Drawn to Death is that 2 star rated game you see on the PSN store when you’re lazily scrolling through the backlog. That completely average, forgettable, attempt at a classic throwback that just ends up forgotten in the lists of PSN shovel ware. In fact if it wasn’t for the acclaimed pedigree of its lead director David Jaffe and its appearance on the PS plus free game of the month, I doubt it would have gotten any attention at all. If you’ve ever stumbled upon an old school style indie game on either PSN or steam you’ve played Drawn to Death, it’s that particular brand of clunky, unpolished and lacking in content that leads to a game you’re forgetting about as you’re playing it.
At its heart Drawn to Death is an old school arena shooter, complete with the goofy characters and weapon selection of the Quake and Unreal era. Though, unlike that era where Drawn to Death drops the bowling ball squarely on its foot is controls and design, the game feels incredibly floaty and unresponsive, guns fire with no real weight and the sensitivity is all over the place. It’s a shame because some of the weapons and abilities are genuinely interesting, like the dodgeball throwing torso Dodgeball Dan, Johnny Savage’s head exploding guitar solo and NinJaw, a shark head wearing ninja girl. There’s some genuinely cool abilities and ideas here, though when non of them are actually fun to use it doesn’t matter. Even basic guns like the AK (or FU47 here) feel awful to use. Add on to this the element of randomisation such as how the Lucky Bastard has a chance to do extra damage with each shot and you never feel like skill is the deciding factor here. You’ll find yourself shouting at the screen in frustration (or waiting around forever for a game, since the matchmaking is god awful) more times than you’ll actually be enjoying yourself playing Drawn to Death and again, there are so many inventive weapons and ideas here but Drawn really does highlight the importance of functionality. Overwatch playability this is not.
Perhaps the most notable and interesting thing about Drawn to Death is its art style and presentation. Set inside the pages of a high schoolers notebook, Drawn has an entirely doodle art style, complete with scribbled out errors, page corners and all the little details that help sell the authenticity of it. It’s a cool art style and I’m glad the team went all in with it, however in practice it only partly works. The almost complete white colour pallet can make map navigation confusing and there a lot of areas that look a little too flat. Weapon power ups and jump points are thankfully coloured and there are some cool designs, such as a Colosseum with the corpse of a cyclops in it and an alien invaded town. It’s a unique style and one I can appreciate though more diversity and the addition of coloured elements could have made it better. It’s still probably the best thing about Drawn to Death and the music, live action class room start-up and goofy humour all sell the idea of the game taking place in an angsty teen sketch book.
In terms of content Drawn to Death is a barebones game with a lot of options to interact with said barebones content. The game has a handful of fairly varied maps and a couple standard game modes, it’s all pretty standard stuff with the mode organ donor (essentially kill confirmed with a constantly moving bank point) being one of the few unique editions. In these modes there’s ranked and unranked play, complete with a ranking system to climb (represented by a castle who’s levels you unlock as you progress) costumes, taunts, skins and other unlockables to collect.
Talking about which of course brings up micro transactions, it’s pretty much a mutt point to complain about them these days but the way Drawn to Death throws them down your throat is just obnoxious. Clicking on the games icon on the store will bring up layers of chest bundles, before you reach the actual game and after 15 minutes of playing you’ll be given an extensive look at the in-game store, before being asking to buy a “special deal” that the games tutorial frog assures you is a “great deal”. It’s just ridiculous for the game to shove them in your face when it barely even justifies its actual price, keeping in mind Drawn isn’t a free to play game. Unlock-able chests become a grind to unlock after your first two and there’s just not much to Drawl to Death beyond the few maps and modes. Ranked mode gets unlocked after a few unranked matches and because the skill ceiling is so low it feels no different. Couple this with serious connection and matchmaking issues that meant I was waiting upwards of 10 minutes for games and experiencing consistent lag in others.
Drawn to Death is a mediocre game made bad by connection issues and grind. It’s seriously surprising that this came from the same director who brought us Twisted Metal and God of War. It’s a clunky and unpolished piece, that feels like it came from an inexperienced indie studio as opposed to Sony’s own. It’s a real shame because the ideas and fun design are clearly there but it’s all so poor to interact with that it’s hard to care.