Following movies like The Raid and John Wick, the genre of ‘solo badass fighting endless amounts of enemies’ has skyrocketed in popularity. Almost parallel to that style of film, the genre has also become prevalent in games thanks to the likes of Sifu and Superhot with their intense trial and error gameplay; where one mistake means death. Severed Steel has arrived with a bang to take its place among the greats of the genre.
Making its console debut after launching on PC last year, Severed Steel places you in the shoes of Steel, who wakes up in a mysterious place with her left arm missing. There's not much overt story, it’s told through silent, hand-drawn cutscenes and through each level's objectives like FIND THE CEO or simply, KILL THEM ALL flashing up on the screen at the beginning.
The minimalist storyline isn’t too much of a problem because the real meat of Severed Steel is the gameplay. You'll fight through 42 stages, with goals ranging from finding specific elements in the stage to surviving waves of enemies. Stages are short and sweet affairs; however, this is balanced through difficulty. The aforementioned do-or-die gameplay of titles like Hotline Miami shines on in Severed Steel. Enemies are relentless, really challenging you to think about what routes to take through every level.
Movement is the name of the game; Severed Steel's stunt’ system consists of dives, wall runs, and slides. Enemies can't hurt you while you stunt on them, which incentivises you to experiment. However, it’s pretty hard to fly all over the place and shoot accurately. That’s where slow-motion comes in; a press of 'ZL' slows time. Killing enemies replenishes your slow-mo and luck (health) meters, and slow motion will remain active as long as you’re performing stunts — even if the meter has run out. This is a fantastic design choice as it really encourages you to keep on the move and to keep blasting at all times.
Due to your missing appendage, you’re unable to reload your guns, which means you have to take a page out of John Wick's book and just throw your gun at an enemy and steal theirs. You need to quickly adapt to every situation to make it out alive. You eventually get a prosthetic arm cannon which grants you destructive abilities like blasting holes in any of the walls of the fully destructible voxel environments.
The game runs near-flawlessly on Switch aside from a few levels near the end (that being said, you’ll be in slo-mo for the majority of the game anyway). However, the two biggest issues with the game rear their heads here. Games like this typically have near instantaneous restarts to ensure the action is always moving. Severed Steel’s load times aren't obnoxiously long by any means, but just long enough to add to the frustration of losses. The other (and biggest) issue is the complete lack of gyro-aiming, which — especially for a game this fast-paced — feels like a large oversight. But still, we’re talking about a game where you can throw your gun at someone, slo-mo, dive over their head, steal another from their back pocket, then blast them with it. Which is pretty rad.