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Volume is an indie stealth-based video game developed by Mike Bithell Games. It was released for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and PlayStation 4 in August 2015, and the PlayStation Vita version in January 2016. The game uses stealth mechanics inspired by Metal Gear Solid, allowing the player to plan courses of action to work through levels without being detected by guards, dogs, and automated security turrets to reach specific objectives. In addition to the game's levels, Volume supports user-made levels that can be shared with others. The game presents a modern take on the Robin Hood legend, where a young thief discovers a plot for a military coup involving various heists, and uses a device called "Volume" with the assistance of its artificial intelligence to perform these heists in a virtual manner and broadcasting them to the world at large to make the coup known. The story is presented with help of voice actors Charlie McDonnell, Danny Wallace, Dan Bull, Jim Sterling, and Andy Serkis.

Volume
Volume video game logo.png
Developer(s)Mike Bithell Games
Publisher(s)Mike Bithell Games
Composer(s)David Housden
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
ReleaseMicrosoft Windows, OS X & PlayStation 4
18 August 2015
PlayStation Vita
6 January 2016
Genre(s)Stealth
Mode(s)Single-player

Contents

PlotEdit

Volume's story is based on a modern take of the Robin Hood legend. Robert Locksley (voiced by Charlie McDonnell) is a petty thief that finds a device called "Volume", which allows the user to simulate heists that is part of a secret military coup attempt. The device has an artificial intelligence built into it named Alan (played by Danny Wallace) that acts as "the Microsoft Office paperclip as a military training program", according to Bithell,[1] and guides Robert on how to use the device. Robert decides to use the device to broadcast the simulations of high-profile crimes across the Internet in the same manner as Let's Play videos.[2] Locksley will face off against Guy Gisborne, played by Andy Serkis, re-envisioned for the game as the CEO of a company that has taken over the country of England and runs the nation as a corporatocracy.[3][4]

It is hinted in-game that Volume is set in the same timeline as that of Thomas Was Alone, also developed by Mike Bithell, but set after the events of that game.[5]

GameplayEdit

 
Volume's approach is similar to the Metal Gear series, in this case, showing the player as Robert (bottom center) in virtual heist against guards (knight-like figures) and their current cones of vision.

Volume's gameplay has been designed by Bithell similar to the stealth elements of the Metal Gear Solid series.[6] The game is presented in a top-down third-person view of the Volume simulation, showing a floor layout, Robert's avatar, and several guards and other antagonists that patrol the area. Several different variety of guards exist, each which have different patterns of movement and how they respond to seeing the player-character; such guards include archers that have a long range of vision, rogues that can see in a full circle around them, dogs that work by sense of smell and track the player by proximity, and automated turrets that react much faster than other guards.[7] When spotted, the player has a short amount of time to attempt to break the light of sight and take cover, otherwise the simulation will restart, either fully or at the most recent checkpoint that the player has crossed. Guards will behave in established patterns, and the player can disrupt these by making noise, such as flushing a toilet, or purposely cross their line of sight to draw them away from a patrol route. The player is unable to kill these foes, but over the course of the story, gain an arsenal of tools to distract them and avoid detection; once the player has one or more such tools, they can create a loadout for their character to select which gadgets they wish to take into a level.

The goal is to sneak through the level without being spotted to complete various heists. En route, the player needs to collect gems that are scattered through the level before the exit point will become available. Players are tracking on global leaderboards based on how fast they completed a level, with the game allowing players to revisit earlier levels to improve their times.

The game contains 100 story-based levels. Additionally, the game includes a level editor, allowing users to create their own simulated missions. Players are required to complete their own levels before uploading them to be shared with others.

DevelopmentEdit

Bithell's inspiration for Volume was directly from his earlier enjoyment of playing the Metal Gear games since a teenager. Though several other stealth games have come out since then, Bithell felt the newer games lost the "purity" of the stealth experience that Metal Gear provided.[6]

The user-generation aspects for Volume were inspired by The Document of Metal Gear Solid 2 that was on the Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance disc, during which Metal Gear' game designer, Hideo Kojima, designed prototypes of levels in real-life using Lego bricks. Bithell designed the in-game level editor to work similar to Lego, allowing the player to snap-in predesigned elements onto new or existing levels, including the game's core levels. Bithell hopes that Volume will have an active user-community that will continue to evolve the game over many years, similar to that of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines where the player community has continued to work on improving the game five years after release.[6][8]

Bithell expected that Volume will still have a limited budget, GB£30,000 compared to the GB£5,000 he needed for Thomas Was Alone, but the extra funding has been used to hire additional programming help and 3D modelers.[6] On the New Years of 2014, Bithell had to be taken to a hospital due to overworking himself on Volume. Following his treatment, he opted to bring on more staff to help complete the more-ambitious title, with a 15-man team by the game's completion.[9] Some included his former colleagues at Blitz Games, where he had worked during the development of Thomas Was Alone, and additional help came from members of Curve Digital who had previously ported Thomas to the PlayStation platforms.[9] David Housden, who composed the Thomas soundtrack, will also create the music for Volume.[6][9]

Bithell announced the game in August 2013, using a carefully managed approach to assure the news was widely disseminated on a specific day, promising further announcements on its voice cast and story at future gaming conventions.[10] Volume was originally planned to be a timed exclusive for the PlayStation 4 and Vita platform sometime in 2015, with the Windows and OSX releases set a month later.[11][12] Later, the release was set to be simultaneous across all platforms on 18 August 2015; while the PlayStation 4, Windows, and OS X versions were released on this day, Bithell stated that the Vita version was delayed by a few weeks to better refine the title.[13][14] Bithell later confirmed that the game would be released as a CrossBuy title for the Vita in January 2016, the additional time used to polish the game based on player feedback.[15] The Vita version was released on 6 January 2016.[16] A physical edition of the Vita version will be published by Limited Run, sometime in 2016.[17]

Bithell had already worked with Danny Wallace from Thomas Was Alone.[3] For the role of Gisborne, Bithell had listed Andy Serkis high on his list of desired actors. Serkis has responded positively to Bithell's script, and they were able to arrange for his voice acting between Serkis' busy schedule.[3] Bithell contends that Serkis brought "a great amount of gravitas" to the character to help flesh out the game.[3] With Serkis' involvement, Bithell changed the character of Gisborne to better suit Serkis' acting style, making the character more fiendish than an evil genius.[4]

An expansion, Volume: Coda, has been announced to be released in 2016 alongside Sony's PlayStation VR (Virtual Reality) unit. The expansion will include 30 additional levels, and will enable the game to be played on the VR unit, though the VR unit will not be required. The new levels extend the game's story, following the trials of "The Troubleshooter", a person that was captured by the government forces after the actions of Locksley in the main story, and will include new voice actors for additional characters.[18][19][20]

On March 17, 2016 it was announced that Volume will be receiving a limited physical release on the PlayStation Vita.[21]

ReceptionEdit

Reception
Aggregate scores
AggregatorScore
GameRankings(PC) 78.40%[22]
(PS4) 71.67%[23]
Metacritic(PC) 80/100[24]
(PS4) 71/100[25]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Destructoid6/10[26]
EurogamerRecommended[27]
Game Informer8.75/10[28]
GameSpot8/10[29]
GamesRadar+     [30]
IGN8.1/10[31]
PC Gamer (US)72/100[32]
Polygon9/10[33]
VideoGamer.com8/10[34]

Volume received mostly positive reviews. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Microsoft Windows version 78.40% based on 21 reviews and 80/100 based on 33 reviews[22][24] and the PlayStation 4 version 71.67% based on 12 reviews and 71/100 based on 15 reviews.[23][25]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Kubba, Sinan (2013-10-25). "Thomas Was Alone narrator stars in Volume as military version of Clippy". Joystiq. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  2. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (2013-10-25). "Mike Bithell's Volume stars Danny Wallace and Youtuber Charlie McDonnell". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  3. ^ a b c d Kamen, Matt (2014-10-31). "Andy Serkis joins cast of indie game 'Volume'". Wired UK. Retrieved 2014-10-31.
  4. ^ a b Farokhmanesh, Megan (2013-03-13). "Andy Serkis brings out the thug in Volume's villain". Polygon. Retrieved 2015-03-13.
  5. ^ Strom, Steven (19 August 2015). "Volume review: Cyberpunk Robin Hood meets Metal Gear Solid". Ars Technica. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e Yin-Poole, Wesley (2013-08-13). "Turn up the Volume: Mike Bithell switches gears for difficult second album". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  7. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (2015-01-12). "Listen to Andy Serkis play the bad guy in Mike Bithell's Volume". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2015-01-12.
  8. ^ Lane, Rick (2013-07-10). "Reanimated: The story of Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  9. ^ a b c Bradley, Lee (2015-08-19). "How Mike Bithell's never-ending crunch on Volume sent him to hospital". Develop. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
  10. ^ Bithell, Mike (2013-08-21). "Making noise: How Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell put Volume on so many gaming sites". Penny Arcade Reports. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  11. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (2013-08-20). "Thomas Was Alone dev's Volume a timed PS4 and Vita exclusive". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  12. ^ Crossly, Rob (2014-08-12). "Volume due for release on PS4 and Vita 'next year'". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  13. ^ Tach, Dave (10 June 2015). "Volume brings a modern-day Robin Hood to PlayStation, Mac and PC Aug. 18". Polygon. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  14. ^ Hussain, Tamoor (2015-08-18). "Volume's Vita Release Delayed "a Couple of Weeks"". GameSpot. Retrieved 2015-08-18.
  15. ^ Phillips, Tom (23 December 2015). "Volume finally has PlayStation Vita release date". Eurogamer. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  16. ^ Bithell, Mike (6 January 2016). "Volume Brings Stylish Stealth to PS Vita Today". PlayStation Blog. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  17. ^ Frank, Allegra (30 March 2016). "Volume, Oddworld: New 'n Tasty getting extremely limited physical prints". Polygon. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  18. ^ Phillips, Tom (22 October 2015). "Volume: Coda expansion headed first to PlayStation VR". Eurogamer. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  19. ^ Nunneley, Stephany (22 October 2015). "Volume: Coda is a free PlayStation VR expansion coming in 2016". VG247. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  20. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (8 June 2016). "Volume is getting a free PlayStation VR expansion". Eurogamer. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  21. ^ Robinson, Dave (17 March 2016). "Indie stealth title Volume set to get Limited Run Games release". Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  22. ^ a b "Volume for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  23. ^ a b "Volume for PlayStation 4". GameRankings. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  24. ^ a b "Volume for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  25. ^ a b "Volume for PlayStation 4 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  26. ^ Nakamura, Darren (18 August 2015). "Review: Volume". Destructoid. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  27. ^ Whitehead, Dan (18 August 2015). "Volume review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  28. ^ Shae, Brian (18 August 2015). "Sneaking Past The Competition - Volume - PC". Game Informer. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  29. ^ McHardy, Mike (18 August 2015). "Volume Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  30. ^ Cavalli, Ernest (18 August 2015). "Volume review: Doesn't go up to 11... or anywhere near it". GamesRadar. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  31. ^ Graeber, Brendan (18 August 2015). "Volume Review". IGN. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  32. ^ Wilde, Tyler (18 August 2015). "Volume review". PC Gamer. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  33. ^ Campbell, Colin (18 August 2015). "Volume review: without a face". Polygon. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  34. ^ Burns, Steven (18 August 2015). "Volume Review". VideoGamer.com. Retrieved 18 August 2015.

External linksEdit