Gamescom 2019 kicked off today in Cologne, Germany, and there I got a chance to go hands-on with the upcoming sequel to Budget Cuts (2018), the cheeky stealth assassin adventure from the Stockholm-based indie studio Neat Corp.
Much like the first Budget Cuts demo, which was released on Steam back in 2016, I was given a combat-flavored slice of Budget Cuts 2: Mission Insolvency, which revealed a few of the new components that promise to open up the game’s environment and somewhat change the nature of its stealth combat/ninja teleporting madness.
I’ve played through the first game, so I’m going to be intentionally vague about some of the finer details so I don’t spoil anything—although there isn’t much to spoil since the new game’s demo was entirely combat-driven. I’m putting a clear [no spoilers] tag here just in case though.
I was assured that new players could jump into the sequel without any fuss, as it’s being billed as both a standalone title and a wrap-up of the first game’s narrative, although if you haven’t had a chance to play the original demo/full game itself, here’s the lowdown on the series’ unique locomotion scheme—the star of the show. Skip this next paragraph if you already know what’s up.
With your trusty teleport gun, you slink around corridors by launching what I can only call a ‘teleport-ball-thing’ at your desired landing spot. From there, you can either peek through the dinner plate-sized portal, or activate the grip button to physically teleport to that location. It serves as a cool way of checking if the coast is clear so you don’t accidentally teleport into a gaggle of baddies. More than that though, it lets you basically pretend you’re Nightcrawler. And no, there aren’t any guns (that I know of), only knives, scissors, and now arrows.
Strapping into a Valve Index and grabbing a pair of standard Vive controllers, one of the big changes that Neat Corp and fellow Swedish studio Fast Travel Games have brought to the table is a new tactical bow, which comes part and parcel with the much larger outdoor environments—plenty of cover and rooftop prowling here.
In the Gamescom demo, I was still pitted against the same menacing robots from before (and I even got a glimpse of a certain baddie from the original game), however the bow-shooting dynamic decidedly isn’t a cure-all for my knife-throwing woes. Far from being a cheap addition that would make combat easier, it actually comes with its own caveats. You’re again tasked with managing a dwindling supply of ammunition (in this case arrows), although the game’s intentionally limiting inventory mechanic makes you think long and hard about lining up that perfect long shot before hastily throwing away ammunition on a potentially botched attempt. You have to switch from the teleport gun to the bow, use one hand to load, and hope to bejesus that you’re on point as you fire off a volley. And once those arrows fly, you’re probably not getting them back.
Side note: you can totally toss the arrows like knives.
It’s been a while since I played the first, so much of my muscle memory of switching devices and teleporting around have mostly left me by this point, and I knew after a few deaths (yes, even in the demo) that I would need to regain the skill before I could feel comfortable again. Since the bow requires two hands to operate, it definitely introduces one more bit of complexity that I wasn’t expecting. I found myself flailing around with nary an office desk to hide under as I was shot in the head by robot assassins.
The demo also looks a hell of a lot darker, which may be more than just about lighting. If the ending of the first points to anything, the full game could also be metaphorically darker too.
In the end, I ran through the demo in about 15 minutes, encountering the same security robots that made up a majority of the opposing force from the original. Neat Corp says there are more enemy types yet to come though, so I’m hoping to see something that’s more tailored to the new long-distance shooting mechanic. Besides new enemies and environments, the team also promises that Budget Cuts the second will bring a variety of new scenarios and puzzles.
I left the demo hoping to peel back much more about Budget Cuts 2; outside of the new weapon and outdoor environment, I was basically stepping into what appeared to be an uninterrupted continuation of the original. There’s really no telling what direction the game will take though, however it’s sure to feature greater optimization than the first title thanks to a the team’s learnings after stuffing the CPU-hungry title onto the modest PS4 console. It’s also targeting the same gameplay length as the original, which took us nine hours to complete (many deaths and heavy exploration included) in our full review.
The game is set to support SteamVR-compatible headsets, including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Valve Index.
We have a gameplay video coming, so check back soon for that and all the latest games to come out of this year’s Gamescom.