Some of the most memorable action games I’ve played are 2012’s Max Payne 3 and 2005’s F.E.A.R., and Trepang2 cashes in hard on those memories of slow-motion action and strong enemy AI and variety. Yes, it’s really called Trepang2. No, it has nothing to do with the sea cucumbers of the same name. Instead, this is a first-person, stealth-action shooter that’s tilted decidedly toward action. It’s got plenty of excellent running and gunning, and while its story isn’t all that frightening there are occasional successful jumpscares that mix up the near-constant mayhem of battling its surprisingly smart commandos and corporate cultists. Granted, it’s also a bit short if you’re focused on its main objectives, but that just means it never outstays its welcome.
Trepang2’s brisk six to 12-hour campaign puts you into the boots of Subject 106, a generic super soldier type working for the equally unimaginative secret Task Force 27. After escaping a chilly underground Alaskan prison, you spend the next 10 or so hours in pursuit of the evil overlords of the Horizon Corporation – a Dr. Evil-like entity that is notorious for its failed attempts at creating its own super soldiers, among other evil schemes. What ensued was a series of video game and action movie cliches executed with such over-the-top violence that I had no problem suspending my disbelief – often in unimpeded bliss.
That is, except for when Trepang2’s gimmicky and cheap monsters popped on-screen in classic jumpscare fashion, before the story just sort of… forgot about their existence entirely, thrusting me right back into its gory military shooter-inspired action without more than a shrug and an occasional intel entry with a grotesque drawing on it. Let’s be clear: these monster encounters are perfectly fun, I’m just disappointed that Trepang2 doesn’t lean into them even more. Some excellent setups like a creepy homage to The Backrooms meme create a dark atmosphere to set some fights in, but don’t keep the story’s attention more than one segment of one level at one time apiece. There’s no character like F.E.A.R.’s Alma Wade keeping the steady tension of a more personal horror story rolling under the waves of Trepang2’s action, and as a result, the Horizon Corporation and all of its monsters come across as satirical rather than spooky. But there’s little indication that’s done on purpose.
At its best, Trepang2 is a clear tribute to the dreary, blood-drenched shooters of the mid-to-late 2000s, but without all the added melodrama to slow down its pacing between battles, a la F.E.A.R. 2 or DOOM 3. Most of the time it deftly connects the corridors of its various military compounds and corporate strongholds with a steady supply of boss fights that are often fun but simple, in that they rely on a single gimmick. The Mothman, for instance, chases you around a maze-like structure and can only take damage on specific parts of his body that are easiest to hit while he’s spitting acid. Meanwhile, each level’s nooks and crannies are littered with weapon customization parts and bits of intel to gradually explain what’s going on, which turns out to not be that interesting.
That said, it’s nice that you can comfortably ignore the story; much like the Doom Slayer, protagonist Subject 106 callously rips and tears his way through the corporate underbelly that serves as the main enemy of Trepang2’s campaign. He does so with enough gusto to make short work of everyone he runs into, to the point where other members of Task Force 27 will often comment on just how superhumanly powerful he is. This is played unironically, but it works for a few chuckles, not unlike off-the-cuff commentary given to the Master Chief by UNSC soldiers in Halo. It takes itself a bit more seriously than that, but it still adds to the over-the-top spectacles of B-movie violence throughout.
Halfway through the first level you’re already introduced to Subject 106’s nifty Cloak and time-slowing Focus abilities. Mixed with a button that lets you dive into a crouching position whenever you want, these abilities give you superhuman prowess in most situations, but not so much that Trepang2 ever made me feel overpowered – at least once I turned the difficulty up a notch or two.
It’s especially important to remain versatile since there are often so many enemies on screen at once – maybe as many as 20 or 30 – and they will relentlessly group up on you, flank you, and appear to communicate your position to one another, making cover basically useless in the heat of battle unless you’re able to stay hidden. I’m not much of a stealth player, and it always seemed like the cooldown timer for my Cloak ability was a bit too long for my tastes anyway, so I generally forgot about it. And I didn’t miss it, because great level design is far more important to stealth than a lazy invisibility button. Trepang2 often lets you shoot out lights to pass under the cover of darkness or set traps for a good old ghillied-up time. This all speaks to its excellent open-ended combat across its six primary and six side missions, wherein its eight highly customizable weapons gave me just as much leeway to simply dive into the action and kill everyone in sight on my own terms.
The rhythm of Trepang2’s combat is less about choosing the right gun; every weapon is viable in every battle, whether you’re dual-wielding assault rifles or finessing your way through enemy squads with a single handgun. Instead, it’s all about carving out the right approach: aside from the rank-and-file enemy soldiers armed with SMGs and pistols, many of Trepang’s enemy types are shielded or armored and only vulnerable to headshots. Some come equipped with long-range firearms and will scurry around the outskirts of a battle to pick you off when you stray out of cover, and some even chase you around with explosives in hand. Each enemy demands a different approach, and my favorite moments were when I was surrounded on all sides by a vast array of different variants, forcing me to improvise rather than stick to any specific weapon or tactic.
Its run-of-the-mill arsenal of weapons may bore at first glance, but they handle well with a mouse and keyboard, and I enjoyed using them just as much with my handy Xbox One controller. Pistols, SMGs, shotguns, and assault rifles can be dual-wielded once you find the hilariously titled “Dual-Wield Serum”, and that’s fortunately unlocked about halfway through the campaign. Dual-wielding adds an extra dimension to gunplay in that you can become lethal at close range when dual-wielding any weapon, though you’ll struggle to pick off enemies from afar. Likewise, it’s slightly disappointing you can only dual-wield identical weapons, so there’s no mixing and matching a shotgun with an SMG.
But it pays off with a gratifying spectacle when you decimate a crowd of armored bad guys in slow motion, brandishing two shotguns or assault rifles like toys. The reload animation when dual-wielding two unfolded shotguns will never cease to make me laugh, and running into the fray with two weapons of any variety feels badass no matter how successful you are at landing kill shots. Adding to the frenzy of Trepang2’s combat is a melee button that feels great to use, and it lets you beat your enemies down or unleash a Spartan Kick once you’ve closed the gap, making it easy and often hilariously fun to direct the flow of the carnage in slow-mo.
Dipping into that slow-mo Focus ability almost always let me pick off a few pesky foes before my meter ran out, and since diving around cost nothing, Trepang2 is at its best when you stay on the move while your Focus meter recovers in the background. Powersliding through ammo, health, and armor pickups and occasionally popping up to wreak carnage on the next group of enemies I encounter feels great.
I’m ambivalent about Trepang2’s lack of a default aim down sights feature for weapons with iron sights, veering toward Counter-Strike rather than Call of Duty in its military shooting inspirations, but it still works just fine without it. While ADS for non-scoped weapons is accessible to a limited extent via a cheat code that can only be unlocked later in the campaign, Trepang’s slick movement and slow-mo features make it easy to close the gap between opponents, effectively balancing combat around the use of crosshairs for aim akin to old-school shooters like DOOM and Halo. I’m used to it, coming straight off of DOOM Eternal which uses that style of shooting, but it’s still potentially disorienting for those transitioning from modern military shooters like COD.
It’s great that you can pick up different parts as collectible items in each mission, but it’s a slight disappointment that you can’t alter your loadout just anywhere. Ever so often, you’ll run into a weapon customization crate where you get a Crysis-style weapon customization menu, where you can individually customize different parts on your current weapon. For instance, the Pistol can be equipped with Silencers and Laser Sights, meanwhile, the Shotgun can be equipped with Incendiary ammunition and its stock can be folded. Every addon comes with a drawback that’s described in text, such as the Laser Sight making you more visible to enemies or the Unfolded Stock making reload times slower in exchange for better recoil, so it all feels balanced and often broadens the number of viable playstyles available.
There are also a variety of throwables like frag grenades, flash grenades, incendiary bombs, throwing knives, mines, and even “rat bombs”. All of these feel good to use, but you can only carry up to five at one time, and only of one type. It’s great that each level is generous with these, encouraging you to use up your stock in the bigger battles.
Trepang 2 Official Screenshots
Trepang2’s wild action also consistently looks awesome. Sparks and blood fly in all directions at gloriously high framerates in 2K resolution at max settings on PC, even when the action seems like it should be too much to handle for my now-aging GeForce RTX 2080 Super. Some of Trepang’s levels are drab and colorless like a typical shooter from the Xbox 360 era, but its action truly comes together in some of its more detailed environments. In the Horizon HQ, the festival of carnage is contrasted against arrays of LED panels refracting colorful waves of light across the tower’s glimmering marble floors.
I’ve seen better, of course; enemies can glitch out sometimes, and it can be somewhat irritating to walk through a pile of corpses and then hear them all shuffle around behind me like a monster sneaking up on me, only to realize it’s their ragdoll physics glitching. But these are minor complaints in comparison to how well my system held up, both in ultrawide (with an expanded field of vision, demanding more processing power in exchange for a broader view of the action) as well as in plain 16:9 widescreen mode. It rarely stuttered or lurched to a halt when tens of things were happening at once, giving an almost consistently smooth shoot-’em-up experience from start to finish.
A decently-sized hub area ties everything together between missions, and this is where you can customize your loadout and restock your armor and equipment, or train in the infinitely replayable combat sim which gives a broad number of environments to play around with and learn various weapon configurations in a controlled environment. There’s also some extra replayability here if you’re willing to stretch out Trepang2’s slim campaign with increasingly difficult challenges, though those just involve beating the same missions over again at higher difficulty levels. This puts you in front of tougher boss fights, including some that only appear at higher levels, in exchange for unlockable cheat codes and secret gags. They’re delightfully old-school, and range from Infinite Ammo to a Big Head mode that makes shooting bad guys in their faces that much sillier. It’s a chaotic joy to go back through the campaign with different configurations of cheats.