Kur Early Access Review – Want to Kur-mit Violence on Mars?
Developed by Really Ragdoll
Published by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
Available on PC
I missed the heyday of 90’s shooters. Quake is a mystery. Unreal Tournament is whispered about in hushed tones with reverence by people who had a 56k modem and the money to afford such a lavish connection. The recent boomer shooter renaissance is not lost on me. I’ve reviewed what I’ve been given, and generally enjoyed it. It should really come as no surprise that I greatly enjoy Kur.
Mars is being attacked. Flesh-covered robots are attacking and it’s up to you to stop them. That’s about the gist of it. Taking the Duke Nukem boot to a new level, Kur gives you a strength-augmented leg. Kicking barrels, doors, and other items into enemies is a valid strategy. Instead of a rocket jump, you can just kick the ground while jumping to send yourself skyward. You can even do a bit of light parkour by kicking walls on your way up. The boot is great. Especially in later levels, when enemies start carrying shields. The one-two punch of a boot to kick away the shield, followed by a shotgun blast, is undeniably badass.
The boot won’t be your only means of defense on a harsh Mars. The arsenal Kur provides you with is just silly in how excessive it is. Within one level, I had found 3 new guns and didn’t even get to use them. Nothing stands out above anything else. If you played a 90’s shooter – or a recent remaster – the weapons will be familiar. Pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, freeze ray, shrink ray, rail gun, grenade launcher, giant spider leg…wait. Yes, there is a giant spider leg. It’s a fantastic melee weapon and will help you out of jams when you run out of ammo. The weapons all feel good and work well. It eliminates the boomer shooter “shotgun problem”. You’ll be switching up just to see how much blood you can paint the levels with.
If I had to complain about something, it would be ammo. Kur is fast. You’ll be running, jumping, kicking, sliding, and generally acting like friction is just a suggestion made by a stupid nerd named John Walker in 1826. It breaks up the flow when you realize you’re out of ammo. Enemies, in the beginning, tend to hit pretty hard. A roomful can bring you down quickly when you have no ammo. This is remedied later in the game via an upgrade, but for the first hour or so, it’s a bit of a nuisance. Either way, the boot can help you in these situations, and using it is satisfying. Enemies go flying, or just explode into a spray of giblets and limbs. The damage modeling is funny. Arms will get stuck in scenery and blood persists as you move through the levels. Eventually, they become abattoirs.
I mentioned upgrades. Kur wants you to be the best space mercenary with a strength-augmented leg you can be. Upgrades, in the current build, absolutely break the game. You can find upgrade stations in secret areas throughout levels. If you’re even halfway familiar with the gospel of Carmack, then you know how secret areas work in boomer shooters. Within 2 hours I had every single upgrade. Enemies dropped health, my boot hit harder, enemies dropped ammo, my max health was 400, and so on. These upgrades made me an unstoppable killing machine. I could easily clear a level and ignore ammo pickups and health because enemies showered me with them frequently. The magnet upgrade made it so I didn’t even have to slow down to collect the stuff they dropped.
With a fully upgraded character, Kur feels like a proper boomer shooter. You’re constantly moving, never stopping, and never taking your finger off the trigger. A nasty little bug I found, was that if you’re fully upgraded and find another upgrade station, you’re locked into the upgrade screen. I’m sure the developers of Kur didn’t expect me to be on a completely different metaphysical level of FPS skill, so this bug can be overlooked due to the early access state of the game. Some bugs are actually quite funny. Sometimes when you kick an enemy, the boot hits them with so much force, they cease to exist in the puny confines of things like “game engines”. They fly through walls, scenery, and sometimes just blink out of existence with no blood or fanfare.
I keep talking about bugs, but I don’t mind them. I very much enjoyed Kur. I’m excited to see what they do next. It’s got what I’d call “lovable jank”. The bugs don’t hurt the experience and actually add a little flavor. At one point I climbed something I’m pretty sure I wasn’t intended to climb and ended up out of bounds. I wandered around and admired the scenery before I realized I had no way to kill myself. Unfortunately, your options are an in-beta quicksave function or starting back from the beginning of the level when you die. Most levels are bite-sized and I didn’t mind re-running them on the odd chance I died.
The levels themselves are lovingly built. Small alcoves, caves, and vent grates hide secrets, and it was a great joy to try and find all of them. You wouldn’t think the game takes place fully on Mars with the attention the devs paid to the scenery. There’s an excellent level on a train, and another that takes place underwater. There are even terrifying piranha enemies! Maybe even a giant walking piranha boss. All-in-all, Kur shows great promise. It’s of course a good time in its current state, but if you want to wait for a more polished experience, that’s fine too. I love early access because it allows me to watch a game be built pretty much in real-time. If that’s not your jam, ok. I’m gonna go replay that underwater level.