With the likes DOOM reboots, the Quake remake, DUSK, Ion Fury, Prodeus, the Shadow Warrior franchise, the brand new Warhammer 40,000: Boltgun, and more, aside from the 90s itself there’s probably never been a better epoque for classic FPS games, the ones colloquially referred to as “boomer shooters” as well. Among the 1997 behemoths like Quake 2 and Half-Life, was the often forgotten Chasm: The Rift, that after receiving a solid PC re-release last year is finally hitting consoles too. Worth a jump into the past or is this one better forgotten?
I just wanna go back… back to 199… 7?
No reason to spend words on the fact the graphics themselves are quite outdated, but it should be immediately pointed out that this game certainly isn’t as advanced technically as its more famous 1997 companions. Don’t expect the incredibly complex level designs and the verticality found in Quake 2 or Half-Life, with Chasm: The Rift is limited to what is almost a block-based grid structure over flat levels. There are 45 degrees angles and oddly detailed objects like chairs and tables, there are no slopes and other advancements already long done by multiple other games. To its credit, however, the levels do feature a lot of interactive elements such as switches, rotating blades, moving walls, and so on.
Indeed, the game seems to have a love for putting players into unexpected situations, forcing them to think on the spot. With the level designs favouring tight corridors over open spaces, there are often walls opening up behind the player to reveal multiple enemies, deadly traps appearing out of nowhere that can even be used to kill foes, with the usual coloured-key hunting of the era. If not those, ankhs or other items based on the game’s many interesting locations and eras, justified by a very generic plot involving so-called Timestrikers: an alien race trying to conquer our planet. A quite frankly hilarious voice acting occasionally accompanies short cutscenes where generals and scientists explain to us exactly what needs to be done – but none of us is here for the plot, it’s all about the shooting.
Boom goes the dynamite
Fortunately, beyond the rather dated presentation even compared to some of its era’s games, Chasm: The Rift is generally fun. The weapon selection starts off cliché with the usual shotguns and rifles, but eventually, a laser crossbow, land mines, and more make it more fun and varied to use. The general movement, aiming, and shooting is snappy and satisfying, with the tight level design always allowing the player to peak back and forth between walls and other obstacles to strategically cover from enemy fire and find the right moment to counterattack. Nothing FPS fans haven’t done millions of times already, however.
Something that was pretty impressive for 1997 and still puts a smile on my face today is the game’s gibbing mechanic. Not only is it possible to shoot off body parts into spectacular bloody gibs, but players should use this to a strategic advantage. Humanoid enemies with a weapon in one arm can lose said limb, making them unable to shoot and only be a menace in melee range. Other enemies have high resistance shields all over their bodies but not on their heads, allowing the player to pop that part of the body off in one or two hits instead of having to put three times as many shots to fully drain the HP. It’s certainly one of the game’s most notable strengths.
The game features a 16-player campaign, taking players through sci-fi labs, ancient Egypt, caverns, and more. A set of three bonus levels, released at the time as a free download, can also be played from the main menu, even without completing the main story first. Most levels don’t have the sole objective of reaching the finish, with instead other goals at play, and feature a handful of often well-hidden secrets. All in all, it’s a pleasant enough dozen-hour or so campaign, with a handful of difficulty spikes and traps that can make the player lose some time and progress – so absolutely do use the game’s free saves as often as possible.
Chasm: The Rift is an old-school FPS that didn’t set the world on fire at the time and is quite far behind some of its contemporaries. Yet, a rather original level design style, good action, and a cool gibbing mechanic make it a worthy playthrough for hardcore “boomer shooter” fans, while casual fans should probably find one of the many, more iconic alternatives from the era.
Chasm: The Rift
Xbox Series X
- Fun action
- Dynamic levels
- Shooting off limbs is cool and can be used strategically
- Outdated tech even for the times
- A handful of sadistic traps
- Generic look, aside from a few cool scenarios