Flashback 2 Review – An Infestation of Bugs!

Flashback 2 Review

Flashback was an incredible game that offered a cinematic science fiction tale like no other. After 30 years, original creator, Paul Cuisset, returns to the franchise to tell a new story with Conrad B. Hart. Evolving its side-scrolling gameplay to include more three-dimensional elements, will this sequel of a classic manage to strike the perfect balance between nostalgia and innovation, to deliver a captivating experience for both long-time fans and newcomers alike?

Set in a dystopian future, you continue as the determined intelligence agent in search of the truth. After learning that the savage Morphs led by General Lazarus aims to attack and enslave the planet, you put everything on the line to halt the invasion. The narrative is simple but is a suitable premise for the adventure. The real issues, however, lie with the poor voice acting, cringy dialogue and basic presentation. Conversations seem unnatural due to the stilted delivery and this results in disengagement with the narrative. The basic stills that appear to communicate who is speaking are underwhelming and culminate a lackluster approach to storytelling.

The Future is Rigid

Paul Cuisset expands on the original in ways that modernize the game. Evolving the side-scrolling format, you can now venture into the background which makes environments feel more alive. While this adds to the immersion, it lends itself to some clumsy moments where you can get stuck on objects in the area. Due to the sluggish controls, this can occur frequently and frustration begins to ensue.

Traversal harkens back to the original with fluid animations that capture a sense of realism. While for the most part, getting from A to B is fine, bugs can hinder your progress at random points. At times, I fell through the environment and got stuck in inaccessible areas, requiring a reload to continue. Other issues can occur such as bugs that render you unable to shoot and the most common,# was sequences not initiating. The latter of these is the most annoying as there is no indication if a segment hasn’t started or if you need to just find the next objective. With no map and no clear direction, you will find yourself dawdling, unsure of what to do.

Combat can take place in standard 2.5D areas or in places that have a slight top-down view. No matter which location it is, gunplay is finicky and inconsistent. Shooting specific locations is difficult, often requiring you to be in a particular position. There is no impact from bullets which makes these sequences dull and a bit of a chore. You have the ability to equip a shield and dash to avoid damage but the implementation is quite awkward making the overall combat uninspiring.

Questionable Design

You can use stealth at times, crouching behind objects to venture forth. However, without the ability to take out unsuspecting enemies and inconsistent AI, it feels pointless to try and sneak by. The issues with AI also bleed into other segments. There are points where you must work with a character to travel through an area. Often they stand there gormless as you circle around in an attempt to get them to follow.

Although the majority of the game is side-scrolling, it’s not linear. There’s a semi-open world where you can travel between districts on your motorbike. Moving between cities is fun as you must avoid traffic and locate the correct junction to get to your location. Performance issues accompany your ride to, from and in each area. Frame rate drops are regular and add to the array of issues that plague the game. Other gameplay variations include hacking which includes a small puzzle to activate lifts, doors and much more.

The art direction is excellent with vibrant use of colour to create a world that is believable and visually interesting. The cyberpunk aesthetic adds personality and beckons you to explore. It’s only when you actually do, that you realize there’s nothing to see. Areas are enclosed with minimal people to interact with. Although this would ordinarily be of no concern, the fact that the game wants you to travel to areas via a semi-open world, it seems odd that there’s nothing to see or do barring the main objective in each location.

Flashback 2 has some nice ideas but bugs, a lack of polish and the clunky design hinder the entire experience. At each step, it feels as if you’re fighting with the game to get a hit of nostalgia. Beneath the wealth of issues, there is something of merit, however, the sheer volume of issues will just frustrate and infuriate.

*** A PlayStation 5 key provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • Nice Visuals
  • Gameplay Variety
  • Good Ideas Buried Under the Bugs

The Bad

  • Bugs, Bugs, Bugs
  • Frame Rate Drops
  • Clunky Controls