GHOSTWARE: Arena of the Dead – Preview
Follow Genre: FPS, Boomer Shooter
Developer: Daev Team
Publisher: Hyperstrange
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

GHOSTWARE: Arena of the Dead – Preview

Good: Overall fun first experience with the game
Bad: Not that much content right now
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VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

We’ve seen an increase in retro-inspired boomer shooters, with many developers seemingly waxing nostalgic for this almost-forgotten 1990s staple. With GHOSTWARE: Arena of the Dead, developer Daev Team shows their eagerness to let players revisit this glorious era, albeit with a rather unusual twist. The preview version gives us a first taste of what the game is aiming for, but did it leave us hungry for more? Read on to find out.

Upon booting up GHOSTWARE, we were greeted by a user interface resembling that of an old computer. It’s an unusual but immersive way to begin a game, especially since you’re given other choices than just the prompt to start the single-player story. There’s an option to search the net, as well as an arcade mode where you play against bots. Neither of those options are available from the get-go, however, and you’ll need to beat the story mode in the preview as well as find some bonus items in-game in order to unlock everything. Fortunately, playing through the story mode doesn’t take very long. Arcade offers various game modes, with some customizability, in arenas you’ve already unlocked by playing through the story.

Consequently, the meat of what this preview build of GHOSTWARE has to offer lies in its story mode. After a brief tutorial, where you get to grips with controls and learn how character abilities work, you meet the Wizard. This self-proclaimed game master explains that he used his necromantic powers to revive an old game and now he’s having players compete against one another to find out who the arena champion is. This raises more than a few questions, of course, but before you get any answers, you’re dropped into a new arena where you’ll engage in your first real 1v1 match. Upon beating your opponent, you’re then taken to the first player lounge, which acts as a hub area. Here you can select which level you’re going to tackle next as well as talk to NPC contestants, who will give snippets of lore. Beating every level connected to a lounge will grant you access to the next lounge.

Apart from talking to NPCs, you’ll be able to piece together more backstory by revisiting levels you’ve beaten to go relic hunting. Remember that option to search the net we mentioned earlier? Relics you find hold links to websites, and when you visit these, you’ll get a glimpse of what’s happening in the outside world, as well as see how other contestants are doing in the Wizard’s tournament. In addition to relics, you may also find permanent armor upgrades, giving you an edge in future levels and against bosses. One thing to keep in mind though is that you can’t just grind the same arena over and over again. As arenas become empty, they will degrade, causing glitches that may corrupt your data and send you back to the lounge empty-handed. Obstacles also appear, blocking your path or damaging your integrity. 

As you start to piece together more clues, either by extracting links or talking to contestants, you’ll figure out that everyone in the game is actually dead, and that you’re in purgatory. The story then takes a turn as you’re contacted by a hacker that wants to free those trapped in the game. He needs your help to take down the Wizard. GHOSTWARE’s narrative is easy enough to follow as long as you can suspend your disbelief, and the story never gets in the way of the simple yet fun gameplay even though new story elements pop up in almost every single level.

The core gameplay experience boils down to running and gunning until you meet a level’s target score. Despite this one-note approach, the handful of modes that are currently present actually make the game feel varied already, especially beyond the fairly short story mode, which comprises less than ten levels. The various modes present here include deathmatch, team deathmatch, domination and capture the flag. Of course, weapon variety plays a huge part in keeping things interesting too, and thankfully, there are plenty of cool weapons to go around. You’ll be able to take down your opponents using a shotgun, ricochet machine gun, and even a grenade launcher, to name just a few. The result is a game that is enjoyable in short bursts, where you play a handful of matches or complete a few story levels at a time. You could simply complete the story mode in a single, longer sitting as it’s under a few hours, but GHOSTWARE is a game that is best savored in its current state. There are a couple of hints towards choices you make having some sort of consequences in the full game too, as you are given the option to cooperate with the hacker or work for your own interests. How much of an impact this will have remains to be seen.

From a visual standpoint, GHOSTWARE nails the 90s aesthetic, resembling an old Quake game to a tee. The graphics aren’t all that impressive by today’s standards, of course, but the nostalgia hits hard here. It’s almost as if you’re playing an upscaled version of an old game on an emulator. The action never stops either. Fights are fast-paced and hectic, with bullets flying across the screen, enemies dodging rockets, and dark, abandoned corridors being lit up by explosions. Completing the experience is the soundscape, with old-school, appropriate music, cheesy one-liners from contestants, and match updates provided by announcers.


Although we can’t judge the full game yet, our first impressions of GHOSTWARE: Arena of the Dead are definitely good. The story isn’t told in a straightforward way, requiring you to piece everything together for yourself, although this isn’t a requirement and you can perfectly enjoy the game purely based on gameplay. The controls are simple and easy to pick up, while the action is fast-paced. Additionally, the game nails the retro-1990s aesthetics, but the upscaled look still sets it apart from other games that take inspiration from the same era. Rounding things out are the fantastic one-liners, which help to make the NPC contestants feel like actual players. Our only gripe is that GHOSTWARE is currently quite light on content, so we suggest either waiting for the full game or picking up this preview version when it’s on sale.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
GHOSTWARE: Arena of the Dead – Preview, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

Never give up on a dream. It might be a long nightmare, but one day it will change into a beautiful reality - MC_JP 2014

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