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Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Is a Welcome Return of the Twin-Stick Shooter

Twin-sticking it to the man

Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions - Splash Art

When Bizarre Creations closed down back in 2011, so did all my hopes for a sequel to their finest gaming achievement: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2. It was perfect, even if Bizarre veterans and Lucid founders Craig Howard and Nick Davies disagree. So, with the return of classic PC publishing label Sierra Games, Geometry Wars comes back from the dead with Lucid games at the helm – and it looks like this release has been worth the wait.

You may wonder why there’s been such a long wait for another Geometry Wars game, and it seems that – despite Activision’s wishes for a sequel – Bizarre and Lucid kept refusing to revisit the series until they genuinely had something worthwhile to bring to the series. It’s because of that, the Retro Evolved’ subtitle has been dropped in favour of ‘Dimensions’, and that speaks volumes about what you can expect from the masters of twin-stick arcade fun.

While Retro Evolved 2 was all about high-scores, tense moments, and bringing a grown adult to tears; Dimensions is about doing that all again, but adding an extra layer of polish to everything. It brings in the third-dimension, it creates levels with hazards, it intends to give you purpose to what you’re playing. I’ll admit, when I walked into the behind closed doors preview room at Activision’s Gamescom booth I was a little apprehensive. How could they even dream of improving upon what came before? But, Howard and Davies certainly seemed passionate about what they were going to show that – even with my complete love of the series – I had to go in with an open mind.

It was worth it, too, as Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions doesn’t try to build on what came before. That new subtitle also means a new start, and thanks to the experience of Geometry Wars: Galaxies on Wii, along with the Retro Evolved games, Dimensions is fresh and looks like a whole lot of fun. Now levels play out on 3D spaces, think Super Stardust HD or Nano Assault Neo but with a Geometry Wars twist. Levels still play out on that wireframe grid, it still deforms when you fire weapons across it and your weight and enemy weight crumples it as they move across. It’s certainly a glorious sight to behold, and 3D wireframe enemy types are as instantly recognisable as their 2D counterparts were. And, instead of enemies just popping into existence, you’ll be able to see where they’ll form thanks to shafts of coloured light shining up a second or so before they appear.

The new level design also has tactical elements to it, with hazards being used to create space between yourself and an entire horde of bloodthirsty shapes; a peanut-shaped level also lets you use the thinner middle to get ahead of enemies and dish out punishment from another angle. It definitely looks complex when watching from afar, but Howard assures us that when playing it, it’s as easy to pick up and play as previous entries have been. He also claims to be awful at it, yet racks up a cool 10 million or so while talking to us about it, so I’m not completely sure he’s as bad as he says.

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Dimensions is also a far more solid Geometry Wars experience. Now the main game is split into three sections: Adventure, Multiplayer, and Co-Op. While we weren’t shown the likes of Multiplayer or Co-Op, venturing into Adventure sees fifty levels to progress through, each one taking place on a specific grid type and with a specific game type. For demo purposes we only got to see three levels, and all of them were running the time-attack mode Deadline.

Each level has a set of objectives that unlock stars that help you progress further along the Adventure chain. You’ll also be able to outfit your craft with Supers and support weapons that make fighting the oncoming enemies that little bit easier in the new terrains. To unlock a Super you’ll need to quickly dispatch a set of enemies to unlock its use – again, think Super Stardust HD or Resogun.

There are also new boss levels to handle, which essentially play out like a normal level but with a boss character exploring it too, causing influence over level enemies and stepping up the challenge ahead of you. It’s a great idea, but it’ll be interesting to see how it holds up when we can eventually get some hands-on time with the title.

Of course, I still have plenty of questions, especially in regards to the online Multiplayer mode and couch Co-Op mode. However, Howard tells me that Sequence has been ditched – in part due to its difficulty – and that old favourite Pacifism makes a return. He also hinted at a new mode joining the fray that gives you a limited stock of ammunition to use on dispatching foes. That aside, I hope that Geometry Wars 3: Dimensons also allows players to pick maps and modes freely, allowing for near-limitless play throughs – which is what made the arcade charm of the originals so irresistible. Howard and Davies seem to agree on ensuring that Dimensions has a long shelf-life and hinted at the possibility of DLC coming in the future – but nothing has even been planned in that regard yet, it’s more that the opportunity is there for them.

So, seeing as seven years have passed since we last saw Geometry Wars, it’s great to know that the series isn’t dead – if anything it looks as new as ever. This entry is also the first multi-format release for the series, coming to PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and all by the end of this year! I wonder what Sierra is going to have to tell those Wii U fans though…

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