It would be easy to say that GROSS is disgusting, but play it, and you might say it’s cool, man. Yeah, that was lazy, I know, but we’re here now and seeing as you’re reading this, you might as well read on (or skim to the score, you lazy tyke).
Get this game from Hangry Owl Games only if you like FPS-type titles that encourage you to adopt a strategy. No, aiming for the head isn’t a strategy per se but a method for earning achievements and bragging rights to your so-called friends. In the real world, or the world of GROSS, headshots work better than the ol’ bread basket, but where you place the towers matters.
And what towers are we talking about? Wasn’t this promoted as an FPS meets tower defence? Not verbatim, but the gist. Because we’re being honest with each other, this little indie wasn’t what I had expected. I’m not a purist, but expectations were of a map screen, pre-drilled locations to place said towers, and the option to switch to an FPS mode to ‘clean up’. That’s not the game at all.
GROSS is an FPS with tower defence elements. There’s a story here – it’s the end of the world, and you’re in multiple scenarios where you have to survive and then move on to the next area. The story elements were a weak point, regrettably. That’s frustrating as they were well written and had direction, but through the presentation, they lost engagement.
If there were a comic book panel or similar to illustrate the story or the large walls of text were segmented to bitesize chunks (gamers don’t like to read – I’ve seen the stats for other sites, not just my own!), then the story could have been so much more prominent. That’s a shame, as it is good. The awkward control system (on the Steam Deck, at least) is holding the hand of the narrative when placing towers and making selections. In the first mission, I had to reboot twice as the menus weren’t working, and the enemies didn’t spawn on the second reboot.
Now that we have that out of the way, as a make-do ‘giving you a balanced review of what didn’t work’, everything else was dreamy. GROSS uses a 3D style similar to many indie titles of late – one of my favourites being Dustoff Z and another (visually), Drunken Fist 2. This art style works great in an FPS capacity, being rushed by zombies. It’s the same setup as any shooter – the left shoulder button aims, the right shoots, and then you can scroll through multiple weapons and use the d-pad for grenades.
Throw In The Tower
On the Steam Deck, this was fun, and the combat was very satisfying. Naturally, the shotgun comes out top, but Halo-like sticky grenades were a crowd-pleaser. New weapons are unlocked through progress and exploration, but besides the direct level of attack, the key ingredient here is earning enough money (from kills) to buy towers to defend your ground after each wave.
Initially, you can protect your base with cheap barricades and makeshift needle turrets through to heavy hitters like the flame towers and planting claymores on the ground to decorate the terrain with some zombie claret. Squirrel that money away each time, though you can upgrade the towers to increase the damage, range, timing, and more. In many ways, this makes each stage unique as you can change your battle plan based on the towers alone and then tidy up with your combat skills.
The latter pays off more so in GROSS as you earn more points with the damage you do directly. This means killing more zombies in one go; headshots and the like will boost modifiers to improve your score. Why does your score matter? Because there’s an online leaderboard that makes this even more replayable.
For all the simplicity of GROSS (it’s essentially an FPS with towers – think that chap from Borderlands), it’s an entertaining game if you like fast-paced skirmishes with minimal thinking. No offence. The story elements, unfortunately, drop the tempo significantly and let it down, as does the erratic menus/build options. Despite those flaws, the core gameplay is engaging and one I’m recommending.