Rekoil is a game that just wants to have all the parts of a simple formula: dudes, guns, and maps. You throw these ingredients into a blender and you get a game out of it. Developers Plastic Piranha is sending us back to our Goldeneye-era roots by stripping all the silly accoutrements from other shooters such as level grinding, unlocks, killstreaks, strategy, etc. Basically, everything that Call of Duty introduced to freshen up the shooter experience. Rekoil wants desperately to be the anti-Call of Duty, its less complicated offspring, harkening back to a simpler time when all you needed was a crosshair and bloodlust to have a good time.
My main issues with Rekoil is that’s all it brings to the table: removing modern shooter elements. There’s only so much mileage you can get out of just reminding someone of more raw shooters they used to play 15 years ago. In fact, that’s the not the only throwback in the game. Despite being based on the Unreal Engine, you won’t be able to tell. The game’s barebones look and distinct lack of visual panache make it appear someone found it unloved, sitting on a shelf at Staples since 2007, and decided to blow the dust off.
Graphics aren’t everything to me, but Rekoil looks dated and drab. Its maps are patterned after the traditional stable of shooter locations: outside area, village, prison, abandoned street, subway, etc. There’s also the standard complement of game modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch, king of the hill, hold the briefcase and the ilk. Character models range from surly white dudes with helmets, to surly white dudes with face masks, to surly white dudes with war paint. Animations are strange at times, such as when you’re knife-killed, you basically do a backflip and land on your face. Sound effects are passable but sometimes plastic-sounding, guns go boom, and grenades have a pathetically small explosion sound.
It’s just all so average and by-the-numbers. Guns: check. Embarassing, childish machismo: check. Dubstep: check. Rekoil wants to be “hardcore” (whatever that means), but brings little new to the table. There’s not a single original idea in this game. I’m of the opinion that grinding for guns and pointless unlocks are a little ungracious at times, but if you’re going back to basics, you need to understand why those classic games are classics to begin with. They brought something new and fresh to the table at the time. GoldenEye invented the objective-based shooter. Counterstrike‘s permadeath and money system make matches incredibly tense. Unreal Tournament had a weird galaxy of exotic weapons and fast-paced face shooting. Simply taking elements away is not innovation.
I’ve never quite understood the need to inject narrative into certain types of games like this. Believe or not, there’s a backstory to Rekoil. Apparently, there’s been some apocalyptic virus and then there’s a paramilitary organization and then there’s dudes called the “Minutemen” who shoot back. Insert your own Tea Party Rally Rascal Scooter joke here. For all this game want to strip down, the clumsy insertion of a story as why these two groups are fighting mystifies me. Who cares? I certainly don’t. I’ve never questioned why terrorists and counter-terrorists are fighting each other in Counterstrike.
All-in-all, Rekoil feels like a polished mod. “Polished” is probably too kind, considering I experienced lots of screen tearing and keyboard commands not wanting to bind to a multi-button mouse. Crashes abound. I see a diamond in the rough, though. I see potential. In fact, its modable flexibility and Plastic Pirahna’s exuberant eagerness to get the game into a modder’s hand is its greatest asset right now. I joined an empty server with a friend of mine, to get a feel for the mechanics, and we had a jolly good time basically just goofing around with our gold-plated knives, trying to find fun ways to break the game. We actually a more enjoyable time coming up with our own variations on Gun McManShoot:
- Roadkone: Shooting roadcones in a race, or “roadkones” as Rekoil would probably spell them.
- Suicide Bomber: Player only has one grenade, and has to chase the other and self-destruct to win.
- Knifin’ Around: I’m a knife. Knifin’ around. Cut cut cut cut cut. Only Golden Knife kills count.
- Drunken Boxing: Hold the right or left lean function and run in the opposite direction. Slapfight until death.
If was only when another player joined the server that our fun was ruined. Rekoil takes itself too seriously and the entire tone of the game changed. I joined other multiplayer servers, most of which were deserted or had unacceptable ping, and grinded away. I also found to my displeasure there’s no way to host a listen server for local LAN plan. You could say I “rekoiled” in displeasure after that. Har har. Rekoil right now is not really worth your money in its current bare bones state. But then again, it’s only $15 on Steam and on Xbox Live Arcade. You’ll want to wait a few months until some interesting mods show up for it on PC, or start making your own. Until then, I’ll be sticking to the real deal.