Shatterline could be the new IP
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This shooter seemed to come out of nowhere and the only reason anyone’s talking about it is that it looks really, really… good.
And at a time when AAA FPS developers can’t seem to get their shit together, it’s kind of like the “Cheerleader effect” — an average girl surrounded by her ugly friends looks a lot like Leonardo DiCaprio’s next date.
But before we get into Shatterline, we need to talk about its developer, Frag Lab.
Who the hell are these guys?
Who is Frag Lab LLC?
Frag Lab is a videogame development studio based in Kyiv, Ukraine that was formed in 2017 by a group of industry veterans who worked on another shooter which I’ll get to in a moment.
They’re a team of around 210 people and get this, that includes industry professionals spanning — tell me if you’ve heard these names before — Crytek, Ubisoft, GSC Game World and 4A Games.
No wonder Shatterline is, oddly, so well put together.
Not only does Frag Lab have the talent, but their founders have a major win in their product portfolio. That shooter some of the founders worked on before forming their own company? It was Warface. A free-to-play FPS developed by Crytek Kiev.
You may not have played it — the Steam reviews are mid to low with the biggest criticism now being that it’s morphed into a pay-to-win mess — but it managed to launch for PC, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, the PS4, and Nintendo Switch. No small feat.
Needless to say, these guys have experience in the genre which is why Shatterline feels like it snuck up on the FPS community — especially as a Steam early access game.
What is Shatterline?
So what is Shatterline?
Their website describes it as, “a fast-paced free-to-play FPS with a roguelike co-op mode (Expedition) as well as several traditional PvP modes such as TDM, Conquest, Plant-the-Bomb, and Escort.“
If you take a look at some recent Warface videos on YouTube, you’ll notice a resemblance between that description above and the 2013 title — a kind of, “kitchen sink” game.
It has the standard Team Deathmatch, Free for All, and Bomb modes, but also Battle Royale and a Heist mode much like Call of Duty’s Spec Ops.
Add to all of that, that the player and weapon skins are akin to Counter-Strike, and again, the game is a “kitchen sink.“
It looks like Shatterline is following the same line of thinking but including less and refining more.
And I think that’s a good direction to take. Warface looks generic and if Shatterline follows too closely, it’ll become just another generic shooter as well. It already has a “generic” aura about it — nothing really pops out — but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. But dominant shooters in the market not only nail gameplay but also have distinct personalities.
Shatterline needs a personality and that can only come from refining what they got.
Across their sparsely populated social media pages for the game, you can sus out that they’ve been silently doing just that — the pandemic and war in Ukraine not stopping them from continuing towards their goals.
Shatterline is a hero shooter but from what I’ve seen it’s light on the “hero.” While there are special abilities that come along with specific characters, they don’t take up too much of the gameplay.
Unlike Apex Legends or Rainbow Six Siege, Shatterline looks like it’s primarily about the gunplay. We’ll obviously see how that unfolds as development continues.
I started this video describing Shatterline as, “Good. Not great. Not terrible. Just, good.” And a lot about every aspect of the game is just that, “good.”
The graphics are clean and the colors are optimized for player visibility, unlike Warzone.
There are 18 Rose skin sweats in this screenshot, can you find them?
If I had to compare it to other shooters, Shatterline looks like a combination of Overwatch and Valorant.
The player skins, maps, and environmental objects have the soft palette of a Valorant, but the colors pop like an Overwatch. The guns especially look like more realistic Valorant firearms.
One thing I appreciate about Shatterline’s take on the Hero genre is their decision to take it easy on the Fortnite, Overwatch, and unfortunately Battlefield 2042-ification of Heroes.
They haven’t turned up hero animations and “GenZ dialog” to 11 to create more “personality” for the Fortnite crowd. As I said above, Shatterline’s vibe seems to be all about the game and gunplay. We’ll see if that changes during development.
Five minutes into watching my first video of Shatterline gameplay, I knew something was up.
I’d seen it before.
And in a very good way.
I know this gets thrown around a bit but I’m getting Black Ops II and Modern Warfare 2 vibes.
The recoil strength and TTK are low enough to give an “arcade realism” feel, which is exactly how CoDs play — the perfect ratio, no bullet sponges and all guns handle predictably.
And the movement speed is quick.
Speaking of movement, remember the “kitchen sink”?
Shatterline includes ziplining, wall climbing, and slides to help you get in and out of the action. I haven’t seen Titanfall wall running, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Everything about how this game seems to handle screams, “smooth” and I’m really excited to play it.
In the same way Counter-Strike maps are good, Shatterline maps get the job done.
They’re nothing flashy, but you can see them being tuned just right for competitive play.
And from what I could see, the maps are tailored for each game mode — not just a large version for Team Deathmatch and a smaller cutout for something like Hard Point. I may be wrong about that.
But more interesting than the map design — sight lines are great, a few levels of verticality — is that you can make slight, on-the-fly game-changing modifications to maps.
Shatterline has a kicking mechanic, ala Bulletstorm, which you can use to move cars, crates, and dumpsters to block tunnels, and sight lines, or even kill enemy players.
It may not seem like a big deal, but I’ve seen numerous videos where players had to modify their strategy in the heat of battle because a pathway they took 30 seconds ago was now blocked off. Really cool stuff.
With all things considered, Shatterline’s long weekend playtest showed off a game leagues ahead of any other Steam early access game within the genre.
And while they’re pushing the Roguelike game mode in marketing, if they can take community feedback and refine the competitive PvP modes, I think that’s where the staying power is going to be.
Regardless, gamers have been asking for innovation in the FPS genre forever.
And they’ve been screaming for this one thing that for some reason has been confusing the majority of AAA developers for about 10 years now… COMPETENCY.
We’ve been praying for Call of Duty to be competent again, for Halo to be competent again, for — do I even need to talk about what’s happened to Battlefield?
Gamers will reward any developer that delivers a solid and competent shooter. No BS. No bells and whistles. Just make the competition engaging and fun.
And that’s what Frag Labs’ Shatterline is looking to be — kinda generic art and design, kitchen sink offerings… but a solid shooter at the end of the day.
Shatterline will enter Early Access on Steam on September 8, 2022. I’ll definitely be adding it to my library.
I hope it can do what World War 3 and Rogue Company are trying to do — introduce a brand new competitive shooter IP we’ll all be talking about in 10 years as we’re loading up Shatterline 4.
What do you guys think? Am I way off? Are you looking forward to getting a chance to play Shatterline?
Leave your impressions in the comments section, and as always, stay cool, gentlemen.