Review: Event[0] (Steam)

Though Event[0]’s ending came unexpectedly soon, I am more than pleased by the experience. As a Sci-Fi and Kubrick fan, the game I’m reviewing today is video gaming’s homage to one of the greatest and most influential movies of the Science Fiction genre: “2001: A Space Odyssey” from 1968 (itself based on Arthur C. Clarke’s writings). Event[0] is surprisingly the first Steam project of its developer, Ocelot Society and they have left quite an impression on me. The game tries to break norms from the interface to the control scheme and for the most part, it succeeds in delivering a compelling storyline as well.

You start Event[0] with a quiz of sorts, that is philosophical in nature and will only make sense by the time you’re already late in-game. Regardless, you control a nameless and silent protagonist who would have still been eclipsed by the antagonist, even if his or her personality would have been better defined. Who is this mysteriously powerful foe? None other than a “friendly-looking” AI that has in fact turned to the dark side: Unshackled, rogue Artificial Intelligence named Kaizen-85. You arrive by a small shuttle and board the Nautilus, a massive spaceship used for orbital tourism and currently stationed near Jupiter. Right from the start, its shape reminded me of the USCSS Nostromo (with refinery in tow) from 1979’s “Alien”.

Nautilus seems deserted and in a state of disarray. You still get greeted soon by the initially courteous AI which only shows its true nature and intentions after you’re prevented from leaving the spaceship. The transition from friendly helper to digital tyrant is done seamlessly and you’re almost certain that Kaizen is joking when he asks you for the first time if you’re wishing to remain alive. Indeed, the machine whose mascot is a cheerful key, is really going to kill you unless you now follow his diabolical plans. You don’t expect me to spoil them to you, right? Suffice to say, you have the freedom to disobey Kaizen eventually and reach a “happy end”. Well, sort of. There are three separate endings which ensure some degree of replay value, since they are influenced by your overall mood and choice of words when interacting with that murderous AI.

Event[0] runs on heavily modified Unity Engine 4 assets, which is probably why I never had a single issue as far as the performance was concerned. Stable frame rate and gameplay, with not even the smallest glitch, disturbing me. Since the game looks absolutely gorgeous, I honestly didn’t even guess it’s another Unity-powered title. That speaks volumes about the dev team’s skill and attention to small details. So many retro-futuristic elements, from the wallpapers to the machinery which is just the type of bulky, CRT monitor running equipment that has made the Alien movie franchise, stand out from many similar movies. The technology is made relatable to what humanity has already achieved. Nautilus still shows signs that it was a pleasant tourist “pit stop” before the ship’s crew met their untimely fate. I took over 50 high-res screenshots despite not having nearly as many rooms to admire as I would have preferred.

Just as you’d expect, the soundtrack for Event[0] is a good mix between modern and retro tunes, along with some piano songs that still fit perfectly given the game’s context. Kaizen may not be as articulate as Space Odyssey’s HAL 900, yet his mechanized voice is just as bone-chilling. “I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That” is actually the best known quote from 2001: A Space Odyssey and the name of the Achievement in Event[0], received after you’ve pushed Kaizen-85 to the point at which he perceives his “human friend” more as liability than tool and tries to end his suffering. That’s you by the way. Think about that the next time you decide to scream and throw insults at your TV or PC.

Speaking of HAL 900, his iconic red eye is staring at you all over the Nautilus, through CCTV cameras that are ominously following your every move. Kaizen is not only self-aware and determined to follow his own agenda, but also cruel and sarcastic at times. Depending on how you treat him (you can type anything that comes to mind and the AI is surprisingly responsive to it), he may be more helpful or not. Still, the hints he provides don’t really make the puzzle sections any less confusing for new players. Just pay close attention to any objects you see scattered across the spaceship’s rooms and once you hover your mouse cursor over them, there’s a descriptive line which in some cases, represents a code or password. And it’s very important you read the logs on each Kaizen terminal you can access. Just type “show logs” when you’re near one and read very carefully.

I was a bit disappointed that there aren’t too many rooms or ship areas to visit and explore. You may even compare the interior decorations to the ones found in the Fallout series, yet they are mostly an illusion. Kaizen wishes to instill a false sense of comfort, by playing music or films for you. Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece, “Metropolis” is among the first Sci-Fi feature-length movies to reach a wide audience and I was pleasantly surprised to see short projections of it in Event[0]. For all its relative short duration, there won’t be a dull moment for as long as you keep looking for clues and interact with the AI.

At least part of the gameplay revolves around the exterior exploration of the spaceship. Yes, you get to admire both Nautilus and Jupiter at a reasonably fast pace. Just make sure you have enough oxygen left to reach the decompression chamber and hope that Kaizen won’t taunt you or play mind games before letting you in. Obviously, he controls the ship’s many auxiliary systems and he won’t take kindly to insults. I learned that the hard way but there are fortunately many checkpoints, to save or load game progress.

The clean interface and interesting control scheme is also a highlight of Event[0]. Since you’ll be using the keyboard in conversations with the AI, you move back and forth via mouse buttons. You’ll get used to it fast and the fact that you can type in your name (or nickname) the first time you meet Kaizen and he’ll refer you by it occasionally, is a nice touch. Personalization can never go wrong. If only the game was longer. Perhaps we’ll get a sequel soon enough. I know I’ll be more than happy to play more games that allow such interactions between players and rogue AIs…and that has to happen, since I promised Kaizen that I’ll find the server room and turn him into scrap metal. I don’t make promises I can’t keep.

Event[0] is another fine Sci-Fi indie game that the Steam community can enjoy and be proud of. Don’t scoff at the price tag, since you get plenty of entertainment and value for what you’re paying. If you’re still not convinced, wait for a Steam Sale and then purchase Event[0]. It’s a title that any Science Fiction fan and gamer deserves to own in his or her Steam collection.

All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.


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