Fans of comic books have had little trouble finding entertainment tailored to them over the course of the past decade, from games to TV to movies, independent to record-breaking budgets. Surprisingly, not many of those pieces of media take the comic book structure, aside from clear standouts like Into the Spider-Verse that buck the trend. In both its art style and much of its storytelling structure, Foreclosed is as close to an interactive comic book as games get, offering a very interesting aesthetic and some refreshing perspective changes that feel like you really are playing a comic book. Unfortunately, that’s about where the interesting aspects of Foreclosed end. Take out its interesting style and it’s an underbaked and unbalanced cyberpunk shooter whose best ideas drown underneath a generic story and uninspired gameplay.
The setup to Foreclosed’s story is intriguing enough. In a dystopian cyberpunk futuristic world, you are Evan Kapnos, a man whose identity has been foreclosed by the megacorporation that controls them, allowing for his identity and his brain implants to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Upon receiving this information, Evan sets out to figure out the reasons behind his foreclosure and how he can stop it, and over the course of the 3-4 hour campaign, there are a handful of twists and turns that shake up the narrative, including two major choices that branch the story.
"Take out its interesting style and it’s an underbaked and unbalanced cyberpunk shooter whose best ideas drown underneath a generic story and uninspired gameplay."
Once you get beyond the setup, though, Foreclosed becomes a highly generic cyberpunk story that doesn’t really present any interesting or fresh ideas. There are only a couple moments that truly play into the idea of the identity foreclosure, moments that the game will not let you forget, but otherwise it seems to strip ideas from every other dystopian cyberpunk future without much of what makes them interesting. The villains, especially the megacorporation at the center of the conspiracy, are cartoonishly evil. It feels almost like the game assumes that you know the corporation is evil just because it tells you that it’s a megacorporation without actually giving a reason behind it or any real motivation. There are other factors at play, including explanations behind your brain implants, but even with someone from the company at your side for most of the way, it feels very underbaked, like there are so many things going on that none of them have a chance to breathe over the course of just a few hours.
When explanations are given, Foreclosed defaults to a highly tell-over-show approach that can get old quickly. I never really felt like I had figured anything out or, more importantly, had really engaged in the story. Instead, conclusions, if not explicitly told to you or said aloud by the main character, are explained in such broad daylight that it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a build-up. It doesn’t help that the writing and voice acting are woefully average, if not downright painful at points. Evan’s voicing is pulled straight from the generic cyberpunk playbook, and some lines, even when put into the comic book format, are eye-rollingly cheesy.
The comic book aesthetic really is the saving grace of the entire package. Alongside the art style that mimics the color palette and shading comics are known for, story beats are often told in authentic comic panels, and some of the weaker elements of the story can be forgiven knowing the inspiration and homages it’s making. In gameplay, too, the comic book elements are some of the most interesting. The screen splits into panels often seamlessly and gives you an interesting change of perspective in sections that are usually story-heavy and combat-free. Even if they’re just a small part of the package, these segments are easily the most memorable pieces of the puzzle, at least on the positive side.
"It doesn’t help that the writing and voice acting are woefully average, if not downright painful at points. Evan’s voicing is pulled straight from the generic cyberpunk playbook, and some lines, even when put into the comic book format, are eye-rollingly cheesy."
It’s when Foreclosed turns from its panel aesthetic to its third-person perspective that it loses me, and unfortunately, it’s in third-person for about 95% of the game. For the most part, Foreclosed is a third-person shooter with the most surface-level RPG elements at play. As you gain experience points, you can unlock abilities that enhance either your brain implants, allowing you to do things like shield yourself or lift an enemy off the ground, or your gun, making your bullets explosive or shield-piercing. There are also a few automatically-unlocked abilities, like stealth killing and telekinesis, that are required in certain areas of the campaign.
Just the act of playing the game as a third-person shooter is frustrating in a lot of ways. Aiming is stiff and imprecise and made exponentially worse by the near-requirement for headshots to kill enemies. Most enemies are killed with just a single headshot, but some dudes can take upwards of a dozen shots to the body, especially frustrating when someone is standing right in front of you or there’s an enemy swarm approaching. This makes it less of an activity in becoming better at the mechanics and more of a game of finding exploits.
But the ultimate problem with Foreclosed’s gameplay is its utter lack of balance across the board. Its difficulty doesn’t spike as much as it becomes a brick wall. More than a couple times in just a few hours was I stuck on a combat encounter because of either the sheer number of enemies or their deadeye aim across the map, almost to the point of being literally spawn-killed on a couple occasions. The pendulum swings the other way, though, when you start to unlock your abilities, specifically the two instant kill abilities. Combat flips from being frustratingly difficult to laughably easy in almost literally the blink of an eye. This isn’t the case of learning how to play the game and mastering its abilities; these abilities feel like cheat codes that make the game not only much easier, but considerably less engaging. Sure, they’re fun to see for the first few times, but it’s the gameplay version of telling over showing: I gained the ability to barrel through a herd of enemies, but I never actually felt like I needed to improve at the game’s basic mechanics. There are a couple moments near the end that feel like they pull everything together, if only briefly, but I can only wonder where that combination of mechanics is during the rest of the game.
"Just the act of playing the game as a third-person shooter is frustrating in a lot of ways. Aiming is stiff and imprecise and made exponentially worse by the near-requirement for headshots to kill enemies. Most enemies are killed with just a single headshot, but some dudes can take upwards of a dozen shots to the body, especially frustrating when someone is standing right in front of you or there’s an enemy swarm approaching."
The balance issues extend into gameplay styles, too. You’re introduced early to a stealth kill option, implying that you’ll have some stealth sections later on or maybe some stealth skills to improve. Neither of these is true. From then on, I used stealth a total of maybe 4-5 times, and I was even inexplicably restricted from using it on a few occasions. The only sections that embody stealth remove any enemy takedowns and kill you if you’re spotted at all, which isn’t helped by some unintuitive level design. You’re also given the ability to hack certain items, which is usually a cool or at least thought-provoking mechanic in most games, but hacking in Foreclosed is done by pressing four buttons in a row that pop up from a distance and have no consequences if you mess up. It’s not hacking so much as it’s a glorified quick-time event and is about as unsatisfying as it gets.
Foreclosed feels like it started with a couple good ideas, like its comic book aesthetic and identity foreclosure, but once those are introduced, it tries to coast off of them instead of building on them. The gameplay moments presented in comic panels are cool but underutilized, and the story’s themes are not only incredibly foreseeable but also don’t play up the best parts of the concept. What comes together is a highly underwhelming setting and story and unbalanced gameplay that never finds its footing, making Foreclosed feel like a case study in untapped potential that’s more frustrating to get through than it’s worth.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Comic book aesthetic; Brief moments of good gameplay; Interesting premise.
Wildly unbalanced gameplay; Severe difficulty spikes and drops; Subpar writing and acting; Generic cyberpunk story.