Severed Steel Review – The Best Arm Cannon Since Metroid
Developed by Greylock Studios
Published by Digerati
Available on PC
I’d like to continue my 2021 playing almost every new first-person shooter on the market. There’s still a lot to look forward to this year, but Severed Steel is definitely a highlight. You play as Steel, a woman who wakes up in a trash compactor missing an arm, and she’s pissed. You start your journey there, down one arm, but full of rage. This intro area will get you used to the movement in Severed Steel. Spoiler: The movement is insane. If you can think of something to do, you can probably do it. Run up a wall, front flip over a shielded enemy, and blast them in the back of the head on the way down? Do it.
The movement is really the selling point of Severed Steel for me. You are not confined to any area for very long. You can slide, dive, wall-run, kick, and double jump pretty much anywhere. Combat is fast and brutal. You’ve got to rely on weapons taken from enemy armories or just enemies themselves. When your ammo runs out, you can pull a page out of the Superhot playbook and throw your empty gun right into someone’s face. This stuns them enough for you to take their gun. The selection of weapons is, frankly, awe-inspiring. Shotguns, pistols, machine guns, lasers, grenade launchers, and so on.
While most games would be content to have one form of each weapon type, Severed Steel saw fit to include many different models for each weapon type. Shotguns come in standard, suppressed, automatic, and explosive. Almost every weapon has these choices. You can move through a level with a small, silenced pistol; or go whole hog with a large caliber sidearm capable of popping heads with very little effort. The game plays out like a game show in some respects. Hitting a headshot kill results in a big, pink, digital banner showing “HEADSHOT” above your enemy. If you’re moving fast, and landing shots, the number of pink announcements can actually start to get in the way of the action. It’s still very satisfying, though.
The action is just so fast. Once you get down the basics of movement, you’ll be tearing through levels. Severed Steel will appeal to speedrunners for sure. I bested the main campaign is just over 2 hours on the second difficulty. Higher difficulties will require a thorough understanding of the game mechanics to get through. One thing that I love, is that enemies are incapable of hitting you while you’re doing sick stunts. If you’re sliding across the floor or running up a wall, bullets just don’t hit you. It’s a feature of the game. In Severed Steel, you can do stunts so well that bullets just don’t work. I wish more games would reward me for riding a hospital gurney while shooting faceless cyber-solders.
Oh yeah, Steel is missing an arm, but not for terribly long. You’ll steal a sick arm cannon from research and development, and in a very Ash Williams turn, you’ll jam it onto your arm stump and call it good. This arm cannon absolutely obliterates any enemy. Shield? Who cares? The arm cannon tears through them, shoving their shield into their body hard enough to turn them into a fine, red paste. Unfortunately, the arm cannon only has three shots, and has to be recharged by killing enemies covered in tech that will recharge your cannon. I mostly used the arm cannon to make traversal easier.
The world of Severed Steel is made of destructible voxels. It adds a bit of cinematic flair to see pieces of walls and floors get torn off by bullets. There is a certain satisfaction in diving through a window and have it shatter while bullets hit the frame around it, sending chunks of concrete flying. The arm cannon will knock holes in walls. Through my playtime, I didn’t often find something that couldn’t be destroyed. Walls can have holes blown in them, doors can be kicked off into enemies, and floors can be chipped apart to shoot at enemies on a lower or higher floor. Sometimes, I would need to find my objective, and, finding too many walls in the way, would just start blasting holes in everything to make my trip quicker.
While you’re doing all of this ridiculous killing, you’ll be driven forward by a thumping techno soundtrack. The music is so damn good. Severed Steel knows its music is good, and even gave me a tool tip informing me that I could pause the game at any time to see what track was playing. There is a special love put into this soundtrack. In a game like this, the soundtrack ties it all together. Imagine DOOM 2016 without Mick Gordon’s soundtrack. Severed Steel just wouldn’t be the same without the driving beats pushing you into more violence.
The visuals are pure dystopian sci-fi. The soldiers you’re fighting are faceless paramilitaries who exist only to kill you. If you take a moment to observe the world around you, you’ll find that things are pretty dark in Severed Steel. It’s subtle, kind of relegated to the background. Of course, the foreground is all non-stop action; stunts and shooting. You won’t really find anything that scares you in Severed Steel. For me, it was just far too subtle to register. I was far too enamored with the spectacle to really care about what was going on in the background. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I can’t wait to dig into the Firefight mode and user-created maps. There is a lot of Severed Steel beyond the campaign.
The campaign almost seems like an appetizer for what comes after. Firefight mode lets you customize levels in a kind of score attack format. You can try and build up a high score with headshots and quick movement. I see that less than 10 days after release, there are already awesome user-created maps coming out. If you want something fast and mean, you could do far worse than Severed Steel.