Basingstoke Review — Escaping Bureaucracy with an Alien & Undead Invasion

Welcome to Omnicorp: The leading business in BLANK industry, located in the town of Basingstoke!

As this is your first day in Omnicorp’s Basingstoke HQ, you will get a full tour of the facility before being given training for your new job. If,when entering the lift it malfunctions, sending you plummeting down to floor -9, please contact a member of staff, and under no circumstances venture into the floor, and UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES wander around as a dangerous — and incredibly cool sounding — experiment takes place; before it goes wrong, kills everybody and starts creating zombies and other various nasty and non-OH&S compliant monsters.

Well, you failed that miserably didn’t you? So now all that you can do is try and escape the zombie apocalypse, gather supplies and survive. Your first objective after the ‘incident’ occurs, is to try and find somewhere safe, and the game helpfully suggests a
pub as your logical place of hiding. (Is that a Shaun of the Dead reference I see there?).

Centered around a series of missions, Basingstoke plays as a isometric, horror roguelike where, uniquely, after completing a mission, moving from one safe house to the next, you unlock the ability to restart from any of the end-of-chapter points.. Play areas are mostly semi-suburban areas, filled with office blocks, shops and roads, there are many obstacles, from the basic zombies and car alarms, to the interesting, like street lamps and illuminated signs. Speaking of light, for a game with a large amount of flashing light (and gore) the game offers you a screen at the start of the game to turn off the flashing lights and most of the gore, so that’s rather nice.

Basingstoke Stun Gun
Hello there zombies, ignore me hiding in the bin!

Progressing through the town of Basingstoke you’ll get a load of items in your inventory, but interesting, at the start of every level you are only allowed to take 4 items with you. The other items? Well they’re stored back at your stash, which is shared between safe houses, and can be accessed every time you enter one. Oh — and they are persistent between characters, which means even if you die, your next character, let’s call them Jen from accounting, can hop right back in, grab any of the items your previous character had and get right back to trying to sneak past 5 bobbie zombies whilst being illuminated by a weird construction disco light.

Basingstoke has a very interesting relationship with light, the whole game is very dark, with your character barely able to see 10 feet in front of them, barring any external light source, like zombie eyes or some environmental light. Environmental light like the aforementioned street lamps, or a burnt out car. Equipped with a torch you can illuminate areas, highlighting lootable objects but making you much more visible to enemies. An amazing touch is that if you turn off your flashlight, you can see basically nothing for a second or two before you can see again, which is both realistic and an amazing mechanic — making it that little bit harder to escape from zombies by turning off your light and running. The largely dark World spotted with specks of light, such as a computer screen or the flashing lights of a construction zone make the game that much more engrossing and terrifying.

Basingstoke- That's just not cricket
Batter up!

To actually survive in the town of Basingstoke you’re gonna need items. Items are all over the place, on dead bodies, in broken down cars, or even filing office cabinets. The items you can find range from weapons, like wrenches, truncheons and pepper spray, to food and distraction items like sandwiches, bottles of water and delicious looking sausage rolls. Most items have double uses, sandwiches can be eaten or thrown, water can be used to distract zombies and put out fires. Crafting is also present, with a variety of tools and weapons to be made, my personal favorite being the mini flamethrower, perfect for both lighting your way and setting the world on fire. Combat is fairly simple, most melee weapons will stun then kill enemies, while the ranged weapons are more interesting, hairspray turning them away, stun guns knocking them out and the flamethrower just being plain cool.

Alongside items are coins, also collected from the various receptacles of the world. In the traditional video game sense money is incredibly scarce, with a fair few of the wallets holding only a few pennies. (Maybe Omnicorp made such a good credit card everyone gave up with coins) although there are still wallets out there with a fair few quid in them. Money can be used to purchase items from vending machines in the world. Basingstoke’s vending machines sell various foods and tools, as long as you’ve stolen enough cash.

Basingstoke lighting
Oooooo pretty lighting

There are a series of classes to be unlocked, giving you more items when you start off the game with a special class. Classes are fairly simple to unlock, wallop enough things with a police truncheon and you’ll unlock the police class to use next time you die. The classes aren’t exactly overpowered, but they will give you a little kick start with a few cute items, like the banker starting off with a laser pointer.

One thing that must be mentioned when talking Basingstoke is the graphics. The best way I have of describing the graphics are a low detail but high quality format, providing the world with richness whilst still being simple and minimalistic. The tension and atmosphere is one of Basingstoke’s finest points, driven home by the somber and muted graphic style and the impeccable sound design. The amazing sound design starts the moment you find whatever started the incident, and is ever-present afterwards; sounds of zombies growling, dogs barking, and just humdrum British life will constantly invade your ears, taking you into the world and keeping you thoroughly worried every moment you are in it.

Despite making me jump at every sound in my house for the entirety of my play through, Basingstoke is an absolutely superb horror title which perfectly meshes zombies with the charm of modern British culture. Just don’t expect me to throw any of those delicious sausage rolls away.

Basingstoke is available now on PC, Mac & Linux.

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