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Shattered Horizon review

Shattered Horizon review

It is the hallmark of Futuremark’s products: Feats of real-time graphics that push visual and performance boundaries alike. Futuremark has made a serious name for itself with their 3DMark benchmark–a product that is notorious for making hardware weep with cutting edge graphics techniques.

All of the assets in 3DMark’s scenes are made exclusively by Futuremark, and those scenes typically consist of intense shootouts in space. Who hasn’t thought to themselves while watching these sequences, “I would love to play this”? Futuremark has finally delivered on that dream with Shattered Horizon, and they brought along their trademark visuals to remind us of how weak our hardware is.

Rock surfaces

Shattered Horizon is a futuristic, multiplayer, first person shooter set in space. A tragic mining accident on the moon resulted in an explosion that has shattered the lunar sphere. The two affected space organizations–the International Space Agency and the Moon Mining Cooperative–are fighting for control and survival. Sounds real original, doesn’t it? Don’t check out just yet, because the game has some serious tricks up its sleeve.

Shattered Horizon throws a curve ball with its unique mechanics. The entire game is played in the zero-G locale of open space, and gives the player control of all axes of orientation. This radically new approach to FPS game play completely redefines how we look at the genre.

Old genre, new mechanic

Control in Shattered Horizon is focused on the concept of multi-directional boosters. Your character is equipped with a space suit that has boosters on it for both movement and stabilization–it’s essentially a fancy jetpack. The suit allows you to remain relatively stationary when firing your weapon, and to orient yourself with the strange shapes of the debris strewn about the map.

Holding right click allows you to spin in any direction as you move the mouse. Furthermore, you can lower yourself to any surface and anchor yourself to it. Anchoring greatly improves your accuracy, and is the only truly effective way of using the scope to snipe unassuming free-floaters.

The abandoned mining equipment take center stage of many maps

The abandoned mining equipment take center stage of many maps.

All-axis manipulation as a control scheme can be a very disorienting experience. I found myself craning my neck to combat the visual effect of the spinning and flipping environments of Shattered Horizon.

With the game’s zero-g environment, you have to begin thinking about your enemy’s movements not only on the horizontal plane, but also on the vertical plane. This also has to be considered in the context of your own momentum and motions. It’s an incredibly simple concept with a steep learning curve. New players will figure it out quickly, but mastery will take some time.

Brian and I understood the concept, but the other players destroyed us when we first played the game. Then again, we were playing against Futuremark staff, so I think it’s safe to say that they had the advantage.

The experience

Core game play is what you would expect from a shooter like this. Every player has a scoped rifle that fires bursts when scoped, and is otherwise fully automatic. Each player also has three different grenade types: An EMP grenade that zaps suits and limits mobility, an Ice grenade that explodes in a giant plume that limits visibility, and finally the MPR grenade, which sends out a large concussion that pushes players and objects around. It’s all rather standard fare, but it becomes a very unique experience when combined with the incredible control scheme.

The one thing that left me absolutely astounded was the suit shutdown key. With the press of a button, your suit will shut down and stop responding. You will no longer have the ability to anchor to surfaces, or use jets for propulsion and stabilization (firing your weapon sends you flying in the opposite direction). The benefit of this tremendous vulnerability is stealth. You are invisible on radar when the suit is powered down.

The jaw dropping part of a suit shutdown is the presentation. Once you power down, you lose everything. The HUD dissolves away, the game chat disappears, and the audio drops out (the suit simulates audio since sound waves cannot travel in space). Once you’ve powered down, the only things you can hear are muffled gunfire from your weapon, your breathing, and your heartbeat. Everything else is completely silent. It is a stunning thing to experience in a game.

Visual standards

Graphically, Shattered Horizon is exactly what you would expect from Futuremark. The game is gorgeous. When played on DirectX 11 hardware, Shattered Horizon is one of the best looking games on the market today. The sun glints off of metal surfaces in a very convincing manner. Real time soft shadowing is applied to all surfaces. Lights from all sources flare and reflect off of your visor, creating an immersive simulation of light refraction on the curved glass surface. In action, the game is simply breathtaking. This beauty comes at a price, though, and in true Futuremark style, the game will definitely tax your system. It is the perfect title to stress your hardware.

Blown Away

Final thoughts

My biggest concern with this title is the limited novelty of zero-g combat–will it still be fun once we’re used to it? The game is not otherwise very deep. Shattered Horizon ships with just a few maps, a handful of game modes, and only one gun (the rifle). With such limited content, I fear that hardcore gamers will quickly grow tired of the game, but Futuremark has promised to keep the game fresh through free DLC.
This concern aside, Shattered Horizon is a beautiful game that visually delivers in all the areas you’ve come to expect from Futuremark. More impressively, they created a unique experience that is an absolute blast to play, and that is no small feat for a developer’s first title.

Shattered Horizon introduces a fresh mechanic to the tired FPS genre, offers an incredible value ($20!), and it pushes the hardware envelope. Given time to mature, Shattered Horizon could serve not only as the standard by which we measure graphics, but also as the standard by which we measure innovation.

The International Space Station makes and appearance

The International Space Station makes an appearance.


  1. Thrax
    Thrax I will be trying it on a GTX 275 on the 4th. I have the game preloaded in Steam.
  2. Sledgehammer70
  3. Sledgehammer70
    Sledgehammer70 I just don't see this game finding a place within today's top FPS titles. It might look pretty in DX11 but the argument most of you have thrown at me is "does it have content" and from the sounds of it that is a big no currently. A few maps with 1 gun = me jumping back to another FPS a few hours after I get over the prettiness. Which honestly for me... 0G in space isn't all that pretty, sounds like an easy way to remove 1/2 the polys current gen FPS games have to contend with.

    I can see what Futuremark is trying to do here, but they really need to fill in the content gaps and quick. Honestly a game like this reminds me of a great game back in the day called Tribes.
  4. Obsidian
    Obsidian One gun? You've got to be kidding me.
  5. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx I ran it on my system, which is shown in my signature, but currently running an ATI Radeon HD 5770 rather than my 8800GTX.

    I run the game on pretty much full settings. 1680X1050 resolution. My framerates were not as good as Prime's, obviously.

    This game will push your system like Crysis did (does)
  6. primesuspect
    primesuspect I'm very excited to see what free DLC content can bring to the table.

    Look at the complete evolution TF2 has gone through. The Team Fortress 2 of today is almost completely different from the TF2 of October 2007, and nobody has had to pay a dime for any of the extra content.

    Futuremark could do the same with this game. Through free updates, they could add character, story, world-building, style, weapons, maps, game modes, everything. It can be done. They've promised to make it happen. Now we only can wait to see if they deliver.
  7. QCH
    QCH So... what kind of hardware were you guys using?
  8. primesuspect
    primesuspect I ran it on an ATI Radeon HD 5870, and was able to go max settings at 1920x1080.
  9. Butters
    I'm very excited to see what free DLC content can bring to the table.

    Look at the complete evolution TF2 has gone through. The Team Fortress 2 of today is almost completely different from the TF2 of October 2007, and nobody has had to pay a dime for any of the extra content.

    .. They've promised to make it happen. Now we only can wait to see if they deliver.

    I see this all dependent on community support. TF2 at the time of release was an awesome game and in my opinion the extra content is just a bonus. Shattered Horizon, if its an *okay* game and needs DLC to keep people interested, then thats a bad sign. What would motivate Futuremark to provide quality DLC to just a few devoted followers, compared to one like TF2's.

    I'm sure Shattered Horizon will be bundled with everything Futuremark related and will be available anywhere, so the community has the potential to grow. But I wouldn't bank on DLC. SH2.0 could be right around the corner.
  10. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster You know, one gun as a mechanic could be interesting. The focus becomes directly targeting your prey. It may sound shallow, but in a way limiting the weaponry could provide a more focussed experience that really forces the player to work on his aim. Also in an open floating environment like this, how do you place weapon upgrades? Just leave them to float around randomly? Also, what use are typical splash damage weapons here with nothing to bounce your rocket off of? A grenade would just float indefinitely if true to the games physics. I'm willing to give the single gun game play its fair evaluation.
  11. Sledgehammer70
    Sledgehammer70 Well looking at the levels there are many areas to store weapon creates or even just weapons like UT series... as for grenades or projectiles can easily find a home in this futuristic gameplay. In all honesty 1 bullet to a guys suit would in turn kill him by being in space...
  12. primesuspect
    primesuspect The melee attack is a one-hit kill. You rip the enemy's spacesuit open.

    Getting close enough to use it is incredibly difficult. The payoff is worth the effort.
  13. Grimnoc
    Grimnoc I'd like to try it, if only for the zero-g combat.
  14. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx I played it on the specs found in my signature, minus the GeForce 8800GTX. I replaced it with an ATI Radeon HD 5770. Running everything at highest, DX11, 1680X1050. Mine certainly chugged a little, averaging around 30FPS.

    This game will push your system like Crysis did (does).

    As for the one gun, there is a surprising amount of depth to the one gun. You'll have to learn how to use the gun as a propulsion device, and counter the movments it makes for you when firing. There is good potential for 'advanced techniques' with the gun.

    Potentially, if you power down suit, catch the spash off of a concussion nade, then fire your gun in the direction of the blast, you can move in speeds greater than your boosters. That's one example.

    The game is only a few decades into the future, so from a viewpoint of realism, you woulnd't have much more up in space other than an automatic rifle. Realistic isn't always fun though. I would like to see the weapon loadout expanded in some way, but I really, really enjoy playing it as is right now.
  15. TiberiusLazarus
    Thrax wrote:
    I will be trying it on a GTX 275 on the 4th. I have the game preloaded in Steam.

    Robert Hallock does not play FPS games.
  16. chrisWhite
    chrisWhite I really want to play this but it's going to have to wait four or five months until I can rebuild my machine (hopefully). Zero-G sounds really compelling and whether or not it will stick will entirely depend on the quality of the DLC and how quickly they can get it to users. Waiting on the game may not be a bad move as more stuff is released or it could be terrible if only the most hard-core players are still at it down the line the way Demigod has become.
  17. Thrax
    Robert Hallock does not play FPS games.

    He does when they're not the same old tired shit:

  18. Ohmecks
    Ohmecks I played it for a couple hours today, and I really enjoyed it. I got an average of 25 fps on low settings with my Athlon 64 X2 5400+ and HD 4830, though it fell down to around 15 fps when in a close quarters firefight with several people. Despite the relatively poor performance, I don't think I'll grow tired of this for a while.
  19. Sam Hughes The thing about SH "getting old", is that Left 4 Dead was a fairly innovative game, with not much in terms of content (certainly more than this SH, though), just a few weapons, and it remains one of my favorite games.

    I just gave it a shot, so lets see.
  20. wahay
    wahay I restate that I want to play this with a space navigator.
  21. CB
    CB Has anyone tried to play it with a flight-stick?
  22. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx I have a space navigator... I wonder if I could get it to serve as input.

    And I still want to try my joystick (flight stick, not fightstick.)

    oh lord, I just realized I haven't seen my Saitek X45 in MONTHS, if not years. ...where is it now? I miss flight sims so much :(

    And I just realized how badly REAL flight sims have disappeared on the PC platform. That really makes me sad.
  23. QCH
    UPSLynx wrote:
    I miss flight sims so much :(

    And I just realized how badly REAL flight sims have disappeared on the PC platform. That really makes me sad.
    Yep... Miss the good old flight sims.
  24. chrisWhite
    chrisWhite Lynx, I really really really want to be able to use the Space Navigator in games but I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. The developers don't really care for it and it's outside of their target audience. Maybe someone will build a 3rd party driver to make it run as a typical joystick.
  25. CrazyJoe
    CrazyJoe I enjoyed the game, but I've yet to see any IC people on at a time to play... Anyone up for scheduling some play time this weekend?
  26. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx Notre Dame football be damned, there's no way I'll see game time this weekend :(
  27. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster You know, I am extraordinarily concerned for the future of this type of game. I love what Futuremark did here. Make a multiplayer only, PC exclusive shooter around a unique concept, only ask $19.99 or less for it over Steam, whats not to love?

    Right now the player count on the servers is pathetic and its a shame. At any given time you would be lucky to find fifty total people playing this title. I think the learning curve is scaring people off. Its hard to get the hang of. Its very hard, but the more I play the more competent I feel. Am I good yet? No, not at all. Am I satisfied with this new play experience? Yes, totally. I can't wait to play some more. And if I die twice as often as I frag, so what? I'm still having a blast playing something that challenges the typical shooter paradigm.

    I'm afraid for the future of this type of PC offering. Unless Shattered Horizon has a second life of some kind, a re birth of sorts we may never see another developer attempt anything of the sort, and that would be a real shame. So everyone here that loves Shattered Horizon, get out there, tell your friends, colleagues, lovers, enemy's, everyone about this gem. We need to get people playing this thing.
  28. Thrax
    Thrax I think one of the biggest problems SH faces is not necessarily its difficulty, but its lack of variety. It launched with a tiny handful of maps and, what, two game types? People expect more these days. I knew what I was getting into for $20, and I love the game. It's my favorite FPS. But your average gamer isn't addicted to being thrown through the meat grinder to be a good player.
  29. Cliff_Forster
    Thrax wrote:
    I think one of the biggest problems SH faces is not necessarily its difficulty, but its lack of variety. It launched with a tiny handful of maps and, what, two game types? People expect more these days. I knew what I was getting into for $20, and I love the game. It's my favorite FPS. But your average gamer isn't addicted to being thrown through the meat grinder to be a good player.

    There are three team based game types. I think it could use a standard free for all death match, which would be easy for them to accomplish in an update.

    Four maps, three gametypes, I might understand how some might get a little bored by it after sinking a good number of hours on it, but from what I can see there is a very small pocket of dedicated players. For all I know a few of them may be futuremark staff.

    What I am finding appealing at least in my last few hours of play is that each time I play I have another small revelation about strategy. Little things that start adding up. I want from going 1 for 10 to 2 for 10 to 3 for ten, now I'm fragging about half as often as I die which is still lame, but an improvement, and the reason for it is some experience in how to leverage the environment for tactical advantage, how to properly set up and aim, and a big thing for me has become how I leverage Ice to escape when I am in trouble rather than going at everything head on.

    I can understand some people frustrations because I had them all at first, as I would die ten times before scoring a kill. Since I'm fairly casual I stick with it, but the more hardcore dedicated shooter gamer might find himself saying, "this game is bullshit" and running back to more familiar camp and kill grounds of COD so he can feel elite again. In Shattered Horizon precision aiming for the head and backpack are really necessary, shooting in controlled bursts, using cover in a meaningful way, drifting instead of using the backpack full time, finding a good landing zone to aim betting down scope, all things I am learning on the fly making each game a new challenge to apply what I have learned.

    I hope more players catch on.
  30. CrazyJoe
    CrazyJoe The biggest thing that I dislike about the game is that for a game that is extremely team oriented, there is no built in voice chat. That is a pretty big omission in my eyes.
  31. primesuspect
    primesuspect They're working on it. Next patch should have voice chat built in.
  32. Thrax
    Thrax I think it's worth pointing out that most professional leagues don't use built-in voice chat because the quality sucks bad.
  33. CB
    CB The TF2 in-game voice chat is great, even for "professionals".
  34. Thrax
    Thrax The quality of TF2's voice chat can't even hold a candle to the clarity offered by even the least expensive Vent servers running the Speex codec at q0 quality. It's a night and day difference.
  35. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx Yeah, TF2's is OK until people start getting loud, or multiple people start talking, then it goes to crap.

    Vent, teamspeak, and even Skype are such incredible alternatives, it is hard to go back after using either of them.

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