STAFF REVIEW of Severed Steel (Xbox One)

Monday, August 8, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Severed Steel Box art Have you ever wondered how much more of a badass John Wick would be if he was in The Matrix, but also able to use bullet time from Max Payne and FEAR while also having the parkour skills form Mirror’s Edge? Think SUPERHOT but on steroids, and that’s essentially what you have with Severed Steel. A first person single player shooter that not only has some kick ass mechanics, but with fluidity to its movement with its interesting parkour, destructible environments, plenty of slow motion bullet time and you, a one-armed badass that won’t let anything get in her way to complete her mission, even gravity.

You are Steel, a one-armed woman operative on a mission that won’t stop moving even for a moment, as every second counts and performing fancy parkour maneuvers isn’t just to look cool, it’s to keep you alive. Do you remember how cool it was to play SUPERHOT for the first time, able to move around and avoid bullets with ease? Imaging taking that to the next level, where time doesn’t stop, but you’re given much more maneuverability, even able to disarm enemies and kill them with their own weapons before they can react. Even from the opening tutorial missions, Severed Steel never lets up, constantly having you move, jump, double jump, wall run, dive and more to get to your destination, but of course there are plenty of enemies standing in your way, so you’ll have to become fluid with your movement and shooting if you want to survive, using all the tools available to you.

While there is a semblance of a narrative here, there’s just a few short silent cutscenes that play out as a storyboard across the very short campaign. Because you’ll be able to easily complete this in a single sitting, I don’t want to spoil anything of the 'story', as there’s not much to grasp onto in the first place. You’re playing this for its gameplay, so thankfully it performs that portion quite well. There is a New Game+ mode to unlock and even a FireFight Mode, so there is some decent replay value here even with the short campaign.

First and foremost, I’ll admit, I’m older now, so my twitch reflexes aren’t what they used to be, so I was curious how I would fare at a game like this where every moment and shot counts. Thankfully developers have put in a slew of accessibility options to allow even the newest players still be able to enjoy Severed Steel as intended. Not only are there multiple difficulties, but plenty of options for audio, visual and gameplay choices depending on your needs.

Playing on Easy my first time was a treat because you get unlimited slow-mo/bullet time, no need to use it sparingly. Is the movement a little too quick for you to keep up with? There’s an option to turn down the running speed. Don’t want the hassle of having to trigger the slow-mo manually? Check the option to have it automatically activate when you’re doing a stunt. You’re able to kick enemies that are close to you, so naturally there’s an option to have this done automatically as well if you want. You can even choose to automatically stop at ledges if your reaction time is lagging. With a bunch of other accessibility options, there’s no reason basically everyone couldn’t enjoy Severed Steel regardless of any handicaps or disabilities.

Generally each level is only a few minutes long if you’re quick enough, most having you get from point A to point B, but some levels will require you to destroy certain objects or trigger pressure pads before you can proceed to the next. The levels that require you to kill everyone is always fun, especially since you have like a radar type of vision where you can see enemies through walls, knowing if you should jump or slide when coming through a door. around a corner or through a wall.

Not only do you get some cool movements to be completely fluid, the environment is also fully destructible as well. Don’t want to waste time running up the stairs to get to the object you need to destroy? Blast a hole in the floor underneath and shoot from below for a quicker finish to the level, though little pistol bullets won’t do much, so you’ll need some bigger firepower to utilize this strategy. Early on you get an arm-cannon, akin to Mega Man or Samus from Metroid Prime, and this is how you cans cause the most environmental destruction.

Just as fluid as the parkour movement is, combat is just as stylish, as you’re combining headshots with your jumps, wall runs, slides, dives and even throwing weapons. When not playing on Easy, kills will refill your bullet time meter and health, so you want to find that balance of constant pressure and accuracy. Better yet, when you’re doing these stunts you’re invincible, so it pays off to constantly be moving and being as flashy as possible or than for looks.

Rather than having enemies in set spots simply waiting for you to take them out, there’s a dynamic AI in place that has them constantly searching and chasing you at your last known location. This keeps things interesting each playthrough, as it won’t always be the same each time because it’s based on your actions as well. Have a long hallway with a handful of enemies at the end you can’t reach? Start stunting all the way to them and you’ll arrive unharmed so you can start taking them out. The ‘forced’ aggression takes some getting used to, as I’m so accustomed to always hiding around corners or walls, but this is how the game rewards your constant pressure. Essentially you’re in God Mode if you’re stunting, but you need to get the kills to get that missing health and bullet time back.

Interestingly, there’s also no reloading the guns you find from enemies either. Remember, you only have one arm, so it would be quite difficult to reload while also performing all these acrobatic moves that would put a veteran circus performer to shame. So what do you do when you’re out of ammunition? It’s obvious isn’t it? Throw that weapon at an enemy to stagger them as you close the gap. Sure you’ll find cool guns that you wish you could use for longer, but you’re almost constantly swapping to new weapons as you pick them up and you’re so focused on your movement and shots.

Got no weapon and there’s an enemy ahead? No problem, run right into them with a slide, grab their weapon, kick them away and blast them with a headshot in bullet time. It’s an awesome feeling to grab a weapon from an enemy and then killing them with it a second later while diving backwards or up and over them. Seriously, the movement and shooting mechanics never become dull and you constantly feel like a pure badass, even for having one arm.

Do you miss the classic Firefight Mode from Halo Reach where you had to take on waves of enemies? Fear not, as Severed Steel has that here as well with plenty of stages, a leveling system, weapon unlocks, a bunch of modifiers and even an online Leaderboard. I initially didn’t expect I’d play this mode often, but it’s oddly addicting due to all the weapon choices and modifiers you can choose. With a bunch of optional challenges per level as well, there’s plenty of reason to come back to Firefight Mode after you complete the brief Campaign.

While basic for its aesthetics, I’m fond of its visuals that have plenty of neon and brightness, even if it’s the same enemies repeatedly until the end. A handful of levels had some minor hitching at the start of certain sections, even on an Xbox Series X, but nothing aside from these off few moments. The audio on the other hands is on point. Weapons sound 'meaty' and impactful, but the real star is the electronic soundtrack that plays in the background, blending amazingly with the fast paced shooting and yet even somehow works when you’re in slow motion bullet time. Just like how DOOM and DOOM Eternal’s badass soundtracks elevated its gameplay, the same is here in Severed Steel.

Sure some may scoff at the just under $30 CAD price point for such a short campaign, but this is why there’s a saying of "quality over quantity", and Firefight Mode helps with this near endless replay value. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this much fun in a shooter while also feeling like a complete badass from start to finish. Severed Steel rewards stylish parkour that’s fun to pull off while testing your shooting accuracy in bullet time that has you feeling like John Wick was in The Matrix.

**Severed Steel was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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