Update: We've now played the full version of the game so check out our Adrenaline boardgame review
Original Article: There's been a lot of video games that have made their way to our cardboard domain over recent years, from direct ports like Civilisation to those, like XCOM, that take the theme and spirit of the game and blend something new.
One thing these games have in common is that they tend to be based on the strategy end of the video game market, and whereas miniatures games like Infinity have mastered the art of tactical squad combat, no-one has really mastered the arena shooter. Until Adrenaline.
Taking inspiration from such multiplayer first person shooters as Quake 3, Unreal Tournament and even multiplayer Halo, Adrenaline is the distillation of the frantic multiplayer shooting combat in cardboard form. All the mainstays are here; picking up weapons from spawn points, collecting ammo off the ground and even overkill. The only thing missing is circle strafing.
The surprise here is that Adrenaline is from Czech Games Edition (aka CGE) and as such isn't the dice fest you might expect for a game of this theme but is instead a resource management and area control game.
I hope you haven't run away from fear of terminal boredom by me muttering two mechanics usually reserved for games about medieval farming and the 18th Century cotton industry, because Adrenaline is furious and bloodily satisfying.
Resource management is in the form of your weapons and the ammo required to fire them. To both pick up a weapon and reload it you'll have to spend some ammo, the resource of the game that funnily enough takes the form of coloured cubes.
So the first thing you'll be doing is running for your favourite weapon, and then running for some ammo to load the thing. If you have ever played one of the multiplayer shooters on which Adrenaline is based, then you'll instantly get that warm feeling of nostalgia.
The next thing you need to do is blast the living smeg out of your opponents and that's where the area control comes in.
Adrenaline is definitely in the Euro region of mechanics, and so shooting your opponent is simply a case of pointing the loud end of your gun at your opponent and exhausting the weapon. No dice, no card draws, you do exactly the damage listed on the weapon card.
Alternatively, you can activate the weapon's secondary fire mode, often doing more damage but spending more or different ammo. You then place your damage tokens on your opponent’s character sheet, and if your target has sustained enough damage he dies and points are distributed.
This is where the area control comes into play, you'll gain points depending on the amount of damage you inflicted, points for first blood, points for the killing shot and even more points for overkill (which of cause has to be shouted out in a deep and manly voice). As you can no doubt see, it doesn't just become a question of shooting blindly at your opponents but knowing when to shoot at a particular opponent.
Being a demo game at the UK Games Expo, we only managed to play the one game - your typical free for all - but it's easy to see how FPS mainstays such as capture the flag and team games can be implemented. The map was tightly packed enough to allow tactical movement while still keeping things close enough that everyone was in danger every turn, sorry there's no hiding in the corner of the map with a sniper rifle or spawn camping.
The result is actually a very thoughtful and careful strategy game. A game of this ilk is not going to perfectly mimic the fast and furious gameplay of Unreal, but what it does do is take the theme and fundamentals of first person shooters and turn it into a strategy game.
Some people are going to find it a bit of disconnect, a game that runs slower than the furious gunplay of the game it apes but it makes an interesting strategy game that plays different from what you would expect.
I really enjoyed my first play through of Adrenaline. It was full of the smooth gameplay and deep strategy we have come to expect from CGE and I can't wait till this hits retail around Essen time. We don't give out awards at conventions, but if we did Adrenaline would be my game of the show.
This preview is based on a prototype version of the game played at the UK Games Expo with the publisher; the final product may look, play or smell different to that used in this preview.