Selaco early access review: GZDoom wizardry makes for sophisticated FPSing reminiscent of F.E.A.R.

By admin Jun6,2024

You like F.E.A.R.? You like DOOM? Yeah, I bet you like FPSing where you’re outsmarting soldiers in offices with a nailgun and gibbing demons like you’re ploughing a Hummer through a sequence of pheasants in an alternate universe Evil Somerset. No, it doesn’t boast a title in all-caps, but Selaco‘s early access release more than deserves it’s spot as a must-play for those who desire some sophistication with their ultra-violence.

Like lots of retro-inspired shooters, Selaco has a simple premise that’s prominent enough you’ll vaguely understand what’s happening without even trying. And if you’re someone who cares for lore, there are plenty of datalogs to find, giving you a glimpse into email back and forths that escalate in urgency. We’re not talking increasingly unhinged sign-offs that go from “Best” to “Warmly, not kindly” to “At a loss for words”. We’re talking emails sent as an alien invasion kicks off and everyone goes from, “Medicine stocks are good” to “The aliens have destroyed our medicine stocks”.


Exploding some robot spiders with an SMG in Selaco.


Shooting enemies behind cover in Selaco.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Altered Orbit Studios

Punching a soldier into the air with the butt of my rifle in Selaco.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Altered Orbit Studios

You play as the security captain of Selaco, a massive facility that houses the last bastion of humanity in a sci-fi future where Earth’s been exploded. Thanks to said invasion, your job is to do one thing: kill the aliens and explore Selaco – while killing more aliens. This is an objectively good, no-nonsense setup.

Selaco itself is a dense map split into several levels, which admittedly, took me a bit of getting used to. At first I wasn’t on board with all the grey offices and brown crates and even greyer treatment facilities, but they’ve grown on me. I think that’s because they strike a nice balance between lived-in and videogamey, fully committing to slightly mundane spaces you’d absolutely find in a human conservation area, while forever moving you onto a new challenge before workplace tedium kicks in.

Those intricate maps can be difficult to navigate, mind. Because corridors and rooms can blend into one at times, it can be hard to know where to turn next. Most of the time it’s fairly clear, as a burst of enemies indicates that you’re at least in the right space, or the map clearly pinpoints the coloured door you’re after. But there are moments where backtracking through quieter spots becomes downright frustrating, as the game doesn’t do quite enough to dissuade you from double-checking the plethora of previous paths nor help you commit to the little vent hidden among the web of corridors that a bout of déjà vu made you dismiss. One time I spent an hour or so circling a water plant looking for a way to de-electrify some water, only to give up and watch a YouTube playthrough for that particular bit. The solution? Slide jump across a gap and through a glass pane I hadn’t even considered was breakable, nor the path forwards.


Chucking a grenade at an enemy in Selaco.
Selaco’s maps are chock full of secrets, many of which – I looked at some YouTube vids of how you find them – totally passed me by. This is where the immersive-simming comes into play, as clever manipulation can lead to some very powerful upgrades for your weaponry. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Altered Orbit Studios

These spaces at least feel distinctly Selaco, though, thanks to the GZDoom wizardry the devs have sprinkled over all the grey. The way the lighting sits on surfaces lends abandoned control rooms an eerie glow and libraries a comforting warmth. Toggle aim-down-sights in the menu and you’ll bring up a blue dot sight when right-clicking with your assault rifle. Billboards display detailed, often amusing adverts and even the sheen of medkits is a nice sliver of light. Lots of little touches like this add up when you’re out exploring and especially when you’re spitting lead at alien troops.

Firefights are a festival of debris, where it rains printer paper and computer monitors crackle and alien troops coat everything in a sticky purple gunk when you explode them. While the result of your bullets can be quite chaotic, gunfights straddle the line between tactical and balls-to-the-wall boomer shooter really well, I think. At least on Commander difficulty (intended for people familiar with FPS games), you need to peek out of cover and watch your ammo count, as enemies can kill you sharpish. Forced restraint does make those frenzied moments all the sweeter, too, as you carefully select those times to slide between cover and blap some troops with your SMG. Perhaps blap them with a slide kick, then a revolver to the head. Maybe a shotgun blast, quickswap, a little sidedash – then blap with a few choice punches, sending them slamming into concrete.

As you’d expect, the guns are equally weighty, all with their own personalities and strengths. The shotgun is chef kiss material, with a chunky “ch chnk” reload and the ability to crunch enemies into paste. If you find weapon kits in hard to reach areas, they’ll mod your weapons to do cool things. Like say, let you dual wield your SMGs or add a double-tap to your revolver, granting it a close range boost. And if you find a safe room, you can cash in weapon parts and tech doodads to upgrade your weapons further. An early recoil-leveller for my assault rifle made an immediate difference, so while each upgrade might be expensive, the wallet hit is offset by a cushion of usefulness.


Selaco's Invasion Tiers, showing how enemies become cleverer as you progress.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Altered Orbit Studios

When it comes to using the environment to your advantage, I wouldn’t say Selaco’s immersive sim credentials are all that strong. While it’s no doubt GOTY for letting you flush a loo or open pizza boxes then snack on the pizza inside, the game doesn’t give average thinkers like me all too many obvious cues for optimal Home Alone decor. Granted, you might do some clever box-stacking or item chucking to unearth tucked away secrets. But for the most part, your environmental trickery will not extend further than popping turrets in helpful places and maybe raising a barricade.

Then again, when the set pieces do arrive, they pulsate with electro or drum and bass that really gets you in the mood for violence. And even if all you do is set up a turret or two, there’s an early sequence where soldiers burst through walls periodically and you’re holding out in a gauntlet where it’s just you and your automated pals against a mini army. It does everything it needs to and goodness me does it give you a rush.


Gibbing an enemy into pink paste using Selaco's shotgun.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Altered Orbit Studios

And they’re made all the more brilliant by clever enemy behaviours that escalate as you progress in Selaco. Early on you’ll have enemies who try and flank you, a la F.E.A.R., and later they’ll develop techniques to match your growing arsenal. Some will start donning shields and some will even be designated squad leaders (marked by an icon), so you’ll want to shoot them first to reduce the strength of their allies. General variety is on point, too, with standard troops and heavier troops with miniguns and flying bastards who zip around. Again, it feeds into fights being more than just the usual boomer shooter meat grinder, as you really do have to consider where you’re positioned and what’s the best tool to unravel your opponent’s defences.

For an early access release, Selaco is in a really good state. You’ve got a lengthy campaign comprising 30 maps and plenty more to go with it, weapon and enemy-wise. There are modifiers that make subsequent playthroughs harder, too, like one that makes you start over from scratch after beating a level. And everything feels polished – I didn’t encounter any hitches or bugs at all. The devs say they’re aiming for Selaco’s 1.0 release sometime in early 2026, but honestly, it’s worth getting on now if you’re a fan of good FPSing.

This review is based on a review build of the game provided by the developer.

By admin

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