Platforms: PC | Xbox 360
Developers: Plastic Piranha
Publishers: 505 Games
There are times when I wish Valve took a little bit more notice of some of the things that get released on Steam. The past few months have been filled with mixed emotions from all corners as the label "Early Access" has come to mean anything from a deserted combat demo to feature-complete alpha builds to buggy, crashing messes. We can forgive that enormous umbrella of opportunity to some extent -- after all, the clue is in the word "early" -- but it becomes rather more difficult to be patient and understanding when a game, with publisher backing no less, lurches onto Steam and declares itself fit for battle, only to collapse in a heap of execrable design and damnable bugs.
It's that fine line between gated marketplaces and maintaining at least some standard of quality control. We need the latter, because nowhere on the Rekoil page on the Steam store is there a big red sign that says: "DO NOT BUY! AWFUL, BUGGY MESS!" And there should be. Because it is.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, though, and what Rekoil is aiming for is fairly worthy. A throwback to the good old days of Quake and Counter-Strike and Unreal Tournament, this is good old-fashioned FPS arena combat at its purest. None of this XP malarky, no killstreaks or tactical packages to be found here, just a handful of loadouts, some rapid, twitchy gunplay, fast respawns , and a whole bunch of bullets. So far, so good.
My first match was spent dying repeatedly without firing off a single round because a camping chancer or two had a sniper rifle trained on the respawn points. The second crashed to the desktop before I even had a chance to finish sorting out my loadout. The third attempt crashed before we'd even reached the main menu. Chris was supposed to have been reviewing this, but he'd not even been able to get the game to even contemplate loading up let alone getting to a stage where it could comfortably crash. This did not bode well.
Eventually, however, I managed to get a few games in. The age of the patch means that day one bugs are often gone by day two. Hopefully.
Sadly, however, Rekoil does nothing to recommend playing it even when you can get a game. The list of dedicated servers was plentiful, but there were only ever three or so in use when I showed up to play, and nearly always on Team Deathmatch. There are seven modes, including CTF and Capture/Hold the Briefcase, but you wouldn't really know it. There are six classes from which to choose (your usual spread of Assault, Recon, Snipers etc.), with five to six weapon selections for each, unless you want to be a Rocketeer -- there's only one possible launcher for you because you're not allowed nice things.
There's just absolutely nothing here to recommend. The guns are unremarkable, uninspired, and horribly designed. The AK-47 has ridiculous accuracy at long range for some unfathomable reason, so in spite of its supposed lack of range that's what everyone uses, unless they're trotting about with sniper rifles. I was able to snipe foes with an AK in one game, and then die in the next moment after not registering a single hit at point blank range. The hit boxes seem to be all over the place, and seemingly change from game to game. I'm not the world's greatest FPS player, far from it in fact, but even I know when things feel inconsistent, and a Steyr Aug should not be just as powerful as a Dragunov. That being said, sniper rifles are far too overpowered in this game, too, just in a totally different manner. One shot kills to the body and snap aiming make them surprisingly efficient close quarters weapons. It's just all wrong.
The sound design is horrible too. We've been so blessed with outstanding FPS sound work over the years that to hear it done badly is akin to having fingernails scraped down a chalkboard. Weapon firing sounds hollow and dull, grenades are silent if you're not in the vicinity, and shots in the distance are virtually non-existent. This makes for battles that sound incredibly lifeless, with little atmosphere to speak of.
There are concessions to the more connected, community-driven world in which we now live. One of the big things touted by 505 has been the modding toolset that al;lows players to create their own maps. But for user-generated content to shine, the mechanics need to be spot-on, and that's clearly not the case here. Moreover, modding has been going on for decades, and map creation is nothing new. It's a welcome aspect in most games, sure, but in a steaming dogpile of mediocrity such as this, it would be waste of time to even consider getting involved. There's also Twitch integration, but given that playing this game is making me want to claw my eyes out, I can't for the life of me imagine why anyone would want to watch someone playing Rekoil.
I spent the entire time wondering why I wasn't playing something else, given the wealth of options out there. And then I noticed that only three servers were in use, and they were only 30% full -- the fact is that everyone is playing something else, and with good reason. I wish I'd never mentioned the arena classics I named in this review's third paragraph, because Rekoil has so very little of what made those games great. It's a cashgrab trading on nostalgia without really understanding the fundamentals on which arena shooters are built. Sure, it's twitchy and fast-paced, but it's also bereft of any sort of personality, deeply unbalanced, and littered with awful, awkward map design, uninspired weaponry, and a vast paucity of ideas or originality.
Mortal Kombat rang, by the way. They want their K back.
- If you can get the game to run, you'll always find a match...
- ...But that's only because the three servers in use are only ever half-full
- Awful weapon balancing
- Awful sound design
- Awful maps
- Awful bugs and server lag
- Awful spawn points
The Short Version: If you're going to make an FPS by numbers, then you need to at least make it good. If you're going to attempt to clone Counter-Strike, you'd better be on your game. As it stands, Rekoil is a bland, buggy broken mess; but even when it's all working it has absolutely nothing to recommend it. An insult to the games upon which it is based.