British games are few and far between these days. No, let me correct that: good British games are few and far between. Of course we have the likes of GTA V from the Scotland-based Rockstar North, but there are few critically acclaimed games that hail from the Queen’s shores.
Bedlam could have been one of them. Could have, if not for the sheer technical mess that is is.
Let me start of by saying that the game and its concept itself are brilliant; you play as Heather, a feisty Scot who’s got a mouth like a potty. She’ll ‘pwn’ ‘noobs’ all day long while dissing them in style. She’s the most likeable character that I’ve come across in recent years, if only because I can relate to her foul language on a personal level. I’m somewhat foul-mouthed at the best of times, and even when making a cup of tea I can pour in a couple of expletives alongside my lactose-free milk.
Heather is trapped in a simulation of a video game, nay, several video games. The first level sees you navigate through a low-resolution recreation of the old-school PC shooters. Think Unreal Tournament and Quake and you’ll get the idea. She’s not a pretty lass, though: she’s now a cyborg being with a face like a mashed up arse. Though it doesn’t matter too much as you never really have to look at it, but it does draw out some hilarious dialogue from in-game characters.
There’s a lot of humour in Bedlam, so much so that I found myself wanting to just keep hearing Heather making quips rather than blasting away the enemies. There’s a good reason, too; Heather is a genuinely funny character that has been well written and brilliantly acted, whereas the gameplay has been well designed, but poorly executed.
From the get-go things seem ok, but I soon noticed a drop in frame rate here, a drop there, and eventually, drops everywhere. When there’s no enemies on the screen and you’re just moseying along to the next point it’s all fine. But the second more than two enemies show their ugly mugs (whether they’re cyborgs or nazis) the framerate takes a dive and makes the game borderline unplayable.
The first level in the game had me furious due to the the poor performance. The judder and jumps make pulling the trigger a chore – especially when you’re firing the single-shot alien pistol or the double barreled shot-gun. The first shot will come off fine, but then you go in for a second volley of fire and there’s no response so you have to continually pull the trigger and hope that you’ll be able to get some shots off before being murdered. It got so bad that I had to turn the difficulty down from ‘normal’ to the embarrassing ‘easy’. No, I’m not proud of it, but it was literally the only way I could make any kind of progress in the game. It also stopped me from throwing my controller out the window, too.
It’s a real shame, too, as the game does get better and better the further you go, in terms of story at least. You’ll hop from the old-school 90’s Quake-style shooter to a WWII cover-based shooter (though there’s no cover-based gameplay…) and you’ll even have to blast away ghosts in a first-person Pac-Man parody.
However, despite the genre-hopping appeal and the fantastically written story, it’s just not one that I can truthfully recommend. It’s strange that the game has such performance woes at all. The graphics are nothing special (but they work nicely in the game’s setting) and there’s never too much going on at any given time, so the fact that it’s having trouble on the next-gen machines leads me to believe it was just a bad port. It was obviously made with PC in mind and the jump to console just didn’t work out all that well.
Of course, not everyone will find the technical problems to be as extreme, and in the right hands this could be a pleasant enough game, but as it stands I’m not impressed.
Bonus: I tested Bedlam with the PS Vita’s remote play function and it was terrible. No thought was put in for remote play controls and you’re consigned to tapping away at the rear touchpad. This isn’t reflected in the final score as the game is not a Vita game, but it’s still worth pointing out for those who like to make the most of their handheld.
Technical performance is shoddy to say the least and there’s just no consistency to be found. It makes playing what is otherwise an over-the-top comedy-romp a torturous affair that tests one’s patience. For PS4 and Xbox One, I can’t give this my approval, but if you do some gaming on a PC, pick Bedlam up on Steam. It’s 60fps and plays like a dream. PC owners can consider this one a solid 7. It’s just not an enjoyable, playable experience. Usually we see shoddy ports of console games on PC, this one bucks the trend.
Disclaimer: This review was conducted using a code provided by the game’s publisher RedBedlam.