Graphic by Rachel Yoon / North by Northwestern

Out of Action

Two of my favorite movies are The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell (the original, not the one with Scarlett Johansson). Out of Action is a new first-person shooter that won my heart by combining both of those films, offering slow-mo gun action and sleek ‘90s anime styling in its recent offline demo.

Out of Action is set in a cyberpunk world where cyborg agents do the dirty work of nefarious megacorps, at least in theory. The demo for the game is pretty thin on content, offering just one map and AI bots to play against in place of other players. The juicy content is the loadout customization, boasting an impressive array of options: well-balanced Bison shells, Dragon shells that can hover and dash, Rhino shells that can charge into enemies with full force and Ghost shells that can turn invisible. I personally prefer the Ghost shell. Once you’ve chosen your shell, you go on to choose your weapon, abilities and gadgets. Customization goes even deeper with weapon attachments, ammo types and other goodies.

The slick aesthetic does the heavy lifting. Chiaroscuro shadows and manga-like textures make the game instantly recognizable in a sea of hyper-militarized shooters like Call of Duty: Warzone. The AI isn’t bad, and mechanics like detection and slow motion make things more interesting, but I think the game will really shine when multiplayer is enabled. The demo is basically a shooting gallery, albeit a stylish one, wanting for content and the competitive edge.

If you want to feel like Motoko Kusanagi or Neo, give Out of Action a try.

Children of the Sun

Depending on the game, one bullet can be a life-saver, a life-ender or just a drop in a bucket. Children of the Sun, a new game published by Devolver Digital, challenges the player to exterminate the titular cult with only a single rifle round. There are many cultists to kill, so you’ll have to get creative.

Each level in Children of the Sun places the player on the outskirts of an assemblage of wicked outlanders standing around with very shootable faces. With limited space to move around, you must first scout enemies and potential angles for your shot. Once you pull the trigger, the camera zooms in to follow the bullet on its way into the cranium of the guy you just chose to execute. If you hit the mark, instead of taking another shot, you get to re-aim and fire the same bullet, turning it into a homing missile that bounces between enemies. The heart of the game lies in puzzling out how to nail each enemy using only the sightlines from the others — a morbid connect-the-dots puzzle.

The surreal grunge aesthetic befits the violent cult storyline and disturbed protagonist. It’s probably the most violent puzzle game I’ve ever played – a brain blaster as well as a brain teaser.