To answer the question outright, yes and you heard it here first (maybe).
It seems like SCUM is set to rise to the surface of the pond that is the survival game genre, selling over 250,000 copies in its first 24 hours and amassing 700,000 sales in the first week – in what has been Devolver Digital’s biggest release to date.
But what is it you ask? You can get up to scratch on the ins and outs of the game by reading this article or instead enjoy this one line summary;
SCUM is a multiplayer survival game set in a dystopian future where corporations force prisoners to compete in a murderous blood sport reality TV show.
And if that doesn’t tickle your fancy then you probably shouldn’t bother reading this review. It’s a project that in many ways is looking to change the face of the survival genre and from my interpretation of its mission it’s looking to make survival games less futile. Something that as a fan of the genre, I argue is all too often the case. This is the biggest reason why it’s so appealing to me and so I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release ever since I found out about it.
The sheer scale of the game is as such that I feel to cover everything would take a small dissertation. So for the purpose of this review I’m going to be focusing on what I know has been of importance to the community and what you as a potential buyer should know.
First Things First
This has to be stressed, as I feel a lot of big names that reviewed this game have missed out this important detail or not stressed it enough.
SCUM is in early access and there is a lot more planned for it. Overlooking this fact has led to a lot of harsh and unfair criticism being levelled which doesn’t match up to my playing experience or expectations. Stating this fact most likely won’t inspire confidence in many of you and I understand why…
Having personally learnt of the perils through games such as H1Z1 and DayZ, like many others I tend to avoid them and am rightfully suspicious of any upcoming early access releases. That being said I’ve wholeheartedly backed SCUM which released at the reasonable price of £15.49. However I decided to back this horse the whole way, so I forked out a further £7.19 and got the extra supporters pack.
Why did I spend more money? To put it simply, the USP and team behind this game have really inspired confidence in me in the run up to release. Since my first week of play and the proof from the pudding so far, that confidence seems worth doubling down on.
In the run up to release developers Gamepires and producers Croteam have been pretty transparent with what they have in the woodworks and their intended goals, doing wonders for my distrust in developers of early access games, even if they admittedly have been a tad bit vague. They’ve been interacting with the community and taking heed of feedback, a trend that has continued since going live, listening and taking points on board they’ve been quick to hot fix issues and release patches.
With more reputation at stake than other developers who’ve cashed in on the survival genre and legged it, as well as having a sure-fire hit on their hands, means I have high hopes for this game that I am confident isn’t just pie in the sky.
The Detail In The Realism
The massive level of in depth realism is something that to my knowledge is unprecedented in survival games.
Through the ‘BCU implant’ the puppet masters at corporation TEC1 have bestowed you with, you can monitor everything about your character. Just check out how much info it gives you;
From skill progression, to current injury/ailment, your vital signs, number of teeth, calorie macros, to the volumetric content of your stomach, intestines and colon – just for example. SCUM has a lot of really impacting character micromanagement.
This takes the survival aspect to a whole new level in a ground-breaking way. You must account for so much that will genuinely effect your character and gameplay meaningfully. Everything from your diet, your health, the weather to your physical fitness and beyond.
If you don’t watch how much you’ve eaten, you’ll vomit. If you don’t monitor your bowels and bladder, then my friend you will drop your weapon and your kecks to shit or piss in the middle of battle. If you don’t stay dry and warm, you’ll get hypothermia. You’re getting rained on without waterproofs, your stamina is effected as your gear gets heavier. Get in one too many fist fights and lose your teeth, you ain’t eating well.
Even the inventory menu and how you interact with objects acts in a way that lends itself to reality.
For example, if you want to load your weapon you must first bomb the magazine up, inserting the rounds and then ensuring the right weapon is in your hands you can drag the magazine over to the free slot to load it. You can’t move items en masse from your inventory meaning that even looting has to be carefully considered and is realistic in that you can only move things one at a time when picking them out of a container. Anything you have in your hands will be dropped when completing actions or picking up new things if it hasn’t been assigned a space in your inventory. In this way I have dropped many, many weapons, losing them, for I am a fool. You can even throw most all objects in your hands which has become kind of an obsession for me.
The sheer ambition in SCUM’s approach to detail in realism is a lofty but clearly achievable goal and is long overdue for this genre.
Character Customisation And Progression
As with everything in this game the team behind SCUM have gone for depth and impact with this aspect. A lot isn’t readily available currently owing to the nature of early access but even so there is still a lot to consider when creating and customising your character. Take a look at a quick glance at this video.
A lot more to come but still in-depth despite the bulwark of customisation being currently unavailable. You must build your character wisely to suit what you want to get out of them for your playing style, do you want them to be smart enough to craft every single item? Want them strong or able to run faster and longer? There’s a lot of different build styles and with more to come that will only broaden and allow you to focus on different areas, thought must be put into who and what your character will be.
Too slow with bad endurance? You’ll probably be the first poor sod to snuff it as your faster mates leave you behind as an insurance policy. Not intelligent enough? Resources will be scarcer for you as you can’t craft certain items.
Your characters skillset will progress with time and experience which remains after death when you’re resurrected, something I’ve personally not come across before in a survival game. Another factor that I feel sets SCUM apart and gives it a deeper meaning and something to work towards.
The map is based on islands of the developers’ homeland, Croatia. As I said in my previous article they should be given a job for the Croatian tourism board because it’s absolutely stunning. Nice variation between rustic farming villages, larger towns, a prison, an airstrip and various military installations spaced out thoughtfully amongst beautiful landscape, making for a well-rounded and enjoyable setting. I’ve also found what appears to be a TEC1 headquarters which so far isn’t interactive, perhaps pointing to some of the lore and story that’s to be added as the game develops.
It is a big map, some say too large for the up to 64 player servers. However I still manage to run into potential friends and foes at a steady pace, so personally I think it does the game justice. Making encounters all the more special and lending itself to the realism dynamic, fight or flight must be carefully considered, this isn’t a run and gun game – it’s survival and it’s very unforgiving.
The stunning landscape lends itself well for the sheer amount of walking, jogging, running and catching your breath you’ll be doing. Something you should keep in mind if buying this game, the reality of going anywhere over a long distance is a bit of a hike especially if you’re not the fittest and fastest build.
Another notable point regarding the scenery of SCUM’s world, is the diversity in flora and fauna which really makes it feel more real and immerses you in the world. For example there are boars, goats, donkeys, horses, bears, chickens and deer that I’ve spotted so far with many more to be added as you can see in the crafting menu under meats. Dogs, cats, ducks, pheasants, sheep, geese, rats, cow, rabbit, wolves and small rodents for definite so far. Without listing the different fauna you can consume and utilise this seems to be the most extensive list I’ve come across in this genre. Doing wonders for world building with its variation.
SCUM seems to consistently be bigger, better and more in comparison to its peers.
Graphics, Gameplay And Mechanics
One of the biggest issues and complaints levelled by the community so far is regarding poor performance issues and cheaters exploiting a weak anti-cheat system. FPS drop and server lag have been an issue for many, something the developers have been working on incessantly to tweak. This is something that is to be expected within the early days of an early access game, so of course we can cut them some slack. I personally haven’t had any issue with performance, however I have just upgraded my PC to a 1080 GPU and am getting decent FPS and splendid graphics, with a higher end machine it runs like a dream and looks like one too. Double check the minimum requirements for sure when looking to buy this one as it does seemingly take a lot to run without a hitch.
The gameplay and mechanics in my opinion are smooth and intuitive with the gunplay being nice and realistic enough, making shooting things a pleasure. Unarmed and melee weapon combat is also pretty smooth and tasty, I enjoy boxing with the Puppets (resurrected dead AI prisoners who attack you) as its pretty fun, as well as punching my mates.
I particularly like the way the 3rd person vision doesn’t give you an advantage and only allows you to see other players your character would see in 1st person mode. Allowing for 3rd person to be used without any unfair advantages. Camouflage and stealth work well and in my experience the camouflage system is the most realistic I’ve ever seen, in the fact that it actually works.
Awareness is also a cool and useful mechanic that has been done well, a skill that if you hold down the right mouse button allows your vision to focus and your hearing to sharpen. Depending on your characters level you can hear and see exponentially better, giving you an edge when listening and looking for approaching enemies. It can also be used for hunting animals, in that you can track their last direction moved when focusing as well as better hearing where they are.
Mechs that guard the military bunkers and installations are a great touch, giving you more to consider than just blindly running in. The Puppets alongside the mechs give a nice PvE element on top of the PvP. You never feel 100% safe and always must be wary if you are to live long.
Fame And Events
Fame is a points system that your character can build up through kills, actions and just surviving day to day. They allow you to choose where you resurrect when dead, whether it be on your teammates for 100 fame points, random for 25, 75 for your home shelter or 50 for the sector you’re in. This means if you keep dying you will go into the negative and it will take a long time to build back up. This aspect of the game is nice as it stops people from committing suicide over and over to get the spawn they want to come back and get revenge or what have you.
If your fame is high enough you can spend some of it to join or initiate events such as TDM to gamble the possibility of winning more. This gives you more to do than just survive and is a fun way to break the game up and win rewards. If you join, your character will be safely logged out in the spot you were in until the event is over and you return. Nice little feature that I hope will be expanded on for more variety.
Backstory Lore And The Higher Purpose
All I have to say on this is, I want to know more and I want to know now! There is such a great potential this facet that I hope isn’t squandered.
So far the only logical and feasible higher purpose that I’ve seen rumoured to be implemented is to stage an escape from the island. Something that I hope is suitably convoluted but in an enjoyably difficult way so it’s not just thrown in haphazardly to match their promises of the ‘higher goals’ billed by developers for SCUM.
I want it to be engaging and lengthy enough to not feel arbitrary and hollow, like shooting a chicken when you’ve already got a full belly …
From where I’m sitting (incidentally that’s in front of my PC playing SCUM) the bottom line is, this game is a whole lot of fun with a whole lot of depth and meaning I’ve never before come across in a survival game besides, maybe The Forest. With the team behind it promising more, the best is probably yet to come.
With such a successful launch showcasing its potential for longevity and with much more in the pipeline, I feel it can become the pinnacle of survival gameplay. Either way it has the market cornered on bowel movement simulators.
Lovely to look at, immersive, realistic and with goals to aim for – but most importantly wholly enjoyable and a good laugh. These are the reasons why I’d recommend any fan of survival games and mental ultra-violent prison experiment reality TV shows to give SCUM a go.
It’s simply looks bloody SCUMptious and I think you should sink your teeth into it.