Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Cruelty Squad Is Horrific Glorious Jank

The intro scene of Cruelty Squad has your new employer calling you up. Asking if you had a nice depression nap since that’s what a loser like you is probably up to. But he’s got some good news- you just got a new gig as a member of the Cruelty Squad. Finally, you can put your murderous skills to good use in maintaining the corporate status quo in this horrible shit filled world. 

Conceptual Meta-Wank:

There was a time when “good graphics” was the main selling point of a game. Cramming as many polygons into a screen as humanly possible, with much less regard paid to the game itself. This style of development brought us such classics as The Order: 1886. Then there’s the opposite approach, where story and content are first and visual style last, like Undertale. But how often does a developer choose to go in on neither?

Cruelty Squad by developer Consumer Softproducts isn’t afraid to look like shit. Indeed, that’s probably the driving goal of the game. With clashing visual styles, textures that I can only describe as “fleshy,”  and colors designed to look extremely off putting or even nauseating, Cruelty Squad is an exercise in bad looking good. Well not good, but interesting. 

Non-Wanky Game Recap:

In Cruelty Squad, you play as a member of the game’s namesake. A soulless husk of a man in a soulless husk of a world, you are sent in to do the wetwork for whatever corporation is paying. Select your guns, install your disgusting bio-augments, check the stock market, and go gun down dozens of people in whatever level you choose. A simple premise. 

When you’ve been paid post-mission, you may return and buy more advanced updates, and redo levels again to find every last secret. There is plenty of detail in Cruelty Squad, and it certainly warrants replaying. If you can stomach it, that is

What Works:

Cruelty Squad walks a fine line between being too shitty to play and not being shitty enough to send the message it’s trying to send. What that message is, however, is a bit difficult to interpret. Analysis from the game, the trailer, and even the developer’s name itself points to an anti-consumerist, anti-futurist, even anti-gaming sentiment. 

This game is much deeper than the “Deus Ex but disgusting” veneer Cruelty Squad gives off. The mechanisms that drive this world are bizarre at best, outright profane at worst. But ultimately, there is a clear reflection between the sacrificial nature of commerce and capitalism in Cruelty Squad, and the one seen in the real world. 

What Doesn’t:

Cruelty Squad may be intentionally off putting, but there is much going on that is in need of improvement. The AI is rudimentary and some screen settings change wherever I close and restart the game. And the car will go on forever unless I come to a complete stop before jumping out. But it’s hard to tell what jank needs improvement and what is necessary to the experience. How To Fix It:

Ironically being a bad game still is being a bad game. Cruelty Squad can’t ever escape that, though it can certainly wear it with pride. It remains to be seen just what kind of improvements will be made in the remainder of early access development, and what needs to be left in. It’s like some kind of Jackson Pollock painting. The jank and ugly is critical for Cruelty Squad’s success. 

Wanky Musings:

In a way, Cruelty Squad is the perfect encapsulation for our current, exceedingly cruel world. In an era where countless lives are destroyed, be it from preventable disease, homelessness, debt, and more, all for the sake of creating a little more wealth, Cruelty Squad begs to question what the point of all this is. What is life, if we’re all trapped in these arcane systems of power and consumption, toiling our lives away for just a bit more cash to buy another game on Steam. 

Cruelty Squad is visually unappealing. It’s gross. It depicts a soulless world. And it’s like staring into a mirror. Cruelty Squad is unafraid to capture the ugliness of the 21st century, and although it looks indescribably bad, it is uncannily full of soul. 

You can buy Cruelty Squad from Steam by clicking here.

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