A Journey to the Nether Regions of the Mutant Apocalypse

With elements of DayZ and Left 4 Dead in its DNA, Nether presents an interesting take on the multiplayer survival simulator.

I know what you're thinking. Someone mentions a new multiplayer survival game set in a postapocalyptic world that's overrun with subhuman creatures nipping at your heels, and your first assumption is "been there, done that." But then a game like Nether comes along. Its mix of design philosophies, which falls somewhere between the frenetic nature of Left 4 Dead's action and the cautious play favored by DayZ, could inject this subgenre with some new life.

Crumbling walls and forgotten streets draped in fog dress the world around you. An unexplained cataclysmic event 10 years in the past, known as the "Call," befell civilization. A large part of the population mutated into twisted creatures, known as the nethers, whose sole desire is the eradication of the remaining survivors. These abominations come in different stages of mutation, effectively acting as classes with varying abilities, but two constants apply across the board: every nether is blind and is capable of teleporting short distances. Despite their inability to see, the nethers' enhanced hearing lets them easily identify noisy players. Therefore, it may be a bad idea to sprint through town with your finger on the trigger.

Nethers are fast-moving, hard-hitting, and persistent buggers. The crucial distinction between nethers and zombies--even the fastest ones--is the aforementioned teleportation ability. Because of this, they can easily move into your blind spots, and running is hardly an option. Hunter nethers make flight particularly challenging, given the class's advanced tracking abilities and strength, and the diminutive shrieker alerts other nethers nearby with a high-pitched howl. In most cases, your only recourse is to stand your ground and eliminate the threat as quickly as possible. If you can do it silently, say with a kitchen knife, even better, but it won't be easy. Even a single nether poses a significant threat to you, making the use of firearms an attractive, albeit risky, proposition.

Nether is as much about defending yourself from other players as it is about fighting off deadly creatures. It's a scenario that breeds teamwork, but also paranoia. Imagine that your neighbors, who have covered your back on more than one occasion, seem a little too interested in your cache of supplies. Do you second-guess your suspicions, or eliminate your closest allies just in case they're cooperating under false pretenses? It should come as a relief to some players to know that death doesn't impact your progress as much as it does in a game like DayZ, but it's not to be taken lightly. Though you hold onto your cash and skill levels postmortem, all of your equipment is up for grabs when you bite the dust. Have fun respawning at a random point on the game's sizable map, too.

The Chicago-inspired metropolis in Nether is an incredibly large and dense environment. Buildings line every block, each containing multiple floors, and according to the game's director, Chip Sineni, every room, staircase, and corner is accessible. Safe zones are available if you want to hang back and secure items indefinitely, but the vast majority of the map is a hostile environment. Yet, missions and the need for supplies force you out into the world, so it's expected that you'll spend a lot of time away from home. It's possible to fortify and hold entire buildings, if you're up to the challenge, but your hard work could easily become a target for other players. The verticality introduced by multistory buildings can turn a single building into a complex micro-society, and if the 64 players on a given server are feeling particularly aggressive, you may even find multiple conflicts springing up on a single block. Then, when you least expect it, a group of nethers will show up to ruin the party.

Development on Nether is still early, which affords Phosphor Games a bit of fluidity where design is concerned. Sineni emphasized their willingness, and desire, to incorporate community feedback into the development process moving forward. In fact, the first video footage on YouTube caused quite a stir among its audience, leading to the elimination of a significant feature: the ability to switch between first- and third-person views. Where player versus player is concerned, such a feature would give an unfair advantage to anyone playing in a third-person perspective, and give players who like the immersive quality of a first-person perspective the short end of the stick. When enough people raised their voices in defiance, the option for a third-person camera was thrown out the window, which is a testament to the validity of Phosphor Games' promise.

Sineni was quick to point out that any requests with enough support will be considered. If, for example, enough people want to play with fantastical weapons and abilities, Phosphor Games will do its best to accommodate those players, perhaps on a server-by-server basis, without interrupting the rest of the community. Sineni and his team are hoping to get a beta version of Nether into your hands as soon as possible, with a rich forum, to get the collaboration ball rolling. When it does hit the market, Nether will be sold for an upfront cost--no subscription fees or free-to-play models. It will be possible to rent servers, but that's currently designed to give people an easy way to host private matches. With persistent characters, it makes mod support for private servers a tough challenge to resolve. However, if the community presents a solid solution, there's always a chance Nether will gain mod support down the road.

Nether deviates just enough from other multiplayer survival games to stand on its own for now, but with so much competition from games such as State of Decay and Day Z, and the upcoming Tom Clancy's The Division tackling urban survival sometime next year, there's a chance Nether will find itself outnumbered before too long. If anything, Phosphor Games' pledge to adapt to the community potentially gives Nether an edge over the competition, but the efficacy of their promise relies on players' willingness to participate and ability to wait for results. Unfortunately, it's going to be an uphill battle. Patience is a rare virtue, and with a healthy lot of competition, it will take a considerable effort for Phosphor Games to corner the market on one of gaming's most popular subgenres.

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doc-brown

Peter Brown

Peter is an Editor at GameSpot who's passionate about gaming hardware and game preservation.
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142 comments
RedDragonGecko
RedDragonGecko

64 player servers is not Massive witch is the first word in MMO.

dipdish
dipdish

It's a game like Left 4 Dead, eh? I'm interested, then. 

x3RDragonx
x3RDragonx

Is this game F2P or we need to pay to play?

ThePurpleBubble
ThePurpleBubble

I've a feel that "The Call" is actually "The Cull" - sounds the same, means something entirely different.


Of course, there could be some story explanation - a sizable chunk of the population was "called" into becoming a zombie? I dunno. 

MatiMata
MatiMata

come on another one? isnt it getting old!? how about a game with swords for one!? like a thousand years ago!?

robinbr
robinbr

Fk news zombies mutantes, oh no... help!

Joshua Lopez
Joshua Lopez

This actually looks quite promising. Especially the fact that their development will solely be on player feedback! As long as babies don't complain about bullet damage...

Tygravius
Tygravius

The landmarks (for what there is) are horrible. Every block looks just like the other. Sorry, nothing to see here. Nothing new....

jamesjgraham
jamesjgraham

Most of the zombie survival games I've seen and played had nothing to do with surviving, considering you can endlessly spawn and try again if you fail. If only real life were like that. We need game designers who can break this mold and give us a real apocalyptic survival game where decisions and accountability really matter.

Shane Unrue
Shane Unrue

Joe, sounds cool but if it's anything like Infestation: Survivor Stories it will suck.

fattass21
fattass21

im still waiting for a zomibe game that was like the first few RE's. i dont mean like last of us or dead island. i mean like zombie zombies. shuffling hordes hell bent of eating you. then you have the few mutated ones that scares the shit outta you. yea, good ol zombie games XD

EngieTDR
EngieTDR

Another generic post-apocalyptic game. Yeah, that's exactly what we need...

Moonflames
Moonflames

looking forward to new desktop i hope it can run this

hellpolice
hellpolice

Interesting, though the city also reminds me of the Last Of Us.

mishdogg
mishdogg

GS PLEASE ANNOUNCE THE  GREATEST GAME SERIES OF THE DECADE ON THE MAIN PAGE!

Berkut4796
Berkut4796

Hmm, potential is there, I suppose I will keep an eye on this game.

mucking_foron
mucking_foron

sorry but the nether and the hunter nether's abilities will be a huge fail meaning the gimmick will wear off fast. teleporting might sound good but it's just a cheap way to keep the player engaged thinking it's horror. my thoughts. Make the enemies more grounded in the REAL world and they might have a special game.

DMND
DMND

So they mutated the very same way, everyone of them?

kerrman
kerrman

Looks good, reminds me a lot of WarZ before it came out though..

k0k066
k0k066

so no third person view??? I really wanted to play in 3rd person view it looks so beautiful.... why no make specific servers with 1st and 3rd person view??

Eclipse87covena
Eclipse87covena

LOL why even check this game out not to mention commenting on it if you don't even like survival horror/zombie games? Makes no sense at all... I'm looking forward to this. They've got a lot to fix tho before it launches and if they do this could be a very interesting game.

jessie82
jessie82

name made me think of minecraft and the pictures made me think of warz/dayz :/


i dont understand the fun of being constantly killed by players or zombies only to have to start over and look for basic items like food or whatever

themc_7
themc_7

very interesting. I'll keep my eye on this one. I'm intrigued with the mix of stealth and shooting. Co op is always nice too

Sharth00
Sharth00

They tried to copy the Day Z recipe without any of the key ingredients. Those jerkoffs should've finished Project Awakened instead of investing their time in this flop.

orangesonic
orangesonic

if it was coop play maybe i would go for it... MMO is just not for me...

SultaN-s
SultaN-s

I stopped reading at mmo

masba1137
masba1137

looks nice but they need to put at least another year of development in to this to really smooth out animations add more variety etc. I'm sick of devs releasing alpha's and unfinshed bugged games that destroy immersion.

franzito
franzito

Judging from the pics, a cross of Silent Hil with Dead Space. Nothing new even if they try hard to make it original. And worsen a little, yet another FPS. Jeez...

elementrium
elementrium

This looks amazeballs... Great aesthetic, amazing looking world... but the monsters/creature look and act terribly. Ruined. 

666NightsInHell
666NightsInHell

Another boring zombie fps with only one kind of mobs.

samsam09
samsam09

@MatiMata  look up Hellraid. That sounds like what you're looking for

Mustaklaki
Mustaklaki

@mucking_foron Your name is fitting.

giort08
giort08

@DMND yup, just like in Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, Dead Island, Shadow of the Damned, Resident Evil, Boarderlands, Quake, Doom, Mass Effect, Fall Out, Arkham City, Fable, Halo, Saints Row, GTA..........any game that has any sort of monsters/ mutations.......

Mustaklaki
Mustaklaki

@k0k066 Because third person view completely ruined games like this.

Go look at WarZ PvP and try to prove me wrong...

Chevyc95
Chevyc95

@k0k066 Its still in the works and has a flexible system. He said they are looking into adding features such as third person.

Mustaklaki
Mustaklaki

@Sharth00  EVERY SURVIVAL GAME EVER IS A COPY OF DAYZ NOW YEP YEP YEP YEP YEP NOT A DUMB STATEMENT AT ALL

eddieham13
eddieham13

@666NightsInHell As opposed to something like call of duty which the only difference is that the enemies are alive instead of dead.

mucking_foron
mucking_foron

@Mustaklaki after reading your rude aggressive comments, maybe we should switch names? 

k0k066
k0k066

@Mustaklaki @Mustaklaki I am not going prove you you are wrong because you just like first person games and that is ok the problem here is I don't. I don't like the idea of two hands flying around, what I mean is that you can't see your body and I don't like that. Also it is a GAME I don't like the idea of putting me in somebody's shoes even if I create to my likings. Also I just want to see the character I create I especially when there is a customization system.

I understand how you feel about it because the corner peeking and all that but that isn't me I'm ok being killed by someone that way. I can put up with 1st person view if the other game mechs are good enough and that's what I am going to do here but I never liked it so that's why I want a 3rd person camera switch because many people like 1st person and others like me don't. but I don't think that it is likely such a thing will be put in because of all the people like you and also it needs more work to be done with all the animations and stuff.

k0k066
k0k066

@Chevyc95 really?? I thought that they tried 3rd/1st person at first and because of the people's reaction that like 1st person they removed it. Anyway I got the flexible system thing and that's why I was making suggestions...