Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Review

Does Geometry Wars have a deep narrative? No. Compelling characters? Nope. A complex controller system? Not at all… but that’s why it’s so great.

It’s that time of the year again; Christmas is just around the corner and our shelves are being flooded with triple A titles. Your new Halo’s, Assassins Creed’s and Call of Duty’s are all here again – you know the drill by now. And although it may sound like I’m against this seemingly-predictable yearly cycle, I’m not. There’s a reason why these franchises are so popular – they’re great. But in order to become truly engrossed in the meticulously-designed universes and captivatingly-complex characters found in these game-industry blockbusters, you need time – ironically, a sparse commodity around this time of year. I’m sure you’ve all been there before, sometimes you just want to switch-off and absently-mindedly watch colours fly across the screen for 20 minutes without the burden of having to consciously keep up with a story arc. It’s seems perfect then, that Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions has been thrown into the mix amongst the classic Christmas cacophony – a game in which playing in 20-minute nuggets is both feasible and enjoyable… an absent attribute in most other games launched around this time of year.

A Peanut-Shaped Map

A Peanut-Shaped Map

As the third instalment of the Geometry Wars franchise, the new game fittingly introduces its new, standout feature – a third dimension. Levels are no longer designed within the restrictions of two axes; instead, the geometrical skirmishes found in GW3:D betide in three-dimensional, luminously-lit, digital battlefields. These new maps fundamentally change the way that you’ll play the game and create a distinctly different experience to its predecessors. Battlefields are no longer visible in their entirety, and thus, enemies could be lurking around any corner without you ever knowing – take one daft turn and you’ll run smack into an enemy. Whilst this does add a heightened sense of exhilaration and a new element of difficulty, there are times where this is just plain frustrating – and not the ‘I’m annoyed that I’ve died but I could have avoided that if I was more careful’  kind-of-frustrating, but more like the ‘I have done nothing wrong and I am being punished for something which I literally couldn’t avoid even if I was better at this game’ kind. The predecessors were always difficult, true, but they always seemed fair.  You could always rely on your peripheral vision – when you died, it wasn’t due to a poorly designed map, it was simply because you didn’t react quickly enough. In GW3:D however, your life seems to be less in your own hands, and more so in the possession of lady luck – a recipe to incite infuriation. At times, I longed for the simplistic, rectangular maps from previous games. With that being said, don’t let my acknowledgement of one of the game’s only flaws so early in this review paint a bad impression of the game – there’s still so much that GW3:D does right.

The gameplay is reminiscent of everything that made the previous instalments so great. The simplicity of the dual-stick shooter facilitates intense, high-octane moments. By streamlining the controller system, the only thing you’ll have worry about is weaving through swarms of enemies with the left thumbstick and blasting them with laser beams with the right one.  Everything is super fast-paced and your reactions are key. Consequently, every time you escape from what seems like the inescapable, you’ll feel as though your nimble thumbs were the only ones in this world that could have possibly survived such an ‘against-all-odds’ situation. Each time this happens, you’ll get a genuine sense of achievement – something that is hard to come by in videogames today.

The game also boasts a diverse range of enemies, each with their own distinctive characteristics that somehow humanise these simple shapes. Purple pinwheels nonchalantly float around the map without paying any attention to you, almost as if they’re disinterested in everything that’s going on. Contrastingly, the little green diamonds are much more menacing – these hyperactive hostiles will rapidly congregate into one concentrated pack and proceed to hunt you down, whilst at the same time, actively bobbing-and-weaving around the shots you take at them. The diversity between each type of enemy ensures that firefights never become repetitive. After a few hours of playing the game, you’ll learn the traits of each type of enemy and create your own methods for dealing with each one.

The game is of course an homage to the the almost-forgotten golden-age of arcade gaming, and thus, it places a heavy focus on high scores and leaderboards. Every level has you fighting to beat your personal best, and even more excitingly, to beat the scores of your friends. There’s no better feeling than being able to revel in the digital ‘f*ck you’ which is trumping a friends score on your leaderboard. This competitivity will encourage you to continuously experiment to find the best methods of racking up high scores.

For instance, you’ll have to figure out whether collecting a ‘geom’ dropped by an enemy that you’ve killed is worth picking up – if you do, you’ll boost your score multiplier, but at the same time, you’ll almost certainly be heading towards more enemies. Contrarily, you could take the ‘slow and steady’ approach – that is, not taking the risk of picking up perilously-placed geoms, and opting to to slowly build up your score without a multiplier. Of course, this is the safer route, but it offers less reward. In the heat of the moment, it’s these split-second, delicate decisions that will make or break your attempt at a high score, and in turn, make the game such a thrill to play. If you beat your personal best, you’ll tell yourself “I might as well carry on playing while I’m doing well.” Similarly, if you don’t beat you personal best, you’ll reason with yourself that you shouldn’t stop playing until you have beaten it – it’s a vicious cycle, but an extremely enjoyable one. And just because I’ve said that this game is digestible in 20 minute increments, don’t let that fool you. You’ll often find yourself in the middle of a 3-hour-long session and wonder where the time has gone, after all, you told yourself that it would be your ‘last go’ about an hour ago. It’s a game which is playable in short doses because you aren’t tied down to hour-long, story-driven missions, but it’s so fun that you’ll probably end up playing for much longer if you have the time to.

The game also adds a new co-op mode – allowing you to buddy-up with a friend locally or with a ‘randomer’ online. With heavy precedence placed on high scores, it was important that the scoring system in this mode was done sensibly – fortunately, it is. Players earn their own individual scores, creating a sense of competition between you and your partner – spurring you on to do better than them. However, at the end of each level, scores combine to create a cooperative high score. Simple but satisfying.  Additionally, developers Lucid Games, have included a competitive multiplayer mode. In short, this mode doesn’t have much depth – there’s a mode in which your team will compete with another to capture towers, and another mode which simply has teams competing against each other to clear waves of enemies – whoever can do it the fastest wins. Although it’s quite thin, it’s still fun. Admittedly, it’s not what you’ll buy the game for, but these modes are a welcome inclusion.

Overall, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is a great game. In an era where most videogame developers are striving for superfluous complexity, games can sometimes lack the qualities that originally made them so great… namely, mindless fun. GW3:D is just that.

Closing Verdict: Watching lucid shapes dance around on an illuminated, digital battlefield creates a surreal sensory symphony that will keep you entertained for hours. Undoubtedly worth downloading.

Available Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC and Mac
Price: £13.99/$14.99
Release Date: Out now

Pictures: Sierra, LucidGames

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