Friday, September 11, 2015

The Watchlist: Cobalt

Title: Cobalt
Developer: Oxeye Game Studio
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Releasing October 2015
Play as a cute cyborg with a passion for 2d multiplayer battles involving extreme slow-mo and combat rolls
Even if you only have passing knowledge of video games, then the name Mojang probably brings a very specific game to mind. And while Minecraft is undoubtedly the company's magnus opus, it's not their own only game. There was the unfortunately cancelled Scrolls, as well as their foray into publishing with Oxeye's Cobalt. Thankfully the latter is slated for release next month, because it's shaping up to be a skillful and fun 2D action game.
Cobalt is a 2D shooter with an emphasis on acrobatic gunplay and deft evasion. The most useful manevuer in your moveset is the combat roll, which not only lets you chain together moves like punch-jumps and slides but also deflect bullets. Combined with the vast array of weapons and gear, combat in Cobalt proves to be hectic, fast-paced, and have a high skill ceiling, with a surprising amount of hidden depth to its seemingly limited moveset.

But while Cobalt has a large multiplayer focus, with co-op survival modes as well as competitive modes such as deathmatch and capture the plug, I was surprised to learn it has an equally extensive single player component. Aside from an expansive Adventure mode that takes your titular robot Cobalt on a journey from abandoned facilities to snow-capped mountain bases. the game has myriad challenge maps, divided between combat, speed, and puzzle scenarios.
I've been playing the challenge maps present in the current alpha, and Cobalt has really impressed me with its very satisfying gameplay and tactical depth. Your loadout is extremely customizable, including an large selection of guns, melee weapons, throwables, skills, upgrades, and equipment. To name some of the gear in the game: a cloaking stealth suit, time-slowing grenades, rocket boots, a scoped rail gun, a riot shield, a passive reflecting shield, hack grenades that let you control enemies, flash-bangs, silencers, and much more.

Take the plan-and-pounce pacing and hectic eruption of chaos seen in games like Hotline Miami or The Swindle and the acrobatic gunplay of a John Woo film, and that would be Cobalt's gameplay in a nutshell. A typical action beat sees you sliding down an embankment, punching a rocket back at a turret, turning mid-slide to shoot a sniper behind you, rolling to deflect bullets, and shooting while rolling to take out enemies above you. Or, given the extensive armory, maybe you'll distract enemies with a decoy, blind them with a flash-bang, then hack a powerful Predator foe to wipe out the stunned robots.
Enemies are quite varied as well, ranging from organic beasts and spear-wielding natives to robotic combat squads. Some might carry shields, forcing you to attack from behind or above, or wield devastating sniper rifles, among other challenging permutations. The deep moveset, extensive array of weapons and gear, and diverse foes gives the gameplay, especially the challenge maps, that one-more-go appeal where you want clear areas in the smoothest slickest way possible.

Cobalt is expected to release in October. You can purchase the game and download the free alpha demo from the developer's website.

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