White Noise 2 Early Access Review

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A new approach to horror multiplayer but a welcome one. White Noise 2 delivers in early access.

 

White Noise 2 is an asymmetrical multiplayer that pits a team of four investigators against one hellish ghoul. It incorporates many horror elements in trying to create a spooky and tense environment. Milkstone studios have done some great work, seeing as they only released the game into early access last week.

White Noise 2

Genre: Adventure, Indie, Early Access
Developer: Milkstone Studios
Publisher: Milkstone Studios
Release Date: 27 Oct, 2016

Invariably, White Noise 2 is going to draw a lot of comparisons to Dead by Daylight (and the Steam reviews confirm this). Just by the nature of them both being horror-based, 4v1 multiplayer titles released this year. Many of the differences between these two games are stylistic choices.

I couldn’t easily say one is better than the other. These two games show us two very different ways to successfully pull off the same thing.

 

Light is a very important resource. Use it wisely.
Light is a very important resource. Use it wisely.

 

Gameplay

Both teams have their own objective: investigators try to find tapes while the creature tries to eat them all. Abilities, when not on cooldown, help players achieve these objectives.

Investigators need to use their torches to chase the creature away as they hunt down said tapes. Thus, the creature will need to find ways to separate and flank them.

As a whole, the game is a war of attrition. Each time the creature closes in on an inspector, it builds resistance to the torch and takes more time to be banished. If the creature gets its hands on an inspector, it weakens them and requires less time to devour them later on.

It’s a nice approach because the monster player doesn’t feel as though he’s slowly losing the game just from not having devoured anyone yet.

Corners are the creature's best friend.
Corners are the creature’s best friend.

White Noise 2 focuses on the careful management of cooldowns for both inspectors and the creature. The creature can place decoy tapes to lure foolhardy investigators or use other skills to make flanking easier.

On the other side, investigators have a compass that will help them find the nearest tape or throw glow sticks to illuminate the path and slow the creature.

The game has a slew of different levels as well. Because White Noise 2‘s teams’ abilities don’t change (unlike Dead by Daylight), the stages are the vehicle for providing strategic depth.

One locale puts teams in tight corridors that join a couple of bigger rooms with clearly defined aisles. Here, the creature can pincer investigators and provide only one escape route. Conversely, it’s easier for the four investigators to watch their flanks.

 

Cooperation is essential: don't all look in the same direction.
Cooperation is essential: don’t all look in the same direction.

 

Another level, however, drops teams into what is effectively an open field. Here, the creature has a harder time on the approach (because there is complete freedom of movement). To balance this, investigators have a harder time covering all angles, which opens up different play options for the creature.

These static abilities execute White Noise 2‘s plan well. It encourages a competitive atmosphere where investigators need to communicate and modulate their tactics on a game-by-game basis.

Strategy

White Noise 2 emphasises cooperation. It’s almost impossible for investigators to survive on their own. It becomes apparent early that staying together is the key to success.

From the outset, it’s obvious that White Noise 2 is a game that is best played with groups of friends. Unlike Dead by Daylight, investigators are a team and must function as one, instead of four people who can choose to fend for themselves at any point.

Not everyone is going to have four friends playing the same game. To help with this, White Noise 2 offers persistent lobbies. After a match’s completion, the players can choose to rematch with the same group and/or shuffle roles.

Lobbies like this is one field in which I think White Noise 2 outperforms Dead by Daylight. Part of the reason I stopped playing Dead by Daylight is because trying to get into a match takes longer than the matches themselves.

Or you could take the more...casual approach.
Or you could take the more…casual approach.

Of course, not all investigators are created equal. Each character has different scores on various attributes. Attributes affect things like how long a torch battery lasts, how long you can look at the monster without going insane, and how close you need to be to see the monster.

These attributes, because they’re static, open up exciting possibilities for coordinated teams. Maybe it’s putting your highest health investigators at the back with the longest sight range at the front. Team coordination will be vital to ensure the bravest (can look at the monster longer) investigators are on point to scare it away.

With uncoordinated pubs, it’s going to be difficult to get the full effect out of White Noise 2. But playing in the same lobby repeatedly or playing with friends will unlock a treasure trove of potential strategic choices.

Presentation

Overall, White Noise 2 is a well-put-together game. Auditory and visual cues are clear. A fine balance is struck between the game making sense (competitive multiplayer) and atmosphere (horror).

Having said that, I would like to see a bit more guidance through the early menus. Before you jump into a game, it’s a little bit daunting to find the options you want buried within various screens. Not to mention, the how to play vomits a huge amount of information at you.

By making the investigators first person, White Noise 2 can ramp up the horror aspect. Players must constantly be wary of checking all angles, lest the creature be able to close in behind you. Effectively, it prioritises movement over cautiously checking the map.

Would I call it scary? No. This isn’t necessarily a criticism of the game as it’s incredibly challenging to marry pure horror experience while maintaining a coherent multiplayer. Sounds are, all around, pretty good. Loud, with the low-fi quality that we tend to see.

The creature is a little unconvincing and I would’ve liked to see more bombastic effects during his devour sequences. Sadly this is a real let down. There is no real horrific outcome when the creature captures you. Indeed, the slow lumber towards you in the flashlight beam is closer to what I was hoping for.

 

Sort of looks like they're trying to box.
Sort of looks like cockney fisticuffs.

 

Although it’s only a bit of fun, Hide ‘n’ Shriek has the sort of approach I’d like to see in these horror multiplayer arenas: make a misstep and the game punished you with a mortifying jump scare. Building this into capture sequences would be amazing and really drive the incentive to not get caught.

Purely for the value this game brings and how awesome it’d be to play with friends, try it out. The game is (very) affordable and brings a lot to the table.

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