Fallen Aces has just enough immersive sim substance to match up to its eye-popping pulp comic style

Fallen Aces is a stylish FPS lead pipe ‘em up with immersive sim elements, published by good gun-knowers New Blood Interactive. Your gumshoe ‘tagonist wakes up, hungover of brain, skint of wallet, and unshaven of face, to discover your apartment – undoubtedly reeking of smokerettes and dehydration wee – is being broken into by foes goonly and mookish. They take a while to boot the door down, which gives you a moment to observe the place and consider which of Fallen Aces’ expansive makeshift weapon selection you’d like to batter them with. Decisions, decisions…

After eating some fridge fruit, I prepare an ambush by flicking off the lightswitch, then hide behind a desk. When they break in, I bravely sneak up behind them and put the frying pan I picked up to work. The sound effects tell me this a quality bit of cookware. Probably cast iron. Barely a dent. In the pan.

This breaks my writerly first person narrative, but I’m jazzed to discover that you can eat said fridge fruit directly without putting them in your inventory first. Ye gads! Is this… better than Prey (2017)? In this one aspect, yes. Please do not quote me out of context here, Mr. Oshry.

After a tutorialised escape from the building, I enter a wide open city area, and my notes tell me to go find my buddy Pete. But I’m out on these mean streets looking for trouble, not Petes. I run into some goons trying to extort the local barber, and challenge them to whatever the equivalent of fisticuffs is called when one of us – me – has a metal pipe. Bob Crosby’s Way Back Home plays from a nearby radio. The roads are the dustiest… I parry a blow from a flatcap’d goon… the winds are the gustiest. The gates are the rustiest… the pipe breaks, so I hurl a gumball machine. It misses, but the goon slips on the scattered gumballs, giving me time to back off and recover stamina… the pies are the crustiest. I stun the remaining mook with a mean right hook, then grab his collar for a beefy finisher than sends him sprawling across the shop floor. “Lay down” commands my ‘tagonist, superfluously.

A big'ol city block in Fallen Aces
Image credit: New Blood Interactive

The barber gets up from cowering the corner, thanks me, and lets me raid his storage for smashables. I find a medikit and a wrench, which rounds out my maximum inventory space of three items. I am tempted to go visit Pete next, but the city block (and its many opportunities for fighting) calls to me. My initial take at this point is that the combat sandbox – replete with various weapons and throwables and parries, dodges and stealth kills as it is, is where most of the imm-sim reactiveness and choice lives. That said, I do find a back way out of the barbershop through vents and an alley, so I could have stealthed my way through this encounter, were I a rank coward.

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Across the street, I smash my way into a drugstore for some more collectibles, which no-one seems to mind. Truly, these streets are the meanest. Perhaps it’s because, as a paper on a nearby newsstand tells me, the anti-mob mayor’s been shot at recently. After crawling, vaulting, and punching my way through the city – at one point, through a burning building while a mook lobs molotovs at me – I reach Pete’s apartment. Pete’s indisposed right now, and after a polite chat with some chill lads, I find myself underwater.

Soon, I’m in a harbour warehouse having a chat with a crime-fightery chap named Nightwave via radio. It’s not just the early 20th century mobster stuff: the game also draws on classic superhero comics and pulp paperbacks, right down to the goofy noise when a goon slips on a banana peel. The warehouse itself reminds me much more a classic im-sim level, with multiple routes and elevation levels, plus inside and outside zones with nooks and long shadows for stealth.

A needle gun does some serious damage in Fallen Aces
Image credit: New Blood Interactive

It’s here I’m treated to my first shootable – a nail gun. I use it to shoot a button which opens the dock office for me. You’ve found a secret! The game tells me. This feels a bit unnatural, but I do enjoy headpats. Next, I spy some mooks. Annoyingly, stealth headshots with the nail gun don’t kill them, but they still go down quick. “Not so tough now, are ya?” taunts my ‘tagonist, which is fine, but nowhere as good as “What’s wrong? Not tough as nails?” or even the classic “Get the point? Of the nails? From my nailgun?”, but you can’t have everything.

The main gate to the next section is locked, so I climb a pile of crates to a water tower, and hop over. I think this is a good litmus test for the game in miniature. In a more granular immersive sim, I probably would have needed to pile those crates myself, rather than finding them arranged in a pleasingly ladder-like fashion. That would have been satisfying, but also slow, and Fallen Aces is clearly pushing most of its chips into its fightin’ sandbox, with environmental considerations mostly widened so they give you more avenues and alleys – sometimes literally – to get the drop on a gang of mooks.

There’s certainly room for a game like this putting brawling front and centre, and all the better if it has such an absolute wealth of objects to lovingly bowl at the back of a flatcap’d mook’s empty skull. I make contact with Nightwave again, who helpfully offers to snipe goons I spot for him – an unexpected bit of set-piece work I didn’t expect to see, but is more than welcome, especially as I wasted all my nails trying to break environmental objects for no good reason. Fallen Aces is available in early access on Steam now, and it’ll only cost you a couple of casual Friday night poker blinds to buy in.

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