No matter what platform you play on – PC, Nintendo Switch, and now the current- or last-gen PlayStation consoles – DUSK is DUSK, and DUSK is inherently good.
Like so many retro-inspired FPS published under New Blood Interactive – there’s a level of authenticity and consistent quality you only get from developers that have either a) been around since the ‘90s, or b) fully understand the fundamentals that made games from that era so much fun to play, and how technical limitations were designed around. The only caveat is that you’ll need to spend some time tweaking settings to get the best experience using a Dualshock 4 or Dualsense controller.
If this is the first time you’ve heard of 2018’s DUSK, it’s first and foremost a homage to ‘90s FPS like Blood, Quake, and even a bit of Half-life – think frenetic, bunny-hopping firefights that reward choosing the right tool for the job, twitch shooting, and making effective use of the environment to both inflict and avoid damage. That said, there are plenty of modern flourishes, like accessibility features, atmospheric lighting effects, and a fantastic soundtrack from Andrew Hulshult that alternates between creepy ambience and thumping battle tracks.
Like its progenitors, DUSK features two dozen hand-crafted stages, spread across three episodes, featuring deliberate weapon and enemy placement, with dozens of secrets to find – including entire secret stages. They range from claustrophobic interiors to vast outdoor spaces, some entirely linear and others designed to loop back to a central hub as you hunt for coloured keys. DUSK rewards mastering the basic mechanics and familiarising yourself with each stage, as there are no progression mechanics to fall back on – just a steady flow of new weapons, new enemies to use them on, and new environmental hazards that complicate the flow of combat.
Before discussing the shooting and handling on console, it’s worth highlighting DUSK’s engaging but entirely optional narrative layer. You can just focus on cathartic shooting and secret hunting, but there’s also an overarching tale of insane cults, reckless government agencies, and cosmic horrors told through environmental storytelling and ominous taunts.
It’s an excuse for three wildly different episodes, which see you moving from the corrupted rural outskirts – with ruined farms, corn mazes, sawmills, and mines – to a military facility and city built above Cyclopean ruins, and eventually into another dimension where environments cease to make sense and protagonists’ memories are even used against them. Of course, these locations are all presented in glorious high-definition, low-poly form and it runs flawlessly from the PS5 down to the base PS4.
Returning to the shooting, it’s refreshingly straightforward and well-balanced. As you unlock new weapons, you inevitably encounter new enemies or scenarios that encourage their use. Dual sickles and a pair of pistols are fine for dropping weaker foes, but for bigger targets, you’ll want a lever-action shotgun that can also be dual-wielded – creating an incredibly satisfying rhythm of alternating shots and twirling reloads.
Those starting weapons quickly give way to a double-barrelled shotgun that gibs anything up close; a machine gun perfect for gunning down crowds; a powerful hunting rifle for hitting distant targets or showing off your aim; a crossbow that tears through enemies in a line; and both a grenade and rocket launcher for when you want to do a lot of damage quickly or can’t be arsed to aim. Oh, and a magical sword too.
Standing still in DUSK means death, as there is no shortage of enemies to rush and corner you; ranged enemies – albeit never of the hit-scan variety – that fling increasingly lethal projectiles; enemies that can cloak or teleport around; and several screen-filling bosses that add massive AoE attacks into the mix.
Movement in DUSK is incredibly fast but controllable. It can feel like ice skating with minimal traction, but you can change direction in a heartbeat, including in mid-air, and you’ll usually land where your reticle is aiming if looking down. However, it’s not just enemies and projectiles you’ll need to avoid. As DUSK’s stages slowly evolve into otherworldy locations, exploding barrels and pools of acid give way to more platforming sections over deadly voids and lava.
It’s classic early 3D-FPS design at its finest, and DUSK feels great to play – a factor that works for and against the console ports. Aiming is, using the default sensitivity and auto-aim settings, far too loose on consoles, while I found motion sensor aiming more likely to cause motion sickness than increase my precision (though your mileage may vary). A gamepad just can’t match the twitchy precision you get with a mouse and keyboard, and this makes surviving several set-pieces on difficulties above “I Can Take It” (i.e. normal) frustrating – especially as increasing the difficulty in DUSK ups enemy and projectile speeds, and the damage you take from them.
As a consequence, getting the best DUSK experience on a PS4 or PS5 means investing time in the settings menus and, ideally, finding that sweet spot where it feels like you’re putting in the bulk of the effort and the game is only just nudging your shot towards a hitbox. And if that sounds like more effort than you’re used to in console FPS, just be grateful you won’t have to play it using Joy-Cons.
DUSK was reviewed on PS4/5 using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC and Nintendo Switch.
DUSK (PS4/PS5) ReviewDUSK (PS4/PS5) Review
- Straightforward but expertly-balanced shooting mechanics with a great arsenal
- A campaign packed with diverse stages, set-pieces, and secrets galore
- High-definition, low-poly visuals coupled a great soundtrack
- You’ll need to spend some time tweaking the controls to your liking
- It’s not going to change your mind if you don’t enjoy retro-inspired FPS