Incision is a retro first-person shooter in development by SmoothBrainDev, a primarily solo developer. Its first episode is currently playable in early access. It is being published by Hyperstrange, who have a carnival of other boomer shooters such as Postal: Brain Damaged, Blood West, and Supplice (learn what a boomer shooter is here). It’s a Unity engine game and describes itself as “no bullshit” with “lots of blood & gore.” And yes, there will be plenty of pixelated viscera! Turn back now if you aren’t into blood, violence, and mid-90s graphics.
In the world of Incision, “The Growth” has united all life on the planet. Finally, a force for good, bringing the world together! Of course, there was a minor price to pay: humanity is now composed of “machine-freaks” who live in complete symbiosis with its industrial mega-structures. And if you don’t like it, well, that is not tolerated in the new world order. Anyone who resists this flesh and steel united front will be eviscerated and used as building materials for the superorganism. Unfortunately for you, you happen to be someone (or something) that isn’t part of the plan. Thus your only option is to fight tooth and steel.
You rip through this hellscape while collecting weapons, blasting freaks, and double jumping across buildings. Interestingly there is no key hunting. Switches and activating jump pads get it done! Yes, there are jump pads with plenty of verticality in Incision. The movement is quick and instant with complete air control. I never found myself accidentally stuck on an object or unable to move where I needed to be, but a tiny amount of momentum (smoothing) would improve the feel even more. You can kick through walls to find secrets for ammo, health, or extra lives. Or you can shoot exploding barrels to blast pursuing enemies into blood clouds. There are layers of violence to explore! Plus, you don’t have an inventory system to deal with, which makes the gameplay easy to learn. However, you have dedicated buttons for activating/using, kicking, reloading the pistol, and alternate fires. So you have more buttons to bind than a typical boomer shooter, but nothing as complicated as Postal: Brain Damaged.
The machine-freaks that you’ll fight have either melee attacks or projectile attacks; no instant damage (hitscan) attacks. This means you have a chance to dodge or avoid almost all damage if you are good enough! Many enemies with faster attacks will drop health upon their death to balance them out. And to fight back, you have a no-nonsense arsenal of guns with an additional weapon called “kitty.” This is a living weapon (resembling some sort of a meat creature) that feeds on blood mist where you can drop a blanket of explosives or shoot a spinning disc of death.
Each weapon has two ways of shooting, also known as alternate fires. Often alternate fires in shooters do not differ much from the normal firing mode, such as for the game Wrath. However, with Incision, I found strategic uses for them. The alternate rapid fire of the shotgun helped take down large enemies but was a waste of ammo for small enemies. Then the machine gun shoots a flaming explosive (for reasons unexplained) to set enemies on fire which is very useful if you can hide for a moment and let them burn baby burn! The only weapon which doesn’t seem to have a useful alternate fire is the revolver, where you do a little taunt. Right now, the revolver is the only weapon with a dedicated reload button, but maybe this action can become the alternate fire in the future?
The graphics consist of low-polygon models and low-resolution textures with dithering effects (grid patterns). This is very reminiscent of original PlayStation graphics and their iconic “grain.” You’ll come across plenty of fog, steam, and smoke to add atmosphere, literally, as those are all types of gas! Then you have a flashlight to guide your way in dark areas. It can become nicely claustrophobic at times. Given this style and its gore themes, fans of Silent Hill will find some similarities in the visuals but in a shooter. It’s a gritty, crunchy, and disgusting mess that fits perfectly with the world it presents. At this stage of development, Incision mixes many shades of reds, oranges, and grays. This makes sense as there is plenty of meat, rust, and steel. At the end of the first episode, the game hints at a very different but equally disgusting world into which you enter. I hope to see more variation in locations and color in the second episode!
Accompanying your struggles is a self-described “suffocating” soundtrack composed by iNi. The music is heavily industrial-rhythm-based, with the crunchiness of 8-bit style sounds (bitcrushing) and glitches; it is thick and chaotic. This chaos works great as an ambience for combat, as you can hear something you didn’t notice before with each loop. The soundtrack is dynamic as well, mostly matching the action on screen. Maybe it can be a little intense for when all the foes are slain, and there’s no action on the screen, but no more so than some other shooters like Quake 2. The sound effects are all crunchy and have a bit of impact to them, but they don’t go overboard. It’s a unique and well-done auditory experience!
The difficulty scaling might be a bit more intense than you expect, as its Steam page describes it as “brutal, fast, merciless.” The middle difficulty will be hard. As an experienced player, the right difficulty for me was between the middle and lowest. Some of this difficulty arises because there are no mid-level saves. As a result, you could find yourself having to start over again after dying 20 minutes into a level, which may test some players’ patience.
But to make up for this, you can find extra lives which partially refill your health when you are about to die. These power-ups encourage the player to explore a bit so get searching! Even if you find the easiest difficulty too hard, there are sliders to adjust enemy speed and damage. Remember, gaming is about the experience, so use all of the difficulty options it gives you to maximize your fun! Incision is still very accessible for new players thanks to its additional difficulty options.
I found Incision to be a well-rounded experience in early access, from gameplay to graphics and sound. If you are a fan of no-nonsense shooters of the past like Doom, Blood, and Quake or into modern inspirations like Dusk (which has similar graphics and gameplay), then Incision might be up your alley. That’s especially true if you like a bit of bloodied pixels. Some players won’t like the lack of mid-level saving, but others may enjoy not worrying about that.
Incision is currently being sold for $15 in early access (likely the price will increase on full release). Right now, it has eight levels and took me about five hours to beat; thus, it is a nice $3 per hour of gameplay, with more planned to come. The developer’s Twitter is quite active in sharing the game’s development process, and there’s also a Discord server. So the game’s development is quite open, which is usually a good sign for an early-access game to progress quickly. Given the solid start Incision has and the reputation of Hyperstrange as a publisher, it should have a good future when it eventually has a full release. You can buy and play Incision in early access on Steam.