It’s nearly Halloween. It seems about time to really dig into the gore, guts and violence of gaming, and what better place to start than with a brand new title? Tuatara Games via Versus Evil has concocted a brand new experience of absolute visceral mayhem, and, while it may not be the most original tale, it’s so well executed I can’t dissuade anyone from trying it. What to say to such a hellish front before me? Simply, Let Them Come.
Let Them Come is a story that’s so well trodden I expected to see my own footprints somewhere along the way. You’re a mercenary in space who’s job is a spaceship that’s being overrun by aliens. You’re none too fond of that, and you need to clean house. Immediately. Sooner, if you want that bonus. Thankfully, you’ve got a few things at your disposal. You’ve got your massive Gatling gun with nearly unlimited ammunition. You have the ability to upgrade your gun on the fly. You can’t really die, just get injured enough to black out and lick your wounds. And, of course, you’ve got your sick jambox to keep the rhythm going when things start to get crazy.
The outline may be short and cheap, but it really helps set the stage and frame Let Them Come in the light that you need to make the game feel most successful. You’re Ripley, or Stephen Hiller, or, in a more accurate sense, you’re Cage from Edge of Tomorrow. You won’t be done until the aliens are, and you’ll keep repeating the waves until you get it. Live, die, repeat.
I was initially disappointed in Let Them Come because I have gotten really comfortable doing my PC gaming with a controller, and that’s not possible here. You aim with the mouse, shoot with left, super shoot with the middle and do a secondary weapon with the right. Spacebar allows for a quick melee weapon of sorts, and you gotta keep everywhere at once in order to survive. I totally get that this is meant to be a psuedo-clicker experience, but I still wanted my controller groove to get on.
Foot in mouth edit: as it was pointed out to me, I apparently missed a very, very simply option to toggle on controller play instead of keyboard/mouse in the settings. I thought I had checked there before, but my eyes are not what they used to be. The controller setup is what I would have hoped for initially in my play through, so it’s a great option for players who are more comfortable with a single entity to deal with. However, I did get pretty used to the keyboard and mouse setup, so I regret nothing, but do apologize for misrepresenting the game’s interface.
But once I accepted that, Let Them Come turns into a really decent wave shooter. As the enemies flood in, they come from the floor, ceiling, and everything in between. Fighting back against them usually came in the form of tactical shooting, but you don’t need to click furiously. Simply holding down the button more than gets the job done, and successfully chaining multiple kills before releasing the trigger leads to bonus rewards in the form of higher points and, as such, more cash. And the enemy hordes are far from simple warm bodies that absorb bullets. From simple creepy-crawlers to armored crabs that hide the moment they’re under fire, you need to develop strategies on how to best address the shambling beasts. Oh, and once they start shooting back, a problem that happens PRETTY DAMN SOON, it becomes a question of doling out priority based on whom you want dead first.
Thankfully, dying is one of the best things that can happen to you. If you’ve gotten a decent number of scalps under your belt, Let Them Come then opens up their storefront for your upgrading pleasure. There are a variety of secondary bullets (electrical shots, penetrating shots), different melee weapons (throwing knives, chainsaw), some short to mid range projectiles (grenades, molotovs), and additional powerups that make your space marine a bit tougher, luckier and all around a better killer. My personal favorite is to upgrade the shot speed, then upgrade the coolant for my gun so I can just go absolutely nuts within reason. And, with each level, you can level up your upgrades even further, so what looks like a standard set of choices can expand rapidly.
Also, Let Them Come rewards you with a choice of bonuses after your kill combo meter maxes out, and the choices themselves are of a severe mixed bag. Some, like health recharge or a point reward, are not as helpful as I wanted them to be, as they never seemed available at the right time. Others, like the rocket drones or airstrike, were precisely what I wanted every single time. The duration/potency of the bonus is measured out by a gauge that rapidly fills and you need to click right when it gets to the peak, but don’t overshoot (Price is Right rules). Get a double shot bonus at 100% and you’ll be rocking double barrels straight until you reach the boss. Oh, and if you end up dying too fast after spawning, the game takes pity on you and offers to either shuffle the enemies (so they come in different waves) or gives you a random bonus to start the next life with. Protip: always take the bonus. You’ll never get something you don’t need.
Lastly, the bosses that divide up each stage are a proper sort of “final hell” to experience on the way to the next world. There’s always an important strategy to discover in order to defeat them, and it’s very rarely “just shoot it.” The second stage boss, for example, needs to be antagonized until you unlock the bonus “frenzy,” and, if you hit the meter just right, you’ll be able to deal damage to it. Otherwise you just end up playing keep away until it eventually murders you where you stand. In a game so reliant on just shooting things to pieces, the bosses of Let Them Come provide an incredibly important deviation from the norm.
Let Them Come houses a pretty good standard of what I like to consider high art pixel design. It reminds me a lot of how things in The Final Station were created, in ways that are very clean and clear but still definitely “bit.” Your health meter, represented by your head in the corner, slowly changes into different expressions of agony until you finally keel over, a gorgeous homage to the health meter in Doom. A lot of the aliens have a distinct variety and visage, with a good spread of dark and bright colors intermixed to create confusion. In particular, there are some crawling aliens teeming with goo sacks that explode in a confusing splash of neon fluid, throwing uncertainty in one part of the screen for a second, more than enough for a swarm to move in.
In general, I liked the levels, as they all give the great impression of moving through different areas of an infested ship. There’s a naturally sci-fi future element everywhere, but I honestly felt that things pick up significantly after you get through the first stage. For whatever reason, I felt that level one was the hardest in terms of just getting your bearings. There’s a lot of darkness and shadow, which is great for atmosphere and establishment, but terrible for, I don’t know, trying to aim your weapon. And if it was perpetual throughout, then I’d understand. But Let Them Come drops you into the darkest area possible from the get-go and then makes things much easier, vision wise, from there on in. I guess perplexing would be the right word for it, because I would rather have the first stage have more enemies and better visibility (so I could build up my coins faster) than have later stages be crystal clear in comparison. Just my two cents.
Hoo boy. You know when someone is so proud of something they have to let you know, regardless of if you want to know or not? That’s Let Them Come with their soundtrack. I’m not saying it as a bad thing, but I get the impression that playing this game with the sound off is not only boring, it’s borderline sacrilege to the developers’ ideas. I mean, as I mentioned up top, our gorey protagonist brings an 80s style boombox with him everywhere he goes, and each level up (plus every few waves defeated) brings you a brand new mixtape with tracks to slaughter by.
The music, in all honesty, is really bitchin’. There’s no shortage of different emotional states to shoot things in, but Let Them Come really wants you to be driven, and only allow yourself to relax if you relax while being utterly paranoid out of your mind. The soundtrack drifts between highs and lows with all the subtlety of those jets that can simulate zero gravity through nosedives and rapid ascents. When I wasn’t being pushed forward by industrial rock and techno, I was being wide-eyed with tension with low fidelity noise making me feel the aliens creeping way too closely for comfort. The very first track, Chase, is arguably my favorite, but there’s plenty of other fantastic, referential notes (The Stars My Destination is a winner on title alone). When you’re outfitting your gun, you can also change up your mixtapes and add/remove tracks you enjoy, so play around and enjoy yourself. You may live way more than once, but that doesn’t mean you need to fall into a rut of music. Although, if you want to feel creepy and just be left with explosions, squelches and your eventual death scream, feel free to pause the music. It’s an absolutely unsettling and should be tried at least once.
Let Them Come brought a lot to the table that I didn’t expect. While I don’t like being tethered to a keyboard and mouse setup if I can help it, control is handled well and there’s no reason to change it. The power-ups and additional weapons are nifty, but having to re-buy bullets every time you run out grows old, especially since, if you wait, there’s a bonus that can fully refill your projectiles and ammunition for free. And I never did find a melee weapon that I liked better than the ol’ swinging baton. Still, it was cathartic, enjoyable, and had a ton of play to it. There’s even some great online leaderboards that I’m sure will be lit once the game goes live. Let Them Come is a solid shooter, and I can tell that I’ll be grabbing the soundtrack separately as soon as DLC becomes a possibility.