Videorama: Heat Signature
I’m not usually an indie games kinda guy, but I heard some folks talking about a title called Heat Signature. I checked out some videos on Steam while chatting with the Esteemed @Mindstrike one night, and I guess it made a suitable impression on us; I logged into Steam last night and found that Mr. Strike had gifted it to me, so I did what any level headed human would do, and set up and impromptu stream.
What is Heat Signature?
You are either a freedom fighter, an outlaw, or a rogue soldier with a chip on your shoulder. Something is seriously dusting your doilies and you’re not going to stand for it. So you jump in your space-pod and head out into the void to find a target. Matching speed, you dock with their airlock and proceed to kick ass in the (Manson) family way. You do this by WASDing your way through a series of interconnected rooms, avoiding automated cameras and turrets and patrolling guards as you seek your objective.
How does it play?
The game’s conceit is its “pause and act” mechanic. By pressing the spacebar, the game halts and allows you to set up your situation. You can switch weapons (assigning up to two, one for each mouse button), or you can take an action that is triggered the minute you let off the button. Most of the time, this system is used for getting the drop on a target. When you see something you’d like to attack, pause the game, line up the shot (or designate the target for your trusty melee wrench), and release. You’ll immediately get back to action mode, and hopefully have taken out your enemy. Timing is of the essence, however, because as soon as you unpause, everyone is unpaused — including other enemies. And if you fired a weapon, chances are the whole ship knows and have triggered a timed alarm. If you can take out the captain before the alarm reaches 0, you have a chance to escape. If not, your character is captured and imprisoned.
All is not lost, though, because you seem to have a never-ending roster of other characters waiting back at HQ that you can switch to at any time. The interesting thing about each character is that they have a grudge that they need to settle. Most of them seem procedural along the lines of “revenge on X who Y’d his/her Z”, like “revenge on Doug who Killed his Mom”, and apparently that’s something they can work towards. If a character is captured, another character can have liberating them as their goal. The only problem is that all progress — money, gear, etc. — is held by the characters themselves so if someone is captured, their stuff goes with them and other characters start at ground level.
I found the playthrough fun. Each ship mission is rated for relative ease based on the size of the ship you infiltrate, and the number of on-board defenses. Each ship went fast enough that there’s an undercurrent of “one more mission” to the game, which gives it a great pick-up-and-play as well as a session longevity vibe. It can be brutal, however: ramming your pod into a ship can trigger external defenses which will damage you and leave you with nothing but auxiliary fuel to get back to home base, and considering the inertial physics at play it’s not always easy to hit the mark on the first try. Sometimes I found myself kicked out of the infiltrated ship for…some reason…and in need of medical attention. I’m not sure what happened in those situations, but so long as the alarm isn’t sounding, or if it is and you can redock and take out the captain fast enough, you can complete the mission.
Since Heat Signature has launched recently (as of the writing of this post), they are running a special in-game event: for the next 7 days if you find the right ship to board, you can unlock a special weapon drop throughout the game. Any time you start a new game you’ll have the chance to get that weapon, but if you miss the window, or if you fail to find that weapon, you’ll neverbe able to get it in any game you start, ever. That’s kind of an interesting mechanic and a good impetus to take the leap if you’re on the fence about the game, but act fast!