OK, time for me to get cancelled by one group or another, and thus halve my leadership (to two). This is the weirdest thing on the Steam Next table:
Fursan al-Aqsa: The Knights of the al-Aqsa Mosque demo. The game isn’t even on the Steam store anymore (but you can still read the discussions to immediately die).
The Fursan al-Aqsa demo begins, like all great games, with a dump of Palestinian history before treating you with the actual story of your character. He was peaceful Palestinian dude arrested because he was near a protest. Two things happened while he was imprisoned: his family was killed in an Israeli airstrike, and he met the founder (and the only surviving members) of Fursan al-Aqsa. They had a genius plan to defeat Israel, but they themselves got owned. Our protagonist takes up the mantle. This takes way too long, but the history thing is interesting. It positions the game as aimed at audiences who don’t know any background of the conflict besides “idk, Palestine exists, I guess?” It will never reach them, because the game sucks.
The presentation is shabby and lacking in grace, but that’s because this is an FPS developed by one man. Once you get to gameplay, it shows. If you’ve played a bad FPS before, you’ve played Fursan al-Aqsa demo, and the sole novelty is shooting IDF troops instead of whatever Call of Duty is serving on the plate this year. And if the medium is the message, being a civilian-turned-self-taught-resistance-Rambo mowing down IDF hogrim does nothing for it. On the other hand, even Homefront can hardly do a resistance game like Homefront, so it’s definitely out of reach of a single inexperienced designer.
Speaking of Call of Duty: death screens! So if the ones in CoD prepare you to die as a cool manly man defending the West (or the Space West, if you’re playing Infinite Warfare), here, you’re treated as a martyr! No cool nasheeds, though.
But before you’re let loose in an Iron Dome control installation, you’re given a training level, and boy, does the “a single person with no prior experience making a game” thing rear its head here. There are invisible walls, unclear objectives, rushed instructions… and vehicles. It’s very much “rookie game designer” to put drivable vehicles in an FPS game when AAA shooters haven’t had a fun driving section since Call of Duty 2.
The IDF facility itself (if there are more levels, I haven’t seen them, playing it was painful enough) is like a shabby version of the UNATCO headquarters. You have to diligently shoot down cameras so as not raise an alarm, which ends the mission immediately. Also, try not to get shot, health packs aren’t plentiful in this demo.
Despite these lavish screens outlining your objectives, it’s not really clear what you must do or how you must get where you need to go, so, you know, rookie dev. And yes, the Fursan al-Aqsa demo had bullet time.
All in all, Fursan al-Aqsa demo is an unsurprisingly poor game. There’s no grace in its design, so it doesn’t work as a power fantasy. Neither is there any consideration for what kind of game would be suited best for transmitting the message. At this point, Mideast Crisis 2 cogent criticism of Israel, and that’s a Command and Conquer 3 mod that gave IDF the power to suspend the Geneva Convention.