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The Top 5 Underappreciated Cyberpunk Games

/ Nov 20th, 2012 No Comments

Cyberia 2

Cyberpunk is a fictional setting that doesn’t shirk from making a bold prediction that has in recent years become virtually prophetic: the future will not be pretty. Technology will be at its peak as will science. These however cannot cure a broken society where corruption is rampant, hope is all but eradicated and corporations practically make the world spin.

Bitter and bleak though as that sounds, that’s what makes cyberpunk so fascinating. The setting of a broken future as well as the grittiness, philosophy and moral ambiguity associated with the setting has made for a terrific setting for use in books, films and, of course, video games. Games like Deus Ex and Syndicate have used the setting effectively, not to mention are successful to boot.

Not all cyberpunk games are this fortunate. Some are released to a poor reception from critics,  get lackluster sales and are ignored by players kneecapping whatever chance of success they might have had. Here are five games that deserve more attention from gamers and cyberpunk fans.

#5: Dreamweb

Disturbing, dark, strange and strange: these are a few words that best describe the 1992 DOS cyberpunk adventure Dreamweb by Creative Reality. These aren’t given lightly. This is a game that doesn’t shy away from its surreality and dark tones.

Dreamweb puts you in control of Ryan, a bartender suffering from constant dreams regarding a strange otherworldly device known as the Dreamweb which holds the fabric of humanity together. One night Ryan is contacted by a keeper of the Dreamweb who instructs him to kill seven individuals who plot to disrupt the Dreamweb. Players must from this moment help Ryan in becoming judge, jury and executioner for this task.

Dreamweb is a point and click adventure played from a top down perspective, something not often done in games of this kind. Dreamweb oozes with atmosphere capturing the bleakness and visuals commonly associated with cyberpunk. Dreamweb is very dark featuring a number of disturbing themes and mature content mirroring the fractured universe it is set in. It’s an experience that is supplemented by some challenging puzzles, an intriguing story and a great soundtrack.

If you can forgive its short length, clunky interface and hitting a dead end if you don’t act correctly, Dreamweb just manages to be an absorbing cyberpunk adventure that’s likely to give your mind a trip.

#4: Cyberia 2: Resurrection

After the  successful 1994 release of Cyberia, developer Xatrix Entertainment followed up with a sequel exclusively for DOS one year late. Cyberia 2: Resurrection both continued and provided better closure to a rather enjoyable cyberpunk adventure.

Beginning three years after the first game, Cyberia 2 starts with the protagonist of the first game, Zak, a cyber hacker, waking from a three year cryogenic sleep. Dr. Corbin recovers Zak from a crash landing with the powerful Cyberia weapon.  Rescued by a freedom fighter named Noelle, Zak discovers that Corbin intends to use the remains of the Cyberia weapon to create a deadly nano-toxin to put down the rebels that she works for. The only way to combat it is with Zak’s blood, which if synthesized, will provide a cure to the toxin. Players must help Zak to accomplish this and stop Dr. Corbin’s plans.

Like the first game, Cyberia 2: Resurrection mixes action packed arcade rail shooter sequences with challenging adventure segments on foot. Cyberia 2 improved on this hybrid formula with better graphics and the addition of many rail shooter sequences that now take place on foot instead of just in aircraft. The gameplay is more forgiving than the first, which was still hard even on the lowest settings. More importantly though was that Cyberia 2 featured a longer story with more development and substance than the first.

Overall Cyberia 2: Resurrection is a terrific followup to Cyberia and easily the more superior of the two games. It also suffers the distinct displeasure of being the far less known than the first: something it just doesn’t deserve.

#3: Messiah

Messiah by Shiny Entertainment mixes cyberpunk with something you wouldn’t expect: religion. It’s a combination that works strangely well making for one of the most unusual and original cybeprunk games made.

The story of Messiah, in keeping with cyberpunk tradition, takes place in a borderline utopian future. Humanity has fallen into a state of moral decay but science has reached its zenith. This has caused God to grow concerned however, as science has has come so far that it is being used to subvert and manipulating his creation. The leader of the human race, Father Cain, has gained particularly scrutiny from God for being the figurehead of this. Eventually God sends Bob, an angel, down to earth to see first hand how things bad are on earth and to see what Cain is up to. Bob uncovers a plot that Cain plans that if successful could bring heaven to its knees.

As you can guess, you control Bob. Bob sadly is incapable of fighting due to his frail and defenseless frame. His only useful gift is bodily possession. This mechanic make Messiah a unique one as Bob must constantly switch between both his angelic self and the bodies of others to combat enemies, solve puzzles and reach new areas. It all happens in a huge dank world.

Messiah is a cyberpunk game full of innovation and original ideas. If you don’t mind some frustration, some difficult sections and it waxing religious a little, it’s a game that warrants a good playthrough.

#2: Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy

Team 17 is a developer famous for its action strategy franchise Worms. However the company has created many other games spread across a multitude of different genres, many of which still are overlooked. Of these games, Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy to this day remains one of their first and only point and click adventures. It’s a good one to boot.

Set in the year 2099, gamers play as investigator Joshua Reev. Hired by a former military comrade turned governor, Hugh Martin, Reev is tasked with investigating the disappearance of Scott Ruby. Ruby is an associate of the politician who was infiltrating a terrorist group responsible for attacks on the Genesis Cryogenic Enterprise. Joshua effectively takes Ruby’s place and is tasked with investigating the terrorist group. Things aren’t as simple as that and, as players will find out, the group is just part of a bigger conspiracy.

Nightlong is an engrossing adventure game with a great story, challenging puzzles (just wait until you get to the final puzzle if you don’t believe this) and a terrific cyberpunk feel. Nightlong really delivers if you’re looking for a great adventure to occupy your time.

#1: Snatcher

Designed by Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame, Snatcher published by Konami is the holy grail of underrated cyberpunk games. Although a relative success in Japan, the game’s only North American release for SEGA CD was a commercial flop despite its high quality.

The game is set in 2047 in Neo Kobe City, an island metropolis built following a massive biological attack wiping out half of the world’s population. Players control Gillian Seed, an amnesiac working for J.U.N.K.E.R.: an agency that hunts down and eliminate androids nicknamed snatchers for their tendency to kill humans and take their place in society. Controlling Seed, players spend the game trying find and eliminate the snatcher threat in the hopes of recovering their memory. But things aren’t going to be that simple as you’ll find out when you play.

Don’t be fooled by this summary, Snatcher has a story taking inspiration chiefly from Blade Runner, which it uses as a springboard to create a tale that is original, complex and superbly written. Released across multiple platforms in Japan, the game’s only North American release takes advantage of CD technology including high quality voices and enhanced graphics. Throw in simple to grasp gameplay and Snatcher is a solid game. It’s easily one of the most underappreciated cyberpunk games made.

These are just five cyberpunk games that cry out for a second chance. You can find many of these for sale online or, if you’re lucky, at a local game store. If you’re up for a jaunt to the future, consider giving this a try. And don’t fret, you will not need a neural hookup to play them.

Jonathan Anson

Jonathan Anson

A resident of Southern California, Jonathan Anson has been a lover of games ever since his father brought home a Windows 95 computer where he was first introduced to his first games. He previously worked for The Gamer Studio before jumping ship to Gaming Illustrated where he can be found showcasing his other love: writing. He is also in the process of attempting to acquire an AA degree in Journalism from Saddleback College.
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