The year is slowly drawing to a close. What happened in it, you already know very well. A pandemic, postponements of releases, a decrease in the concentration of good news and a growing mass of bad news. Of course, in the midst of all this, it is extremely difficult to notice really worthy projects that, despite all rumors and controversies, have reached the windows. It doesn’t matter how many years it took them, because the end of the means justifies a little more than always.
In order not to pull the cat by the tail anymore, I will outline the essence of today’s material as follows. Earlier, I published a blog about the best Half-Life 2 modifications that everyone should go through, mentioning in it about G String, the solo work of the Japanese modmakerEyaura.At that time, it was available as a beta version of eight years ago, but judging by the fresh screenshots and news on ModDB, was preparing for release as a full-fledged game. So, on October 17, she saw the light, and what is not a reason, in hot pursuit, to compare the final result with a modification eight years ago?
A bit of history
MyoHyo aka Eyaura, the daughter of Korean expatriates who was born in Japan, has been modifying the harsh dystopian future of androids and their oppressive evil organics since 2008. Only a few years later, she presented a beta version, which, despite the status, was quite playable and of high quality. For which, quite rightly, a year later she received an award from ModDB for “the most realistic virtual world.”
Of course, everything was done with the Source engine, and although according to Eyaura, the assembly was raw and mainly for getting the first feedback, it caused extremely positive emotions that did not cover the confusing levels, difficult opponents, or the general dullness of the first half of the project. In 2013, a Japanese woman went with a slightly modified version of G String to look for publishers, but the attempts were in vain, and she had to start from scratch. Let’s see what happened next. I note that I can be biased on many issues and, probably, you may not like this game for a number of reasons, but I have something to compare with. Plus, it’s worth playing the old beta version for a better understanding of what kind of world awaits us and where we end up.
Everything is relative…
We play as Mio Hyori, a girl from the distant future, who became an experimental subject in bloodthirsty experiments to turn people into some kind of robots – powerful and obedient, which can somehow benefit humanity. However, while corporations with the assistance of the international military alliance “NATO Terra” populate endless space (colonies on Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have already been founded), earthly society has long been divided into opposing classes – the stronger kill those that are weaker – with poisons, hard labor, electromagnetic radiation and everything you can. Or, naturally, they turn them into soulless machines, with which they do everything that even the enemy does not wish. For example, street advertising encourages us to buy cigarettes, have sex with androids, or euthanize at 37 without parental consent. I bring this fact to understand how strong the degradation of the world is in the future, and how Mio can survive in this den. One day, during a meteor shower, the scientific station where she lives as a test subject is damaged, and she is given a chance to escape, despite the chase that has begun.
And here it is, the main difference between the final story and the mod version – not only a meaningful, but also full of details plot appeared here. The protagonist is not just some scrapped outcast, but a victim of an experiment who has gained freedom. She dives into the most detached parts of the world – canals, tunnels, abandoned workshops, slums and others like them – not because she wanted to, but because outside armed to the teeth are hunting for her. But only through this very immersion it is possible to fully immerse in the atmosphere of G String – it is terribly realistic, and you believe it.
Objectives, mini-bosses, main villains and even allies appeared. If in the beta version we simply fought against an ephemeral evil, not seeing either its appearance or the motivation to deal with it, now there are two (if not more!) Parties to the conflict. One wants to return Mio back to the “cage”, while the other wants to intercept and study it. On our side are those who have already suffered from the clutches of villainous corporations and the armed forces and sincerely wish that we do not repeat their mistakes. Androids, intelligent machines, artificial intelligence. Even defective sex robots, who, however, do not care who to get into a fight with. The world began talking to the player, asking questions, asking for help, and even trying to stop Mio. In the beta, we acted like a rogue, alone. Only occasionally did the trail lead us to incomprehensible NPCs, who seem to be friendly, but this does not add to the understanding of their motives. The final G String tried to cover all these moments, and from time to time it throws us more and more new challenges.
The game has become more elaborate. At every step, we get as many as thirty and three more ways to die with dignity, like heroes. All the time, something is happening – either explosions, or falling meteorites, or a sudden detachment of the military, who are diligently looking for traces of Mio, or even atomic bombings. The levels are more beautiful and less confusing than in the beta, and while you can get lost in them from time to time, it does not cause a strong desire to issue a refund on Steam.
Mio has become more than just a dummy running around with guns at the ready. Sometimes we can see how she turns the valves with her own hands or presses the buttons. There was a recoil from the weapon, and the camera sways inertially during a fast run. The characteristics of local trunks have also slightly changed. Of course, the machine gun was still oak, but the pistol has become a little more powerful. The shotgun invariably pleases with its immobility, only to get it, like other types of weapons, legally, will not work right away. The game is quite long, and at first you only have to swing a pistol. But as we approach the end, we will be able to sit behind the turrets, and control the spacecraft, and what will not happen. The main thing is that you have the strength to do it. But back to the changes.
Mio’s “hand magic” is also slightly tweaked – as has been known since the beta version, she owns pyro- and telekinesis. The time dilation function disappeared, as did the chaotic firing of fireballs. Now we have only one fireball, we can pick it up and throw it anywhere for a limited time. There was also a zoom – a kind of hello to Half-Life 2, apparently. But he also turned out to be in place – many locations will delight with their openness and detail, so there is something to see.
However, in the hallway moments you can stumble upon all sorts of interesting things. Various handwritten slogans for all good versus all bad, Korean and Japanese hieroglyphs, and even a whole inscription in Cyrillic, the essence of which I have not yet been able to figure out – perhaps it is Mongolian. It is also important to note that many levels migrated from the beta version, but underwent cosmetic changes rather than global ones. In the final game, they differ only in the ways of movement and exits, and so – one person, but with a difference of several years. And as I went through similar examples, I looked for a lot – somewhere more, somewhere less.
As for the sound part, everything is stable and good. With regards to each location – all the time something is making noise, firing, exploding, or someone is screaming and crying. In the beta version, the same is true – at some points you can even hear female moans. The only thing that is a little offensive is the decision to abandon Japanese and Korean pop, as well as the world classics of blues (In the Year 2525, for example, certainly a cult composition) in some moments, because it was they who gave charm and surrealism to many action and simply peaceful scenes … On the other hand, Eyaura itself stated that the soundtrack had to be rebuilt due to unnecessary copyright red tape. The reason is valid, there is nothing to add.
The voice acting of the characters – well, at least those whose screen and offscreen time can be estimated empirically – is also at the level. In some places, of course, not lively enough, but everything is covered by effects and glitches, a sort of imitation of the robot’s voice and errors in its work. For the rest, I have no complaints – for me, in G String with sounds everything is as it should be. Oh yes, there are also background phrases in Russian, Japanese and even Finnish – apparently, the goal was to convey the confusion of confessions and languages in the new world. Even Mio’s bio-suit speaks far from English, but quite himself on the moon, which only adds color.
Technically and visually, G String plays well. The picture, of course, is not from 2020, but if you want to, you can play with post-processing effects such as blur, bullets, immersion in water, closing the eyes and vignetting. Various presets are available, such as 70mm film, noir and soft, which is the golden mean between vanilla graphics and the maximum level of post-processing. All this may require more hardware resources, and it may not look the way you would like it to be, so I recommend not torturing yourself or your computer – and playing with a vanilla preset, the game will not lose quality from this.
Autosaves are present almost around every corner, which is why after each death, in 90% of cases, you do not need to go through the entire location again. However, no one canceled the F6 button either. And also cheat codes, which are all the same for Source games. Unless disabled by default by authors.
… but is everything so rosy?
Of course, I could have missed a lot of all sorts of details, trifles and some global moments, looking at which, without any doubt, I want to give G String the right to proudly be called the “best game of the year” – and I will develop this idea a little later – and also worthy development of no less worthy mod for HL2, but here the disadvantages begin. Offensive, but natural.
The main one is the lack of Russian translation. No, of course, the author said that there are Russian subtitles in the game – but by default G String is launched exclusively in English. There’s nothing you can do about it. Except, perhaps, the magic of crutches, through which you can safely go through the game on your own great and mighty. Only, instead of normal words, sometimes unknown krakazyabrs will appear – either the fonts are not adapted, or the priority for multilingualism was not done in principle, and trumping Russian subwoofers was just a way to attract the widest possible audience. Only … how to say, the translators, of course, coped with their work – now many points are clear that were not clear in the days of beta versions – but the grammar and quality of individual phrases shine, and in a bad sense of the word. Well, they don’t say that in real life. Even somewhere in the official briefings.
UPD: claims on the Russian translation are relevant at the time of the release of the review. Following the publication, Eyaura released an update for G String in which it added an option to select the language for subtitles.
At times, running along endless and sometimes monotonous corridors (and sometimes jumping over an abyss into an abyss from bump to bump), where the path to follow is not always obvious, is categorically annoying. Of course, you can understand, because this is probably the way of thinking of a Japanese developer – to make a lot of mazes and not give any hint of how to get out of them. However, we must nevertheless note that we are not here in Half-Life 2 with its dynamic levels, where it is always clear where to go next, because you, in fact, have already drawn this path in advance, but no one is going to lead the player by the handle either. … We have become too casual in this regard, and sometimes easy complexity for the layman is much more important than exploration and a sense of insecurity. In short, don’t get angry about subjectivity.
From what I can still see, this is an inadequate manifestation of artificial intelligence in creatures in some moments. For example, birds that, according to the script, were supposed to fly off the asphalt into the sky, but instead jump stupidly like balls and levitate, trying to take off. Or soldiers, to whom you can go head-on and shoot the entire clip into the body, and they won’t even answer you in any way, silently accepting the only reasonable outcome in this situation. And sometimes they can get enough sleep along the way with a whole crowd and destroy them with a couple of shots. In general, this to some extent overshadows the passage and all the above mentioned advantages.
Nevertheless, I still believe that G String can become, if not the best, then at least one of the best games of this year. “Why?” – you ask. Well, let’s say, because more worthy projects have not yet come out. Everyone is waiting for Cyberpunk 2077 with its ‘GTA in the future’ gameplay, or those projects that will be released at the start of the PlayStation 5. What happened before that? I myself did not have the opportunity to go through half of the releases this year, but from what I could contemplate, the picture in my head was bleak. Seemingly worthy of The Last of Us, Part II – a game that left at the expense of the “agenda”, but too engaged and pale against the background of the first part. A remake of the first Mafia, which is visually nicer than the original in 2002, but still rather dubious from the point of view of certain game aspects. Half-Life: Alyx, which could take VR gaming to a new level, but as a result, its popularity faded in just a month or two. There are many similar examples, you can even strain your gyrus yourself and add something in the comments.
The only problem is that all these are AAA projects, on which large studios, professionals in their field worked. And it’s clear that G String is not equal to all of them, because it was created through the efforts of an independent author, an amateur. Those mistakes that you can easily poke your nose into a pro, an amateur with a stretch, but forgivable. Still, because G String does not look like a “next gene”, and is played like any other Source-game from the end of the 2000s, and not fresh from 2020. But she bribes others – with a reverent attitude to what a real cyberpunk should be. Not that screen of gloss, neon and unrestrained fun, but what lies behind it – where the world has long been divided into spheres of influence and an irreconcilable struggle between the strong and the weak under the guise of “technological progress” takes place. Where cruelty and sexual innuendo are not just an artistic device, “cranberries” or a stump of censorship, but a consequence of the behavior of the characters inside the game.
Such games, in which important questions of the universe and morality are invisibly raised, are now insanely few. Perhaps G String will become a precedent in this regard. Not the most ideal and equally understood by everyone, but nonetheless. The main thing is to vote in rubles, dollars or any other currency. And then there will be much more such large-scale and high-quality indie works …