Download Chaser and dive into a gripping sci-fi shooter! Unravel a mysterious conspiracy, wield powerful weapons, and battle deadly foes in this intense action game. Will you uncover the truth behind your past? Play now!
a game by Cauldron Ltd.
Platform: PC (2003)
User Rating: 8.7/10 - 3 votes
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See also: First Person Shooter Games, Old School Games, Cult Classic Games

We’ve been following the progress of this Slovak-based game now for well over a year, watching with interest as it’s matured into one of the most promising FPSs of the near future.

Utilising the CloakNT engine, Chaser is looking little short of stunning, with its rich graphics complemented by some unsettlingly realistic animation. Rarely have we seen more lifelike character animations than here. And when you think that Chaser only utilises 60 per cent of CloakNT's full potential, you can see why this is an engine not only for today, but for the future.

The plus side is that Chaser's frantic gameplay (in which you play a character with memory loss who J is wanted by sinister forces) and challenging lifelike Al (which rolls. dodges, takes cover and runs M away) will be accessible to just fl about anyone with a Pill 450 or fl higher. And the plot is set to be just as gripping as the gameplay, as you struggle for survival in a near-future sci-fi setting - while trying to unravel the mysteries of your forgotten past. We’ll be bringing you a full playtest of this dark horse FPS in the very near future. For the time being, though, feast your eyes on these visual delights and start dreaming about just how good the end product is going to be.

Download Chaser


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

As preoccupied as this industry is with advances in graphical wizardry, no genre is quite as obsessed with the pursuit of cutting-edge technology as the first-person shooter. And what with your multi million dollar budget Doom 3s and Unreal Warfares ramping up the stakes, it’s becoming increasingly tough for the battlers of the industry to compete on the same level.

This is just one of the reasons we admire Slovakian developer Cauldron so much. Not only does its in-house CloakNT engine boast a feature-set to rival the most well-funded celebrity developer, but its new game, the futuristic FPS Chaser, is looking groin-tinglingly good. It’s also Cauldron’s first foray into shooter territory, following success with games such as Spellcross and Battle Isle: TheAndosia War - and all this in a country where games development is seen more as a hobby than a serious industry.

So what about this new game then? Set around a hundred years hence, Chaser takes place in a world governed by anarchy and violence. Gang wars, poverty and crime are rife in the cities, human suffering is at an all-time peak, and yet somehow we’ve colonised Mars. You step into this urban mire as a security agent called, oddly enough, Chaser. You’ve just returned, injured, from a covert mission, and to make matters worse you’ve gone and partially lost your memory. Now every two-bit mercenary, military commando and street hooligan with a knuckleduster wants you dead - and you have no idea why.

Cue a protracted flight across various parts of the world - through city and harbour districts, across the icy wastes of Siberia, and eventually to Mars. Rather than single missions, the game will be composed as an ongoing narrative, the tense plot punctuated by intermittent flashbacks to your missing past. As well as straightforward shooting action, you’ll be forced to complete various objectives to ensure your survival, such as rescuing hostages or escaping from a damaged space shuttle.

Cauldron tells us it’s aiming above all to create unexpected situations and an atmosphere rich with tension. Indeed, from what we’ve seen to date, atmosphere could be the factor that sets Chaser apart from the herd. The hugely detailed environments, both indoor and out, are brought to stunning life by the powerful CloakNT engine - the impressive tech specs for once translating into visible results on screen. Meticulous touches such as the inclusion of unique sound effects for every room, device and object featured in the game should also go a long way to fleshing out Chaser's grimly appealing world.

Of course, the year ahead already promises some incredible FPS offerings, and the Chaser team has quite a task on its hands if it wants to compete, but at this stage we definitely wouldn’t advise you to rule them out.

John Chaser awakes aboard an orbiting space station. He doesn't know where he is. He doesn't know who he is. He doesn't know who these heavily armed goons trying to kill him are either. But there's nothing better than a brisk fire-fight with a bunch of homicidal commandos to bring a man to his senses.

The 'you're in at the deep end' opening of Chaser is an example of how to totally immerse a player into a game. Before you know it, in a blur of confusion and cordite you are fighting for your life. The facility is self-destructing. Pipes burst, panels blow off the walls, and all the while that hostile assault squad is on your tail. There's no time to take stock. You need a weapon and you need one fast. This is high-tension gaming. And if Chaser fulfills its potential, you'll be hooked all the way from these opening salvos traded above the earth, right the way up to the ultra-violent conclusion played out among the colonies of Mars.

We're not short of a shooter or two these days, that's for sure. So Cauldron, the Bratislavan developer of Chaser has pulled out the stops to make this stand out as a shining example of its art. The high-impact single-player game, crammed full of cut-scenes and scripted set pieces, is matched by a multiplayer aspect complete with full Counter-Strike-esque objective-based game modes. The bone-crunching traditional FPS shoot-outs are complimented by a Max-Payne-style Bullet Time slo-mo adrenaline mode (see the boxout). And the slickly-drawn, hugely-detailed locations and legions of well-animated foes are matched by a massive set of shooters to lay waste to all and sundry with. Not forgetting a top-of the range physics system that will reduce you to wandering around levels looking for any remaining panes of glass for you to shoot and watch shatter just one more time. To make it all happen. Cauldron has developed its own 3D engine called CloakNT. We don't pretend to understand it, but if you throw the words anistropic, specular, bump-mapping volumetric and refractive up in the air, they'd probably come back down again and form a sentence describing just some of this impressive bit of coding's capabilities.

What this means to us gamers is that some of the pictures Chaser paints are damn sweet. Lighting is utterly convincing, down to the tell-tale shadows it casts. You can practically reach out and touch the different materials of the objects you encounter, from polished mirrors to rough concrete walls. Blood splatters walls and floors after fire-fights, and oil paintings adorn walls. Exquisite Japanese prints only reveal their full detail when you spend the time to examine them - from the grim slums of 2044 Earth, to the functional metallics of the orbital facilities, to the eerie sepia vistas of Mars, each location is imbued with impressive character and detail.

Boom With A View

We ain't here to admire the view though. We're here to blow it to hell. And though the game is set a full 40 years in the future, most of the 25 or so guns on offer will be familiar to fans of contemporary based first-person shooters. Fast-firing though inaccurate Ingrams M10 submachine guns complement Colt M4 assault rifles complete with telescopic sights and advanced versions of the classic AK-47. And if this kind of firepower isn't enough, mortars and heavy cannons can be manned when the serious fighting starts. Most of the weapons have the customary secondary fire, whether it be a sniper zoom or under-slung grenade launcher, and all of them are capable of dealing heavy-duty death.

The flipside of the coin is that the array of goons, thugs, shock troops and mercenaries that stand between you and the end of the game are pretty heavily tooled themselves. You'll appreciate the crucial advantage of the precious slo-mo 'adrenaline mode', believe us. All this hot lead has to hit something, and in the fury of combat, it's seldom the intended target. Though the physics engine isn't quite next-generation, falling short of producing true rag-doll death sequences and the like, it brings the violence to visceral life. Rounds ricochet off walls leaving ugly scars behind, and enemies spasm in pain, spin and fall under your hail of fire with the finesse of Hollywood stuntmen.


But most impressive of all is the way glass splinters, shatters and smashes - hit a large pane at its base and the whole sheet will collapse from above, splintering into a thousand shards as it implodes on the floor. Fire a grenade into a room and all the windows will blow out with impressive force. It really looks good, as well as fulfilling that deep-rooted vandalistic tendency that exists in all of us. Well, all of us on ZONE, at least. It's only a few months off now, and it won't be long before we've got a full review to see if it all stacks up right in the finished product. Until then, satisfy yourself with our exclusive demo on this month's discs. Now, where else do you get that kind of treatment?

Black And White Bullet Time

If Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery, Max Payne Can Feel Pretty Good About Itself

It's not big and it's not clever, but slo-mo 'Bullet Time' blood-letting looks pretty damn cool. And Chaser's developers obviously played Max Payne and thought to themselves, "We'll have a bit of that."

Machine guns spit rounds at agonising intervals, bodies contort and recoil almost balletically. Spent brass arcs through the air before clattering on the floor. Shards of glass fill the air as windows implode, and bodies hang in the air as they are flung several feet backwards under a hail of high velocity bullets.

This is adrenaline mode. You don't get an unlimited amount, but for tough encounters, the edge it gives you is vital - the adrenaline recharges when you're injured to balance out the harder levels. You hit the key, the action reverts to black and white, and everything sounds like a record being played slowly backwards.

But this being a first-person shooter and all, you don't get the eye-catching leaps and rolls from your character that Max Payne made so much of, meaning that much of the aesthetic appeal of this method of play is lost. It's difficult to say how well this system will suit the FPS genre, but once we've played through the game and reviewed it, you'll be the first to know.

Here's One for you What would you do if you woke one morning to find yourself on a rapidly collapsing space station parked on the earth's hard-shoulder, your memory blank, a dead body lying next to you and a gang of armed men baring down on your hospital bed with intentions on your life?

  • A) Cry
  • B) Shit your pants
  • C) A+B
  • D) Somersault over the bed, dive for cover, run out of the room, rip out an assailant's spine, steal his weapon, escape to earth and become embroiled in a gang war which will eventually see you travelling to Mars and taking part in a battle for freedom against a tyrannical corporation?

I know, it's a tough one, so take your time. But while you're mulling over your options, let me introduce you to John Chaser who'd take option D any day of the week. Or at least, that is, the specific day of the week that you decide to start playing this future-based FPS. Straight from the off, when your eyes flick open, blinking violently as you scan your surroundings (generated by Cauldron's stunning CloakNT engine), you're embroiled in a fight for survival, trying to piece together your forgotten past from the flashbacks which torment your mind as you stumble towards an unclear future.

And They're Off

The enemy hits you, again and again, like a pneumatic drillmounted boxing glove, never giving you a moment to rest, to relax, to fully make sense of what is happening. And by the time you reach your evacuation pod and make your long journey down to the earth's surface, you're left in no doubt about Chaser's (that's the game's, not the character's) intentions.

This is an old-skool, boot it and shoot it bloodbath, action-packed to the back fillings with unrelenting firefights, interspersed with lengthy cut-scenes, which introduce and develop a world you have no prior knowledge or memory of.

And it doesn't get any easier, either. Once on earth things don't really look any rosier, as you find yourself in Montack city in a neighbourhood so dilapidated that you instantly wish you were in Bognor Regis instead. OK, maybe not that bad. But close.

Making Sense Of It All

What's worse, everyone seems to know who you are - your face is all over the news like a spilt cup of coffee, and those who aren't shooting at you are trying to recruit you to shoot other people for them. Confused? You will be. But it will start making a little more sense as the campaign unravels, and as more and more flashbacks provide you with snippets of your past. Sadly, though, the plot never quite gels, its paradoxical propensity for keeping you guessing while at the same time trying to fill in some of the blanks often leaving swathes of confusion flapping around in a near-nonsensical gust. The plot itself is, errr. how to put this - heavily influenced' by sci-fi films. Or is that shamelessly ripped off'? See if you can make the connections.

You've lost your memory and end up fighting for freedom on Mars against an evil corporation (Total Recall), with undertones of human cloning {Attack Of The Clones) and you're constantly being chased (The Running Man). Of course it could just be a coincidence (cough, NO!). Hey, that was a cough, OK, I wasn't trying to tell you the answer. Honest. As if someone would do a thing like that.

So, onto the action itself, and, as you may have guessed, there's plenty of it. Underpinning the game is a reliance on twitch trigger hammering, straight out of the days of Doom, with a fat dose of puzzle solving thrown in to really get the nostalgia glands oozing. But just as you start to feel the novelty of the non-stop shoot-out wane, Chaser throws up an odd change of tempo, in an attempt to drag you away from the challenging Al -which, although erratic on occasions, ducks and hides and runs and weaves to avoid your bullets while attempting to fill you with its own quota of lead - and challenge you in more subtle ways.

Silent But Deadly

And so you'll find yourself manning a tower with a sniper rifle, navigating underwater ship graveyards, dodging cameras on recon missions and running like a hyperactive baboon as you try to escape, unarmed, from would-be captors.

But none of these, along with a somewhat tacked-on Bullet Time mode called Adrenaline Mode (an excellent survival aid to have in the game's more manic moments), ever manage to satisfy you fully, often bringing you to the brink of excitement without ever pushing you over the edge to a satisfactory climax.

Weapons are kept simple, an assortment of machine guns, sniper rifles and grenade launchers dressed up in varying metal guises. While each one handles fairly differently, you'll generally find yourself relying on your favourite sniper-scoped machine gun, something instantly versatile for close and long-ranged confrontations. Within a few levels you'll have mastered its kicks and magazine capacity as you drill yourself into an unstoppable killing machine.

It's A Bitch

At least... that's the plan. More often than not, you'll end up dead, because this isn't your average, finish-in-a-day shooter. Even on the easiest setting, there's countless hours of gameplay - despite the abundance of health packs and the small amounts of damage the enemy inflicts at this level.

Crank up the difficulty to medium, or, if you're totally mad, hard, and you're looking at one of the most infuriatingly challenging shooters of the new millennium, one that'll have you slapping the quick-load key into oblivion well before the final cut-scene fades from your blood-soaked monitor.

Virgin Suicides

But while the difficulty will have you swearing with frustration like a 40-year-old tourette's-afflicted virgin, it's the often endless and brain-liquefying corridor exploring required to find a key or important room that will have you moaning like a pensioner who's just been overcharged by a penny in Tesco. A bit more in the level variation department would have been handy.

So, the $34.99 question. Is Chaser worth your 3,499 new pence? Tough one that. On one hand, Chaser is an adrenal hit of shooting-galleryesque action with a solid, generally well-acted (with the exception of Chaser himself) script and challenging if often samey gameplay. While on the other, it's an old-fashioned, somewhat glitched FPS that tries to do a bit of everything, without ever really pulling it off with conviction. The plot may be cliched, but to Cauldron's credit the conclusion is impressive, throwing out a suckerpunch ending that'll have you reeling in disbelief. And the excellent engine, despite only running at 65 per cent capacity here, will have you cooing in delight like a pigeon in a breadcrumb factory.

So there you have it -it's time for decisions. You've heard the arguments, you've played the demo, and as one final pointer, in case you're still not sure, here, have a score...

Missed Opportunity

Shift Into Sixth Gear

The CloakNT engine certainly scores highly in the visuals department, rendering some stunning-looking characters who move just like you'd expect them to in real life. Yet many of your surroundings lack a similar sense of detail. If Cauldron had gone for broke and unleashed the full power of its engine, there's little doubt it would be close to rivalling Doom III in the beauty stakes.

But great-looking character models aren't its only forte. On the odd occasion when you do venture outside to more open and impressive looking landscapes, it's instantly clear that an opportunity has gone begging. Why Cauldron didn't throw in a few sprawling, free-form levels to help chop up the abundance of corridor-based action is anyone's guess, as it really could have propelled an already entertaining game into the Essential bracket.

Flash Before My Eyes

Where Am I? Who Am I? What Am I Doing Here?

Chaser, if you want to get all pretentious about it, is a journey of discovery. Over the first few levels, you're given the odd hint, strange flashes of recollection clouding your in-game vision as snippets of your past pop into your head. All you know is that you need to get your arse to Mars and find an apparently evil soldier called Stone. The flashbacks are rationed superbly throughout, at first scaring the life out of you as they jump out of the screen in the middle of a level. They never give too much away, though, meaning you're always left guessing as to who you really are. Sadly the plot suffers somewhat as a result, as you're sometimes left utterly confused as to what's actually going on.

Snapshots and Media

PC Screenshots

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