Homicidal All-Stars is the game show of the future, and as with all of these things, that involves ultraviolence and a kill or be killed mentality. I mean, seriously, can’t they just reboot Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, or something? Always with the violence.
Homicidal All-Stars takes its inspirations from the crossroads of The Running Man, Smash TV and XCOM, offering up intense tactical combat and third-person exploration sections as you make your way through a tightly scripted narrative campaign. We had open access to play for a few hours through a preview build that showed up a lot of different options in terms of skill trees
Players will control Scarlett Martillo – if she dies it’s over – and a bunch of other competitors in the titular TV show that will help you bring the pain. When you’re adventuring, you’ll control only Scarlett as you charge around the place trying to dodge traps, find loot and… build your brand by signing autographs and cultivating a personality through your interactions. These interactions are definitely a unique vibe, and through these early opening chats are mostly fans asking who you are or mistaking you for other competitors, they were full of character.
The setting feels like the sticky floor of a nightclub you should have left an hour ago, while the braying crowds, harsh neons and the traps – oh the traps – you’re navigating during the third-person action segments all just give off a strong dystopian vision that you can practically smell through your monitor. It’s compelling stuff that mostly serves to steer you between the turn-based encounters with the minimum of fuss, but I found I quite enjoyed it once I got past how odd it was to switch between turn-based and third-person control schemes.
There’s something similarly grimy about the combat. It’s relentless and rather than the clinical finish you’ll see in something like XCOM, here trading damage with enemies feels nearly essential: there are even bonuses handed out for taking more than your full health bar of damage without dying. Killing enemies often sees them blown to chunks, covering the maps in a meaty paste. However, if you’re not careful that could become your fate too, as enemies have a range of weapons and tactics that can easily take advantage of your mistakes. Do you want to get gutted with a katana? Me neither, but if you get the positioning wrong it’s going to happen.
Developer Artificer has a lot of experience in the space, with the team working previously on Hard West and Phantom Doctrine, and it’s clear for playing for a little bit that they’re experts at making turn-based tactics games, but Homicidal All-Stars is better for being stripped back, focused only on what’s in front of you at any given moment, and it’s quite freeing for there to be no real strategy layer. You brawl, you get XP, you level up. There’s nothing else to stress about.
Couple that up with combat that has you blowing the hell out of bunny-faced criminals and ducking between semi-demolished shops, screens bearing branded advertisements and the sheer fun of turning your enemies into a meaty paste, and Homicidal All-Stars could be a perfect game for when you’re not feeling like thinking too hard but still want to enjoy some intense tactical action.