Steam Next Fest: Boundary Is Counter-Strike In Outer Space

Boundary is a tactical space-based shooter where two teams of astronauts try to kill each other with AK47s and sniper rifles. Why are the astronauts shooting at each other? I don’t know if Boundary has an answer, but in the hours I spent whipping around space stations, dodging EMP blasts, and spraying bullets into the cosmos, I never found the time to stop and ask what the point of it all was. Boundary’s 3D degree combat makes for some of the most intense firefights you’ll find anywhere on this planet, or orbiting around it.

I don’t mean to tune my own satellite, but I’m pretty good at getting around in zero G. I have a lot of experience navigating in space. Hundreds of hours in games like Adrift and Hardspace: Shipbreaker have taught me how to space walk with confidence. It’s not easy to get used to the fact that there is no up or down. You never really get your bearings when floating in space because there are no bearings to get. It’s easy to lose control and spin out into a nauseating death spiral, so you have to be careful and precise with every movement. Controlling your momentum and trajectory are the keys to moving safely and efficiently in just about every outer space game I’ve ever played.

Boundary is different. It uses the same control scheme and physics as games like Hardspace, but the added element of combat makes it an entirely different beast. Moving slowly and precisely will likely get your head blown off, but at the same time ripping across the battlefield at Mach 5 can make it pretty hard to aim. Boundary has a high skill ceiling because it’s all about mastering your movement and aim together. Your suits thrusters accelerate you quickly in any direction, and your quick-fire grappling hook allows you to take tight corners or pull yourself to safety when you get caught out in the open. Boundary’s movement makes games like Hardspace feel like they're built with training wheels on.

In high-energy matches, it can often feel more like a dog-fighting game than a first-person shooter. Chasing enemies around debris and derelict space stations reminded me a lot of Star Wars Squadrons. But where space combat games are all about out maneuvering your opponents, Boundary maintains the tactical elements of team-based shooters like Counter-Strike and Valorant. Knowing where to take cover, when to move, and the ability to make plays with your team is often the difference between winning and losing.

I was impressed by how different each of Boundary’s game modes feels to play. The standard team deathmatch mode has a Call of Duty quality, as players hurl themselves back and forth across the sky trying to rack up multikills. But the elimination mode – where death is permanent until the next round – is a lot more intense. The space station is filled with nooks and crannies to hide in and wait for an unsuspecting astronaut to cross your path, and any round that lasts more than a minute eventually turns into a high-stakes cat and mouse game as players hunt each other around the map.

The muffled din of outer space makes these moments especially intense. When you’re lying in wait, clutching the side of an exploded cargo container, hoping you see the last enemy before they see you, you can’t hear anything but the sound of your own shallow breathing. Tactical shooters excel at these kinds of tense, do-or-die moments, but Boundary takes it to the next level by staging the battlefield out in the emptiness of the cosmos. Space, that place where no one can hear you get shot in the face.

The Boundary demo is available this week as part of Steam Next Fest. There’s only one map available right now, but you can try out the different classes and the progression system which periodically adds new weapons to your loadout. It’s too soon to say whether Boundary has what it takes to compete with the big shooters out there, but its approach to the genre is wholly unique, and for that alone I think it’s worth a look.

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