Thank whichever deity (or prominent YouTuber, we guess) that you believe in for the “Boomer Shooter” explosion, and we mean explosion. Now that those who grew up on the original Quake (currently available in a very good edition on Switch) are themselves developers, we’re seeing a bigtime resurgence of old-school style first-person shooters, and we can’t get enough. Unfortunately they’ve been a little bit slim in the ol’ pickings on Nintendo, with only a passable port of Ion Fury and the rather good Project Warlock holding up the side. Until now.
Yes! The game that kickstarted the whole Boomer Shooter thing, New Blood’s brilliant, bloodthirsty Dusk, has finally hit the Switch after over a year of delay. Believe us when we say that the developers didn’t just sit on their hands — this is a game polished to the nth degree, a port that feels completely native to the Switch. It runs at a locked 60fps with zero hitching, slowdown or stuttering. Levels load in about two seconds. And, in what’s fast becoming a cliché, it looks spectacular on OLED. This is a port that should become a point of comparison in future, an exemplary effort that quite frankly shames all the half-speed, dingy attempts to drag other system’s games onto handheld.
Every motion is as graceful as you’d need it to be. You move fast in Dusk, even faster when utilising the bunny-hop style of repeated diagonal leap, for which the game has a dedicated button. You’d think a game designed explicitly for mouse and keyboard would struggle on the Joy-Con’s — let’s face it — less than flawless analogue sticks. But it’s tailored perfectly; you’ll be a dab hand at even small motions within the first level. There’s also gyro aiming, naturally, and sensitivity can be tweaked to whatever level you find the most appealing and intuitive. Truly, though, we never needed to — the stick control is so well calibrated that we were fine with it on the default settings.
Settings, that’s something to latch onto; there are many. An FOV slider as well as multiple accessibility options – display changes, graphics you can make more or less pixellated to simulate your favourite software mode visuals… there’s a lot here to appreciate.
That’s enough praising the (flawless) port. What’s the actual game like? Thankfully, it’s also ace. We’d compare it most openly to Quake, the original, with its deceptively simple move-and-shoot gameplay belying complex, clever level design that feels playtested to within an inch of its life. Utilising an array of loud, violent weapons, you’ve got to bring down the various acolytes of a Lovecraftian monstrosity across three episodes of carnage, each one exponentially more complex, interesting and expansive than the last.
Shooting feels amazing, which is a good thing because it’s pretty much the entire game — Dusk is suitably old-school in its pursuit of doing a single thing very well. Yes, there’s exploration, key hunting and some platforming for (brilliantly hidden) secrets, but by and large you’ll be utilising those trigger skills above all else. Difficulty options range from laughably simplistic to psychotically tough, but even on the hardest “Duskmare” level, the game feels fair and balanced in favour of skilled play. Unless you play with your eyes closed (the sort of insanity you should save for AGDQ), you’ll always know what killed you, why and how.
Speed and slick motion are this game’s priority over realism and weight, though thanks to excellent sound design every single time you fire a gun it feels like the world is about to come to a crashing end. This is a killer arsenal, literally and figuratively — you can dual wield shotguns, get precise with a hunting rifle, slice enemies to ribbons with twin sickles or simply blow them into smithereens with explosive rockets which, of course, also open up the world of rocket jumping. Perhaps there could be a couple more weapons to play with, or a more meaningful distinction between the ones you’re given, but the ones you are given are excellent.
You’ll need some awesome monsters to level all this pain at and, thankfully, you’re given them as well. The first episode alone has mad cultists, chainsaw-wielding hillbillies and living scarecrows, not to mention toxic rats and baphomet-tastic goats. Things get a little more military in the second episode, and we don’t want to spoil a thing about episode three. Rest assured that things get weird.
We haven’t even mentioned the Endless mode, with its new Super Mario 64-parodying map for this version. Or the pre-order bonus Dusk ’82, a fitfully fun freebie and a top-down take on the main game which reminded us of the under-rated Rock Boshers DX. Frankly, it’s tough to fit everything that’s good about Dusk into a single, relatively short review.
Dusk is one hell of an impressive piece of software and possibly the single best Unity port to Switch we’ve ever seen, sidestepping all the usual performance problems and delivering a brilliant experience of a brilliant game. We’ve tried to think of meaningful criticisms or negatives. Of course pad controls are never going to be as precise as mouse aim, but when the developers have tailored the analogue sticks to such a degree of precision, that would be churlish to ding them for. It’s not as good a game as Quake, but almost nothing is. It’s arguably a better port than Quake got, and that was itself excellent. There’s a relatively limited arsenal of weapons — they’re all great, but there’s no iconic gun here, just your usual pistol, shotty, assault rifle, explosives, et al. Ultimately, Dusk is another absolute cracker in what’s turned out to be a phenomenal month for Switch; a real horror show, and the highest of 9s.