Volume PC Review
Volume is the second game lead by Mike Bithell, creator of Thomas Was Alone. Instead of being a purely narrative driven game like his previous effort, Volume builds something that feels much more traditional as a video game. What we have here is a stealth game that openly invites comparisons to older Metal Gear Solid games.
You play as Rob Locksley (voiced by YouTube personality Charlie McDonnell), who has hijacked a device called a “Volume” to simulate heists and broadcast them across the internet, to help overthrow a corporation which has taken full control of England. Most of the game’s story is told through voice-over, featuring the talents of Danny Wallace (who won a BAFTA for his performance in Thomas Was Alone), Andy Serkis, and cameos by other internet famous people.
The game’s story is told over the course of 100 “core levels”, which range from taking around 30 seconds to 5 minutes each. The bitesize feel to each mission makes it easy to fit in one after another. All of those levels should take around 6 hours to finish, but there is also a level editor and user-created levels to keep you busy after that. Unlike Thomas Was Alone where the games mechanics and story were inseperable, the story is here to just provide context to what you do in the game. It’s essentially a futuristic retelling of Robin Hood that does feel a little hammy in spots, but its central theme of hope makes for a pleasant ending to the game. It’s a nice story but it’s inelegantly told, as getting spotted by guards will cause voice-overs to stop entirely until the coast is clear. Maybe there could have been a better means of storytelling that would have suited the pace of the game better.
There’s a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness to Volume which extends to the script and in some ways to the way the game plays as well. It has the look of an old-fashioned stealth game to it, vision cones and all, but there’s a touch of modernisation to it as well. The enemy’s line of site is displayed directly around them, as opposed to on a radar in the corner. The game’s control scheme is fairly simple and easy to understand.
Every mission has to be completed in a non-lethal manner, as you are taking part in virtual heists. This means that every so often you’ll get to play around with gadgets used for distraction. Levels have been designed to showcase them effectively and they can be fun to make use of. The game doesn’t over-rely on any for a long period of time as well, so it does not let any of them get boring.
As opposed to the set-piece driven nature of Metal Gear, each of the levels feels like a contained stealth puzzle. Checkpoints are also incredibly generous, which in some ways rob the game of having any real challenge. Volume feels like a game that has had its rough edges sanded off for better and for worse. It feels scared of frustrating the player. However I imagine there will be plenty of challenges to be found in user-created levels.
There are some really good user-created levels (and also a lot or recreations of the opening of Metal Gear Solid), and the staff picks section makes it so that it’s easy to find decent levels. The level editor is also really simple to work with, meaning that all that limits you are the general mechanics of the game and your own imagination.
While the main story missions are a little easy, it still is really fun to play with, and there are already plenty of user-generated missions to play with. Volume’s purity of focus in creating simple stealth works well for the most part.