By: Justin Redmon
I’m not on Minecraft all that often, but when I am, there’s something that all the little kids love to shout at one another whenever I dare venture online. “Hey bro, you know what would make this so much better? If we had like an AK-47 or something.” This is around the time I decide to boot them from the game and set it to private, but I guess someone, somewhere, decided that there was some worth to this statement — Exato Game Studios to be exact — and made a full-fledged release doing just that.
Mixing the Minecraft formula with modern shooter stylings has been done before, but Guncraft adds some spice by letting you create your own maps, skins and weapons to create havoc with online. It’s a great idea, and it certainly has character; what Guncraft is lacking, though, is a heaping dose of fun.
If you’ve played a computer FPS for any period of time the controls should be extremely familiar to you, with crouching, sprinting and shooting set up much like any other game. This is even more apparent thanks to in-game controller support, so whatever setup you’re most comfortable with is at your disposal. The only twist to the setup is the build button, which switches you out for your selected build tool, allowing you to destroy scenery and set down blocks at will. This mode lets you place prefabs as well, so custom barricades and other creations can be slapped down at a moment’s notice; that is, if you have the money to do so.
However familiar they may be, Guncraft’s controls are somewhat awkward, and you’ll find yourself spending many a game getting used to the jittery movements. Due to a lack of stairs, climbing blocks is especially tiresome, and though sprinting auto-climbs, it constantly stops and starts on subsequent blocks. Besides movement, destroying blocks in build mode is prolonged due to having to click every time instead of holding down the button.
Guncraft follows in the voxel-based style of graphics and environments, and though for many it carries a love-it-or-leave-it mentality, it’s always held a childish charm to me. It’s endearing in a special kind of way to see real life structures cobbled together in the voxel style, which is something I’ve always sort of considered a modern day equivalent of the 8- and 16-bit styles.
Sadly, Guncraft doesn’t try to do much else, as even though in look it matches Minecraft somewhat, it lacks any sort of presentation, and the lack of satisfying accompaniment causes each game to feel exceedingly bland.
The main cause of this is the complete omission of any sort of in-game music or soundtrack, leaving you with only grunts and gunfire. The guns themselves sound extremely pitiful, and they make gunplay feel wholly unsatisfying. Past gameplay itself, user interfaces and menus are awful, with no care taken as to their look or orientation.
Guncraft attempts to meld modern first-person shooters and crafting-style games into one experience; a novel idea. The shooting side plays as you’d expect — guns go bang, people die, respawn and repeat. Custom loadouts make an appearance, and there are killstreaks and vehicles to hop in as well, but it’s a decidedly familiar experience, sometimes painfully so. Guncraft adds a few different modes to shake it up past Deathmatch and CTF, though, with changes like a Horde-like Onslaught mode, Meteor or Lava Survival, Racing, Spleef and Siege Mode supported as well.
Meteor and Lava Survival play surprisingly similar, with each giving you one life to survive whatever misfortune you’re up against, while player kills on each other only stop movement for a short period of time. Spleef should be familiar to anyone who’s played Minecraft, while Siege takes the building portion of the game and sets two teams against each other in a race to build a giant trebuchet, granting an instant win to the team that finishes first. There’s a lot to choose from.
The really interesting bits come into play with the building mechanics, where at any time you can switch to a crafting tool and destroy or build upon a level at will. This puts some nice options at your disposal, as the ability to plop down barriers and cover is exceedingly useful, while sneaky players can dig tunnels to gain secret entrances to flags or buildings.
The build mechanic is bolstered by a prefab system, and along with pre-built structures you can add custom creations to auto build at a moment’s notice — useful for when you need a sniper tower or bunker in the heat of battle. Building is also fully supported by Guncraft‘s modes to create fully realized maps, skins, and perhaps coolest of all, weapons. Guncraft tries to be different and fun, but sadly it fails where it matters most: in short, the game just isn’t much fun.
As a shooter, Guncraft fails more often than not. Gunplay feels unsatisfying and extremely basic, and with guns having zero recoil kills are all but guaranteed. Most maps are exceedingly huge with wide open expanses, relegating every player not using a sniper rifle or flying in a helicopter to short and uneventful lives. Building helps alleviate this, but at the speed with which the environment is chipped away there’s little time or point in building complicated structures when you die as soon as they’re plopped down, leaving you to spawn worlds away from your creations.
There’s a poor design focus on what levels are made available for what modes as well, and although spawning in an airplane to parachute into the fray is cool in Team Deathmatch, the same map on Deathmatch leads to a spawn killing bonanza. With maps being fully destructible, you’ll often run into the problem of players blasting holes in spawn points to the lava underneath, insta-killing returning players and adding to the frustration.
The create modes to make maps, skins and guns are delivered with zero direction, and although almost anyone could throw together a map with little difficulty, creating a gun in giant scale by an uninformed player is almost impossible. That makes this a mode few will ever fully realize or take advantage of without heavy outside help.
Guncraft comes together nicely at times, but it often feels like a half-finished product pushed out the door too soon. Interesting building mechanics sadly can’t save this title from half-hearted gameplay and unsatisfying design.