the characters all look like they wouldn’t be out of place in a Clint Eastwood movie (albeit with an element of 70s Sci-fi thrown in to explain the robots in cowboy hats) and the maps are very much a product of the genre. Overall the presentation is excellent, and considering the game is still very much in development, extremely impressive.
As this is a preview only two of the game modes were available to us; Loot and Deathmatch, with three different maps for us to piss about on. The menu showed that there are more game modes yet to come; Capture the Flag, the intriguingly named ‘Banditos’ and a Training mode which we will fall upon with glee, as, if nothing else, this experience taught us that both Arkworthy and myself suck ass at shooter games. (No seriously we really suck.) We did, however, have access to a wide range of characters, ranging from your standard Wild West cowboys and tropes (the mysterious stranger, the unlucky gambler etc) to homages to 70s sci fi and gaming in general (there’s a controller in there, a robot in a cowboy hat, a spaceman and so on). There’s also a wedge of cheese done up as a gunslinger which at first made me hesitate as I’m not one for the lolsorandom sense of humour and look it’s a piece of cheese shooting you, how random is that?! But actually the game doesn’t take itself seriously at all and the tongue in cheek style is evident from the start, so the random assortment of characters is genuinely amusing rather than a levered attempt at being kewl. Aesthetically the characters are different, but that’s where the differences end and each character plays in the same way. On one hand individual character power ups would add greater variety to the game, but on the other given the sheer number of characters it could potentially convolute what is an effectively simply system. In any case I was quite happy playing as a deceased gambler, not least because were I living in the Wild West that is exactly how I would end up, after winning another hand of poker with six aces.
Given the simplistic nature of the gameplay; you choose your characters and you shoot each other until someone wins, we were surprised at how differently the two modes available to us played as on paper it looks like there would be little difference. In Deathmatch you win by being the player with the most kills, in Loot you win by being the player with the most money, an end surely achieved by shooting the other players anyway? You’d think so but actually we found the two very distinctive. In Loot mode, as well as money bags to grab there are campfires that each player can take control of by simply running over them. These act as multipliers to the bags of loot; the more campfires you control the more money each bag of loot gives you. It was about halfway through the second round of our third game that we realised that we weren’t going after each other at all, we were so focused on the campfires and the loot that shooting each other became a secondary concern. Killing the other was something done either out of convenience when we happened to pass each other (and actually landed a hit, I mentioned how absolutely god-awful we are right?) or out of necessity when we wanted to nab the others’ campfires. Campfires return to neutral when you die so there is a definite reason to kill each other in the Loot mode, but the objective was certainly focused on the loot itself rather than trying to take our opponent down.
The opposite was true in Deathmatch, which as the mode suggests is entirely based on how many times you can kill each other. In our case, we died more often from environmental damage or our own bullets ricocheting off the scenery rather than the other’s gun, but thankfully suicides you bring upon yourself don’t count towards your enemy’s kill score. Good thing too, as I had a real problem blowing up TNT, destroying the floor I was standing on and falling to my spike related death below.
Deathmatch play is in a word; frantic. Power ups to your guns would be a welcome addition to this mode and the Sombrero website does indeed say that these will eventually make an appearance. We feared that the gameplay would allow one player to gain an immediate advantage by simply blowing away another as soon as they respawn, respawn points are random and usually far away from your enemies. If they aren’t you have a short period of invulnerability when respawning preventing you from being repeatedly blown away without being able to gain a foothold. However, this period of invulnerability does mean that you can have at your opponent without fear of reprisal if you are lucky enough to respawn next to them. It’s also possible to kill yourself using the environment and as there is no consequence to death, actually gaining a brief advantage by using your momentary shield to run headlong into the enemy. This does of course rely a lot on the luck of respawning near another player, but on one map in particular it happened fairly frequently. **[UPDATE]** At this point in the proceedings we would like to take the time to say that since this article was published the dev has actually re-coded the game so that this issue doesn’t occur! The power of the press people, that or the fact that Nick at PixelMetal is making a game for the enjoyment of gamers and actually cares about feedback. Who knew?!
The differences in the maps, though is pleasantly surprising. We only played on three of them; Jones’ Graveyard, Clampett’s Hideaway and The Southern Ruins, and where we were expecting aesthetic changes but nothing else we found distinct differences between the three. Jones’ Graveyard has a destructible environment and environmental dangers, so instead of shooting your opponent you can blow up the ground beneath their feet and watch them fall to their death (you can also do that to yourself if you’re not careful). Clampett’s Hideaway features no destructible elements but instead has a large amount of ladders that require climbing in order to reach the various levels while The Southern Ruins has water that can kill you if you fall in and your bullets ricochet off the surfaces making you more likely to kill yourself than each other.
In terms of gameplay the controls are, like the rest of the game, very simple. The keyboard controls are currently in development but are very comfortable for actually playing the game (less so for navigating the menu) whereas the gamepad controls aren’t what you would expect with RT being used for jumping rather than shooting. But then this only takes a moment to get used to. As players move away from each other on the map the camera zooms out leaving your character indistinguishable from your opponents. The potential issue here has obviously been noted and there is a unobtrusive, coloured arrow for each player pointing out their character at all times. When the camera zooms out to its furthest you will be grateful for these arrows.
Just as an aside, something which really has no bearing on the game at all but something which I quite liked, is that when you win the win text is different each time. In Loot you win with [x] amount of dollares or dineros or cash etc, in Deathmatch you win with [x] amount of kills or takedowns and so on. It’s just a small thing, a very minor detail that has no real significance but I really liked it as part of the spaghetti western make up and thought it showed real attention to detail.
To finish up then, Sombrero is thoroughly enjoyable, even in its earliest stages of development and so shows a great deal of promise. We’re very much looking forward to the finished product, as it looks like it can only go from strength to strength, now we just have to find two more, if not friends, then at least randoms off the street to play with us so we can enjoy the full local multiplayer experience. Now go and read our interview with the developer, momma’s watching her wild west themed stories.