Fans of Doctor Who know that there are few monsters more terrifying than the Weeping Angels, lightning-fast predators that resemble angels and become stone statues whenever they are observed directly. Their episodes involve some remarkably tense standoffs wherein the Doctor and his companions have to lock eyes on the monsters, daring not even to blink for fear of their frightening speed. The Flock lets you play as a creature similar to the angels, prowling the dark in search of energy and turning to stone whenever in sight of their prey. Taking control of such powerful creatures feels great, but to win you have to give up that power and survive as the rest of the Flock hunts you. This is one of the most nail-biting multiplayer games I’ve ever played.
At its heart, The Flock is essentially a take on Halo’s Oddball mode. At the centre of the map is a ball – in this case an orb of light – that you need to grab and carry around for two minutes in order to win. Carrying the ball makes you slower than other players, but if you’re good it also gives you the ability to kill them in one shot. The orb emits a beam of light that can burn The Flock to a crisp, but only if they’re moving. This effectively forces them to stop and turn to stone, but with other hunters lurking in the shadows you won’t have time to stare at any one of them for long. I suppose you could try hiding in a corner, but your light won’t stay bright forever.
Scattered around the map are beacons that can charge the light beam, though getting to them can be tricky. Since the Flock knows where you’re going, they can set up ambushes, and even with a giant flashlight it can be hard to see them coming. The game’s developers have smartly scattered regular statues around each map, which creates a phenomenal sense of paranoia and panic as you try to quickly discern if the grotesque carving in front of you is a threat or a decoration. You’ll find yourself wheeling about wildly trying to catch enemies before they catch you, and in all likelihood you’ll probably scream when they inevitably grab you. Once that happens, you’re back to hunting.
As part of the Flock, your singular goal is to kill the player with the light and take it from him, and you have several tools at your disposal to facilitate that. You can run at great speed and leap vast distances in a single bound, allowing you to close on your prey quickly and mercilessly. You can also create a decoy statue and swap places with it at the press of a button, meaning that the light carrier never really knows if he has you trapped or not. You take on a surprisingly cerebral role, skulking just out of your opponent’s line of sight, tricking him into looking the wrong way, and waiting for a chance to strike.
Jumping back and forth between being predator and prey gives The Flock a lot of minute-to-minute variety that should stay fresh across many sessions. Gameplay as the Carrier is stressful and frightening, a constant struggle to survive against terrible odds. By comparison playing as the Flock feels empowering, and serves to relieve a bit of that tension, but you’ll spend every second hunting, trying to get the light artifact again and claim victory. Horror themes aren’t normally the best fit for multiplayer gameplay, but The Flock uses its simple mechanics effectively to generate tension and keep things moving at a good clip.