[Preview] No Longer Human – PAX West 2023

No Longer Human – an upcoming fast-paced slash-em-up and the debut release of indie developer 0801 LLC – is one of the finest examples of pure sensory overload that I’ve ever had the privilege of playing. I moved and attacked at speeds that felt impossible, to a soundtrack that’s so agressive and distorted its almost indescribable, while watching geysers of pixellated blood erupt from my foes. The game has the aesthetic of vector-traced arcade cabinets of the olden days, if those games were made today and took place in a rave. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that absolutely deserves to be on the radar of action game fans.

Before we get into this, please take thirty seconds and watch this trailer (unless you are sensitive to flashing lights in which case you should absolutely NOT watch this trailer).

No Longer Human is a game that is interested, above seemingly all else, in making the player feel like an unstoppable cyber-combatant who relentlessly slaughters foes in a virtual world. In this game, you can slash through an entire row of enemeies in a single cut, then jump into the air and fire a massive rifle that will eviscerate them from a distance. You’re not invincible, but you feel unstoppable. When you die, you sometimes respawn into the combat encounter as a giant casket falls into the arena, crushing anything below it in an eplosion of low-fi gore.

According to publisher PM Studios, who have expanded substantially into publishing a wide variety of indie games over the past few years, No Longer Human takes place in a near future where people’s brains are intertwined with computers, allowing them to fully immerse themselves and live in a virtual world. The character you play as – a “vocaloid idol turned cyberdemon” – is essentially on a killing spree in this realm, trying to take it over for reasons we don’t understand at the start. The game is setting up her up potentially as a relentless villain, which is fascinating, and a really accurate reflection of the brutality of her actions. 

You get the sense, while playing, that protagonist Tsunono has somehow even eclipsed the rules of the virtual world. She skates down slopes at blistering speeds between combat encounters, and fires her weapon to launch herself between grapple points in a manner that resembles flying more than anything else. To stop moving feels wrong; the cadence at which she moves feels almost intrinsic to who she is. 

The game is broken up into stages, ranking you in your efficacy and creativity in your slaughter. The score dominates the right side of the screen, always looming over you, as if taunting you to push harder, fight faster, kill more creatively. At the same time, your vision is being pummeled with particle effects from your attacks and the ambient glow of the retrowave digital world you’re in. It glitches around you – intentionally, as aesthetic flavoring – in a way that feels like the game’s world is disintegrating as you’re sprinting through it. Your ears are being obliterated by what I can only describe as EDM – which in this case I’m abbreviating as “electronic death metal,” which is both driving and intimidating. The stakes feel high in the sense that the pressure of all of the game’s elements is is always at a peak. It’s a very strong first impression, so much so that it’s hard to fathom how the game will be able to keep such a momentum without exhausting itself.

While No Longer Human hasn’t been officially confirmed for Switch yet, I was invited to demo the game at PAX on behalf of Nintendo Everything, so there are very strong indicators that this game will eventually come to the platform (plus retailer listings all but confirm it). In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming about how incredible this game will feel to play on my Switch OLED, in a dark room with a good pair of headphones. 

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