Sub Rosa

released on Mar 25, 2021

Sub Rosa is a multiplayer first-person shooter about tense deals, double-crosses, and the occasional high-speed car chase.

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Sub Rosa's a bit of a weird one to write about. I want to say positive things about it; other people have had those experiences, and clearly, the game was built around them. It's supposed to be this uniquely compelling take on multiplayer shooters, where the goal of the game isn't to kill everyone on sight but to play the game like you're in a crime movie. It's got whacky physics to laugh at, a few groups to join in on, and objectives that try to push you towards the spectacle it's aiming for.
As of writing this, I've put about ten hours into Sub Rosa, and I've yet to feel like its premise has paid off. I got very close to that magic when I first started playing. I joined a world mode server back when this had an active player base, joined a group, and went on a few raids and quests. It was so much fun that I didn't care about passing the two-hour mark, which would mean I was ineligible for a refund. Sure, there was quite a bit of indiscriminate killing. But I was able to play the game as it was intended for the most part, and that was refreshing.
Now's about the time I tell you that I bought Sub Rosa two-to-three years ago, and that experience that I was describing is not something I've replicated since. Here's what happens when you join a World server on Sub Rosa nowadays: you spawn in, go to arm yourself or get a car, and immediately get shot to death or run over. Okay, you're a bit more careful. You sneak around, become the CEO of a group that nobody has joined, and grab a phone to make multiple prank calls to other bases. Nobody picks up a single time, and as far as you're concerned, you're the only person trying to play the game as more than a means to waste time. Somebody shows up behind you. You're skeptical, but you let them in. They promise you that they're here to join your group. You have a sparkle in your eye--could this be somebody actually trying to play Sub Rosa? They then grab the machine gun that was holstered on their back and shoot you to death before you can say anything else. You find yourself near the poorly rendered gun and car shop again. You have no more money to buy a car or a gun. Meanwhile, the large group near you decides to start getting into fist fights. Multiple of them are indiscriminately killed. Some try to get away, but most are not so lucky. The perpetrators are all mic-spamming and speaking in nonsense words or phrases. They beat you to death again, shoot you after that, and laugh both times. You leave the game and don't touch it for another few months. You hear that there's this new, exciting server showing up where players are instructed to play the fucking game. It never shows up. Sub Rosa stinks up your Steam library afterward; a sad, unfortunate reminder of the distinction between imagination and reality.
I've never seen a player base so dedicated to ignoring the point of the game they're playing. It's not even funny; I would call it annoying, but really, it's depressing. Here you have this delicate idea for a game that had me hooked me right away. I love a good crime movie, but all of these crime games always end up being linear shoot-em-ups that only possess the complex narratives of the genre in cutscenes. I want to be the one on the phone making the deal. If I have to be whacked for doing something stupid, I want another player's absurd and complicated rules to be the end of me. That's fun, a thing you will not experience while actually playing Sub Rosa.
There are a few other modes that aren't World, but honestly, the game never really explained them to me? The extent of tutorialization is that the game tells you how to move around or shoot. I had to learn how to play Round mode from one player, and I've long since forgotten the rules because by the time the game was explained to me, and I could understand it, it was over.
I want to give this five stars. Sub Rosa, on paper, is what I would consider a dream game. And if it were maintained with active development and had a community that cared about it, I would devote hundreds of hours to it. But as it stands, I look at the ten hours I have in it in bewilderment. Did I spend this long in something that really hasn't been all that fun? And I paid nearly twenty bucks for it, too. I could have gotten a refund while I could, but the promise of something being there was just too strong.
One star for the disappointing experience I've had with this game.

Tried to play this back when it was "secret". I didn't understand quite well the buttons and when I tried to help someone after I gave them a medkit they shot me in the head and called me a slur.
Absolutely horrid community

Its allright not for me personally but has some really unique mechanics that make it unlike anything else

Tremendously fun, the only game I've found that can really simulate being part of that action movie scene where the deal goes wrong - you've got chaotic gunfights, car chases, double-crosses, thievery, and clean deals actually do happen often enough that you can never be sure if you're being conned or not.
Some of the most fun I've had in a game recently without any of the tilt. It's actually because it's so impossible to shoot guns both rapidly and accurately that makes this game work - gunfights are chaotic, more bullets hit the environment than your target, and you can't even really be sure that numbers advantage will win you the fight. The best bet for everyone is just to make the damn deal and get out of there alive.
At its best, it's the most fun I've had with a video game in a while - I don't mean engagement, I mean actual fun. At its worst, it's just your average internet chatroom, if a little better due to the fact that most people are generally committed to the roleplaying. The controls are jank and sometimes I think the first-person perspective results in a little too much chaos, but the core idea here is fantastic and fills a niche I've wanted to see done for ages.

Did you ever ask yourself how a multiplayer version of the movie Pulp Fiction would be?
Yeah, it's weird.

extremely janky and somewhat unique, a 90s heist and mob movies in video game form. it's better than it has any right to be.