ECHO - PS4 Review


ECHO is a fantastic experience that came out of nowhere. It is smart in multiple ways, in both its game mechanics and the narrative which certainly made me think. In a lot of indie titles you expect compromised production values or clumsy stealth, but the amount of polish added to an original storyline makes this a more memorable experience than I expected.

In a lot of stealth games, you are pitted against a wide variety of enemies that help keep the gameplay fresh by adding new abilities that introduce wrinkles to the way you play the game. Here we follow the adventures of a young woman named En, and what makes Echo so interesting is you see a lot of familiar faces - En's as a matter of fact. As En learns and does new things, her Echos learn the same new abilities. It creates an organic kind of pacing that keeps the gameplay fresh, even if the antagonists never physically appear any different.

The story is good, pulpy sci-fi fare as Echo approaches a remote planet after a century sleeping. She is on a ship piloted by an AI named London. The reason for this pilgrimage is due to a maned named Foster who En hopes to bring back to the life by visiting the strange structure on this faraway planet. However, things start to turn upside down pretty quickly as En realizes that the planet is creating copies of her - copies who are trying to kill En.


The gameplay revolves around cycles of light and darkness. The darkness obviously brings with it limited visibility, but the light presents its own challenge. That is because when the light is on, the next cycle of Echoes will be able to do anything En did while in the light. That means if you do a running slide or use a firearm in a pinch, you might be able to best the current wave that is out there after you, but the next wave will have this ability as well. This creates a fascinating gameplay loop as I found myself trying not to be too creative with En in the light, even though it often inconvenienced me to do so. Of course, there are benefits as well. If you have En stop to play an instrument in the light, you may well create a future distraction for one of the Echoes that is pursuing you. To that end, Echo introduces some puzzle elements as well, meshing elements of horror and science fiction with gameplay that draws from action and puzzle games as well.

Still, when you boil down ECHO to its most basic gameplay mechanics, you are looking at a stealth game by and large, though things get off to a slow start as Echo begins to layer its narrative on you - largely through conversations between En and London. Hell, even the introductory menu was unique, as it is just a single, brilliant eyeball peering at you from the darkness. It's then if you pull the left analog stick left or right that it reveals settings and game start options. From there, En wakes up and starts to move around, interacting with the environment in streamlined ways while spoon feeding bits of information along the way. Even when you work your way into the proper game, the HUD is pretty fascinating, detailing information via En's suite in a way that reminded me of Dead Space. Given some of the tense scenes that play out in Echo's later stages, I can't help but come away feeling as though Dead Space - though far more gruesome at times - may have served as a point of inspiration for the team at ULTRA ULTRA. This is not a bad thing, as I think Dead Space and Dead Space 2 (I try not to talk about the third entry) were two of the best horror games we saw last console generation.


Visually, ECHO is fantastic as well. Instead of being a darkly lit, narrow corridor game, En often finds herself in large spaces made narrow by the enemies she has to fight or avoid. The music and sound are appropriate, but it was really the graphics that stood out for me on the presentation side of things.

That is not to say there are no flaws in ECHO. The pacing is generally good, but I enjoyed my time earlier than later. The narrative slowly but surely gets pushed aside in favor of increasing action and difficulty. Additionally, while the gameplay hook of having the enemy learn from what you do, because En herself doesn't actually progress or develop a great deal throughout the game, there are limits to just how much the AI can learn as well. Perhaps the concern was that more variety in weapons or attacks would create some balance issues, and it would be a concern, but it would have made the latter quarter of the game a bit more interesting when the story itself was no longer really front and center.

ECHO has a fantastic gameplay loop, where the better you play and the more variety you play with, the better you are making your competition. If En herself would have seen more progress in her capabilities however, it would have created even more diversity in her opponents during the game's latter stages. Still, ECHO deserves a ton of credit for its interesting tale, excellent visuals and fantastic gameplay concept and really is one of the best surprise titles of 2017.


Game Information

Platform:
PlayStation 4
Developer(s):
ULTRA ULTRA
Publisher(s):
ULTRA ULTRA
Genre(s):
Action
Adventure
Mode(s):
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
PC

Source:
Provided by Publisher




Article by Nick
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