Heat Signature – Hotline Miami Meets FTL – A Going Over – Part 1

Heat signature is a game by Tom Francis / Suspicious Developments.

A long time coming – it’s been in development for about 3 and a half years – it was released on September 21st 2017. After it spent some time in my “to do” pile, I finally got around to it a couple of weeks ago. And play it I did, for about 50 hours so far. So bear with me, this is going to take some writing on my part and some reading on your part. As a matter of fact, I’ll split this up in a few segments to make it more palatable.

WTF is Heat Signature

  • Top-down 2D perspective, check
  • Breaking into spaceships, stealing, hijacking, assassinations and other dirty deeds, check
  • Spacing guards by shooting out observation deck windows they happen to be standing near, check
  • Inadvertently using a teleportation trap to space a prisoner you were sent to recover (because you didn’t know teleportation traps also affect people you’re carrying), then frantically trying to remote control your breaching pod to recover said poor sap – check.
  • Interesting story… meh, ok, it’s kind of cliché, but I’ll give it this one too. Check.

So, who are you and what’s your role to play? Well, you’re… nobody in particular. By that I mean, you play a series of space mercs, each of them working towards one personal goal (e.g. character X wants to kill NPC Y who killed his sister, things of this nature) and one general common goal (starting a revolution and destabilizing the powers that be in a piece of space real estate known for its highly profitable reserves of… battery acid. Yes, really.)

It took me about 30 hours to finish one playthrough (there was this bit where for about 4-5 hours I didn’t play the objective, but just roamed the space lanes in my pod, breaking into ships and stealing stuff just because). The replay value is immense – randomly generated game universe, random playable characters, random missions, random everything. And since the game basically pushes you to retire your characters periodically, you need to adapt to your new circumstances – different available equipment and missions with every new character.

Your mission – should you choose to accept it…

As I said, the grand objective of the game is to destabilize your local cluster’s Powers that Be (there are 4 “enemy” factions – each with unique traits – more on that later), thereby inciting revolution. You achieve this through repeated covert attacks on their assets (read: ships). These missions are randomly generated and you have complete freedom to pick and choose which of them you want to run. The rewards, of course, vary based on difficulty and on the way you achieve your objective. For instance, you can get a mission to assassinate a specific interloper, with the added clause that no other NPC’s on that ship be harmed in any way. Failing the additional clause means a reduced payout.

This system gives players a lot of flexibility in advancing towards the end goal, enabling all play styles. With a fully geared up character, you can run that “mistake” mission where you need to go through 50 guards with armor, shields and turrets in order to hijack a ship. Oh, you just retired your fully geared up character and now instead have a guy with a wrench and a single-use teleport trap? Well, then you can take a simpler mission, which actually sounds feasible.

Guns, Gear and Beyond

Weapons and gear-wise, there is a fair bit of variety in Heat Signature. You got your

  • Melee weapons (blades – lethal and blunt force – non-lethal).
  • Guns: with a mix of attributes like lethal/non-lethal, silenced/quiet/non-silenced, armor-piercing, automatic/fast-firing/single-shot etc. Yes, you can have a silenced, automatic, armor-piercing, non-lethal shotgun.
  • Teleporters: plain (permanently moves you to the selected location within range), swappers (switches your position with a selected npc), visitors (teleports you to the selected location for 2 seconds, then back to your initial location).
  • Slipstreams (they induce time dilation, allowing you to close distance to opponents so you can knife them before they can react).
  • Corrupters/subverters: allows you to subvert/deactivate electronics (such as turrets, locked doors, NPC’s personal shields and so on).
  • Emergency shields: when activated allows you to shrug off any kind of damage. Well, short of a breaching explosion (which demolishes the room you are in).

You get to take up to 8 items with you on a mission. This allows you to come up with some really interesting combinations . For instance, what I call the Mario build: one (self-charging) swapper, a stealth field/subverter and a bunch of wrenches. This lets you jump in the middle of a guard cluster, deactivate any electronics if needed and then non-lethally take out all of them. Replace the wrenches with (armor piercing) long blades and you get the Spaceship Samurai, another favorite of mine.

That’s it for part 1, thanks for coming so far. As soon as subsequent parts are typed up, I’ll be sure to link them all together.

If you like what you’ve seen so far, Heat Signature is available on Steam. If you happen to already own this game, I’d like to hear what your favorite gear combinations are – so leave a comment.

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