If you’ve been paying close attention to Pure PlayStation, you probably know we’ve been going hands-on with Filthy Lucre, the new stealth/action game from Fabrik Games, after interviewing CEO Graeme Ankers. With our manly editor bed-ridden with an antibiotic resistant strain of the bubonic plague (he says), Pure PlayStation’s Dom O’Leary was all too keen to step over his twitching corpse, grab the loot, and make his getaway to bring us the review:
I’ve been talking like an East-End gangster a lot recently, I mean, a lot. That’s because I like to get in character when I play games; I’m often found in a grey wig and leather trench-coat, stroking my giant sword, whilst reliving Final Fantasy 7, for example. This week; I’ve been heisting my way through Filthy Lucre, so it’s not surprising that my best ‘cock-er-ney’ accent has been getting some much-needed practice. So, impressions aside, you may be asking: is it a bobby dazzler, or has Filthy Lucre left me lookin’ a right mug? Join me below for the verdict:
First things first, let’s talk about the style of Filthy Lucre; when we say ‘stealth/action heist game’ you might, justifiably, wonder just what that is. Well, it’s actually a fusion of ideas that we’ve seen before; the infiltrate-steal/sabotage/assassinate-escape objective loop of a game like ‘Thief’ or ‘Dishonored’, combined with the top-down stealth gameplay that is most reminiscent of the 2D Metal Gear games of the SNES era. This premise was enough to get me interested in the game by itself, and the setting – East End gangster turf wars of the like seen in British crime genre movies – only served to heighten my interest.
The premise is simple; ‘Ronnie’, the mostly unseen mobster who gives out your jobs, has been mugged off by some other nefarious underworld-types and he is, unsurprisingly, not happy about it. So it’s up to you to recover his valuables and take down his rivals in order to return him to his crime-kingpin throne. This is all explained in a fairly brief intro movie, and expanded slightly further in some additional dialogue and mission briefings. This also constitutes all the story you’re going to get out of this game; it’s certainly not deep, but it does set the scene nicely for some sandbox stealthing.
Filthy Lucre is all about the missions themselves; you’re given several objectives, primary and secondary, plus challenges, as well as the copious loot you can collect to purchase valuable upgrades. But after this, you’re left to your own devices. You get a customisable loadout of two weapons and gadgets (more on this later), and it’s up to you to decide whether you want to creep around choking out guards and hiding bodies, or blast away all witnesses in a hail of bullets.
Where the game really shines is in how adaptive the missions are to your style of play. Guards are reactive, they will respond to noises, tampered security devices, and stolen loot, and detection is based on line-of-sight – no ‘vision cones’ here. In each mission, you have a ‘heat meter’, this steadily climbs as enemies find and report your activities – dead bodies, stolen cash, and any sightings of you that get radioed in. As you increase your heat level, reinforcements are called until eventually you are targeted by the ‘hit squad’ – super tough goons who will seek you out like a laser-guided missile and will make short work of you if you are unable to escape their clutches.
Reinforcements, even low-level ones, can cause you other problems too; depending on their entry point, they could discover your earlier mischief – turning a stealthy mission into a chaotic cock-up fast. You might think this could lead to frustration as your plans go awry, and if you’re going for perfect stealth you might be right, but some of the best gameplay comes from missions going wrong; Filthy Lucre gives you the tools to go loud once you’ve progressed a couple of levels in, and blasting your way out of a tight situation can be unpredictable, frantic, fun.
The missions start out with your character (or characters, in the online and offline co-op modes) arriving at the scene. Sometimes you’ll hop out of a van and have to work your way back to it later, but other missions mix this up by dropping you in at, say, a utility room – meaning one of your tasks becomes finding and securing your exit route. The environments have plenty of interactive elements; hiding spots, noisy distractions like TV’s and radios, computer terminals to take out cameras, alarm panels that can be sabotaged – the list goes on.
These items can give you a real edge too; guards will react to your activities in a way that isn’t 100% predictable, but can be learned to allow you to use even your suspicion-generating activities to your advantage. For a simple example, you could take out a guard where you know he will be seen by a patrolling colleague, then leave a surprise in the form of a mine trap that will take him out when he comes to investigate. I particularly appreciate this aspect; I am a big fan of games that allow you to adapt to a change in fortunes by thinking on your feet.
It can be worth ducking out when things get hot too; completing a heist simply constitutes grabbing the main objective and escaping, but you can complete secondary objectives, grab collectibles or go for challenges and get out anytime to bank your progress – as long as you can make it to the exit. Doing so nets you cash and experience, experience advances your level, which in turn unlocks more weapons and gear, and cash lets you purchase and upgrade your new toys at the armory. You find this in your hideout, which is where your character kicks back between missions.
Through a small variety of interactive features in the environment; you can access your loadout, mission selector, character appearance, settings and a collection of tutorial explanations of the basic gameplay elements from here – as well as view your collectible ‘antiques’, the crowning jewels in Ronnie’s collection;
It’s not exactly a visual feast; but it adds a nice sense of progression as you see your cabinets fill (for collecting antiques) and area portraits unlock (for 100% completion). I have to mention at this point that, at the time of writing, there are a couple of glitches that have been reported in regard to this aspect of the game – one of the antiques appears to randomly not spawn for certain players (including me), and some players have reported trophies failing to unlock – though I did not encounter this myself. In fairness to the developer, Fabrik Games, they have been fairly active in responding to reports and have already promised a patch to sort the glitched trophies, and posted a work-around for the antique.
To touch on the progression system in a bit more depth; your aforementioned armory is fairly robust. There are 15 weapons and 15 gadgets available, each with their own upgraded version. These unlock per-level and the progression works well with the game’s difficulty curve – enemies get harder and more numerous as you go on but you also get bigger and better tools to both fill them with lead and leave them bamboozled by your shadow-hugging thievery skills. Personally, I’m a stealth perfectionist; so I preferred silenced weapons (including my favourite – a silenced machine gun that is deadly once upgraded), and sneaky gadgets like the ‘body hider’, remote distractions and the special top-level unlock that is such a great nod to this series’ inspirations that I’m not going to spoil it here. Of course, even when you go stealthy, things go wrong – and I preferred nothing more than the noisy-but-powerful shotgun for blasting my way out of dodge.
By the time I had polished off all primary and secondary objectives in the game, I was only about halfway along in developing this arsenal, so there’s definitely reasons to jump back into missions and replay them. There are fifteen missions in total, split into five separate locations – four where you’ll perform various hits against Ronnie’s rivals, and a fifth set of bank heists that will unlock your next tier of jobs – and challenge the skills you have built so far to the limit. The length of each is as long as you want to make it, I spent upwards of half an hour more than once scouring for every shiny object. Combined with the replayability of the missions. this means there’s plenty of content for the game’s Indie price-point.
The game is reasonably fun to play solo, though you’ll need a lot of patience to go unseen, and you’ll face a lot of death if going guns-blazing. Co-op, however, feels like how this game was meant to be played – especially in the (prepare to be shocked) excellent couch co-op option. Honestly, I like to play co-op games and couch co-op is woefully neglected these days, but Filthy Lucre is the most fun I’ve had playing with a physical friend in the room for a long time. The tension that two people sneaking around generates is great, and you can set up all kinds of bait-and-switch distractions, cover each others backs, flank enemies, or even cover totally separate areas for faster heists.
In a hilarious, and potentially friendship ending, twist; if a partner goes down, you can choose to either go save them from ‘interrogation’ (which steadily increases heat) and revive them, or to just scarper with the loot like the dirty rat you are. Thankfully, Fabrik have foreseen this relationship wrecking wrinkle and your ex-partner will share in your experience and cash if you survive. As mentioned the game features online co-op too but, as you might imagine, playing with strangers is a guaranteed recipe for chaos (not always a bad thing).
At this point; you might be excused for thinking that this game is flawless but, as much as I would like it to be, that’s currently just not true. There are a few technical issues that crop up from time to time in-game, none of them are game breaking, but for example; frame skips occur in situations (it seems) where the game is calculating a lot of different guard activities – and gets a little more prevalent in co-op too, guard animations sometimes snap into place before your eyes – which doesn’t harm gameplay but is jarring to watch, and object geometry seems a little too ‘sticky’ – by which I mean that brushing your character model against a desk or file cabinet will see you slow to a crawl or walk in place, which can be frustrating when sneaking.
All of these issues are forgivable, however, when you consider that this is Fabrik Games’ first retail title, and a budget-indie to boot. What most disappointed me about the all round experience, though, was the lack of any conclusion to the game. Aside from a few kind words from old uncle Ronnie, there is very little fanfare for finishing all objectives. On balance, I think the character could have been fleshed out a little more but as the game isn’t about story it’s a little unfair to criticise this too heavily. More promisingly though; Fabrik’s CEO has already hinted to us that we may see post release content for the game, so I hope to see this expanded on in future.
In short; Filthy Lucre is a decent enough solo stealth em up, but if you’re getting this game purely for something to play co-op with a friend you’ll probably extract a lot more enjoyment from it. To fully appreciate the game, you’ll need to be able to tolerate a couple of technical hiccups and be prepared to be underwhelmed plot-wise. Graphically the game holds up well despite its Indie nature; environments are clean, simple, and well designed, with handy highlights that effectively pick out various important elements and some nice lighting touches here and there. Overall I think this game is a rough diamond – for any old school stealth fans, this is the game you didn’t even know you were waiting for. For anyone else, I say give it a go but bear in mind the above caveats.
Filthy Lucre is available now on the EU and North American PlayStation Store – as a digital download currently going for £14.99 or 10% off for plus members. Share your heist stories with us in the comments below!
Filthy Lucre PS4 Review
I called this game a 'rough diamond' and that's exactly what I mean. It's a great concept that could benefit from a bit more polish. As a solo game, it's not bad. As a co-op game, it's much better. Taken as a debut game, with its reasonably original concept and fusion of old and new stealth and action elements - it's a great achievement, and one that makes me hopeful for both the game and its studio's future.
A must-buy for old school stealth-'em-up fans and I would say a 'must-try' for anyone else.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a PS4 digital code provided by the developer. This does not affect the content of the review or the final score. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
(In tribute to my co-op, and real life, partner Katie – who helped me a great deal in assessing the co-op aspect of the game, I’ve included some screenshots of our ‘loud’ bank heist above. As a treat for all you video content lovers, I’ve also included a short vignette of our botched escape attempt from that mission below. It’s a lesson in how not to do things – always remember to pick up ammo before fighting your way out.)