words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Suspicious Developments for PC, originally released in 2013.
Gunpoint is a game about murder, espionage, and bullfrog pants. You play the part of Richard Conway, freelance spy. You were hired to investigate a murder involving the members of two rival companies who are trying to run each other out of town. Missions are offered to you from various involved parties, including the chief of police, and you must decide who to trust and who to help, all while keeping your own bacon out of the fire.

The game begins with what appears to be someone being thrown out of an upper floor window to his death. In actuality, this is our hero, Richard Conway. It turns out that Richard has recently acquired some bullfrog trousers that let him leap to incredible heights, and a special trench coat that allows him to survive falls from any distance. In his anxiousness to try them out, he inadvertently flung himself from his own apartment window.

Gameplay-wise, these special pants allow you to jump to incredible heights, reaching the rooftops of small buildings, high against the walls of larger ones, or even smashing yourself forcefully through window panes. In addition, you are able to climb up any vertical surface, hang from ceilings, and transition between the two with such ease that you may well wonder if you haven’t succumbed to the bite of some sort of radiation-infused arachnid.

While you have nearly super human powers, the action in Gunpoint is focused more around strategic gameplay rather than headfirst heroics, particularly since your wardrobe enhancements don’t do anything to stop speeding bullets, which can render you dead with a single shot. Even your jump is designed around strategy, forcing you to hold down a button and line up your trajectory, before releasing it to initiate a jump. You will be using your skills – and no small number of gadgets – to outsmart guards, bypass electronics, and thwart surveillance equipment so that you may hack computers and abscond with proprietary technology.

The first gadget you acquire is the Crosslink, and it’s core to the overall gameplay and completion of puzzle solutions. The Crosslink allows you to rewire any electronic devices that share a single circuit. A simple use of this tool might let you rig up a light switch on one floor to turn out the lights on another, making it easier for you to infiltrate the area without being spotted by a guard. But you can do much more than this. More complex solutions might allow you to press an elevator button that simultaneously opens a secure door, turns out the lights, and disables a security camera.

You can even disable currently active electronics, allowing for situations where you turn out the lights, but the nearby guards are unable to turn them back on. Or, if you’re particularly tricksy, you could make his switch activate something else, or even cause it to give off an electric shock. Security cameras, motion sensors, and sound sensors are often tied to alarms, but these can be rewired as well, allowing you to do things like call an elevator to a specific floor, which triggers the sound detector when it arrives, which opens a trap door beneath a guard, while simultaneously opening a door elsewhere in the building. Eventually, you will find buildings with multiple independent circuits, meaning that only certain electronics can be linked together, thus adding another layer of strategy.

Guards are incredibly dangerous, as they will shoot on sight, and a single bullet will kill you. Guards can see across the length of the screen in a well-lit area, and will shoot you if you are close enough, or begin pursuit if you are further away. Guards will also investigate any noises, such as breaking glass, gunshots, and even the sound of a nearby elevator door opening. Of course, knowing how guards will react can help you to put together a strategy, potentially luring guards away from your destination. Moving the cursor around the screen allows you to survey the entire area, and a red cursor indicates an area that is visible to the guard.

Cutting the lights will reduce the guards’ long-distance vision (except for black-clad guards who can see in the dark), but they will still kill you if you’re directly in front of them. Turning out the lights on a floor will also cause any guards on the floor to begin patrolling and they will first flick any nearby light switches a few times to attempt to restore the lighting, giving you an opportunity to rewire the switch if needed. If you do manage to get caught and killed, the game offers you the choice to restart the level from scratch or return to one of several recent auto-saves, providing a fairly low penalty for failure and very little repeated gameplay if you mess up.

Getting the hang of the game’s logic around the Crosslink is key to solving its many puzzles, although many levels allow for multiple solutions depending on your ingenuity and the gadgets at your disposal. Receiving payment for taking on missions allows you to purchase equipment between levels. Most upgrades are entirely optional, and can be purchased to suit your play style. Unwanted items can be re-sold for their full purchase price.

Some useful gadgets include the Dropshot, which allows you to land silently from any height; the Hushcracker, which muffles the sound of breaking glass; the Prankspasm, which allows you to booby trap electronics to cause guards to be shocked when using them; and a somewhat odd item called the Longshot that lets you link the guards’ weapons to other electronics. Many of these gadgets require battery power so they can only be used a limited number of times in each level, but you can buy additional batteries in the shop.

You can buy a handgun as well, although the level of violence you inflict is entirely up to you. Most of the time, there is a way to avoid detection by the guards entirely, and even when you do need to take one down, there are plenty of nonlethal ways to do it. You can tackle a guard to the ground and punch him in the face to knock him out, or punch him repeatedly to kill him. Armored guards are resistant to this, but you can disable them with trapdoors, or creative use of breaking windows.

Each completed level grants you one upgrade point, which can be spent to increase your jump height, decrease the amount of time it takes to charge up a jump (for more action-based players), and the ability to carry additional battery packs for use of special gadgets. Upgrade points can be redistributed at will between missions.

An end of level ranking shows your overall level of violence, as well as the number of times you were spotted, the amount of noise you made on the mission (breaking glass and gunshots contribute to this), and the amount of time you took compared to the level’s par time. You are free to replay previous missions to increase your ranking, but you are not able to grind for money or upgrade points.

Most levels have a secondary objective as well, which usually involves the hacking of a laptop tucked somewhere in the environment (often in a secure or guarded area). Hacking these laptops provides a few additional story elements that help you understand the motivations of some of the characters involved and a bit of background, as well as some humorous elements.

Much attention is paid to the game’s story, with characters explaining their interests and trying to win you to their side. Dialogue trees often give you several choices as to how you wish to respond to the situation, including a number of dishonest choices that divert attention away from your own involvement in the case. You are offered missions from various parties, some of which are attempting to help their loved ones, some are attempting to help themselves, and others are out to win at any cost. As in any good detective story, there are a number of twists and turns along the way. You can choose to provide helpful or snide comments, and even ask questions to get more information, including hints as to how to proceed.

Gunpoint was designed, programmed, and written by Tom Francis, who developed the game under the Suspicious Developments label, and this was his first commercial release. Tom developed the game while working as a writer for PC Gamer, and following the retail success of the game, he left that position to become a full-time game developer. Tom designed and coded the game over the course of several years and has been very open about showing early prototypes of the game and gathering feedback from beta testing. The project – which was originally intended for a freeware release – ended up becoming something quite larger than expected, prompting the release of a full retail game.

The game was offered in several different packages, with the basic release including the game and a level editor, a more robust package also including the soundtrack (by Ryan Ike) and a developer commentary, and a complete package also offering a 40-minute making-of video, several earlier gameplay prototypes, exclusive audio tracks, and access to beta testing on a future Suspicious Developments title.