What is it like to shoot guns while drifting in zero gravity? Boundary takes deathmatches to outer space.

Developed by Shenzhen-based Surgical Scalpels and published by live-streaming giant Huya, Boundary is a space-based, tactical online shooter scheduled to be released on PlayStation 4 and PC in the first quarter of 2020. The game is part of Sony’s China Hero Project, an incubator program that supports Chinese developers, and it recently got two new demos.

So I gave the demos a try to get a feel for Boundary’s vision of fighting in space.

We haven’t seen any realistic-looking space shooters since Shattered Horizon. (Picture: Surgical Scalpels)

For the most part, Boundary’s control scheme and button mapping are similar to other modern FPS games… except you’re moving in space, so you can be drifting and rotating on all axes. So there’s definitely a learning curve before you can master how to rise, sink and dash with the attached propulsion units on your space suit.

In many ways, the controls feel like navigating an airplane. You can pitch, roll and yaw however you want. But you’re not drifting in space forever. The game also allows players to walk on nearby structures, where you can take cover.

Where Boundary really shines through, though, is in its options for customizable weapon and ammunition loadouts and the flexibility to play as characters of different classes.

Starting off a match in Boundary, there are six classes to choose from: Assault, sniper, recon, medic, flanker and support -- a standard selection for a class-based shooter. But the game’s high level of customization makes it stand out from the crowd. It offers players the freedom to hone their own specific playstyles and adapt to different situations.

For example, if your playstyle is naturally that of a sniper but you anticipate a lot of close-corner gunfights in the upcoming match, you can modify your weapon to have a shorter barrel and a larger-capacity magazine to accommodate combat in a confined space. But you get to do this while still playing as a sniper.

There are six different classes of characters you can choose from. (Picture: MathChief/YouTube)

Ammunition loadouts can also be customized, which opens up more variety to your playstyle. For instance, you can organize your magazines so that your weapon first fires two armor-penetrating rounds, then a high-explosive round and ending with an EMP round. With this strategy, you can first destroy your opponent’s armor, then wound them with explosive projectiles before immobilizing them with EMP before going in for the kill.

While I only played one map in Boundary, Surgical Scalpels said that it would eventually support a multitude of maps in environments that will include a solar farm and an orbital fuel station.

In the demo, I found the environment in a bit too convoluted to navigate at first. But then I found there are a lot of nooks and crannies in the map that can add depth to the gameplay.

If you were at either ChinaJoy or Gamescom this month, you would have been hard-pressed to miss Boundary. Be it the space suits, the satellites or the inertia movement mechanics, the game looks like the Sandra Bullock film Gravity if it were a video game with guns.

While there are still several months before the full game is released, the new demos leave an impression. They’re far from perfect, but they at least dispel concerns that Boundary might be a gimmicky game, justifying Huya and Sony’s interest in it.

For Sony, Boundary could be seen as a trial for how its investment in Chinese developers is working out. Boundary was the first member of the Sony’s China Hero Project. That’s why the game prioritized a PlayStation 4 launch before other platforms. Surgical Scalpels even considered a virtual reality version of the game, which might have paired well with Sony’s dominance in the VR headset market.

We won’t know until next year if Boundary delivers Sony’s and fans’ expectations. Judging by the demos, though, Sony has something unique here. While it’s definitely harder to get into than most other FPS games, once you get the hang of it, Boundary quickly becomes fun and rewarding.