Sometime you just want to shoot people. I’m not talking about climbing the nearest bell tower with an automatic rifle screaming “There’s Homer, There’s Homer too” at the top of your lungs whilst gunning down every last man, woman and child that walks past, I am in fact talking about the simple pleasures of a good Deathmatch on your favourite FPS.
If you’ve ever played an FPS online in the last two decades you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. You, a bunch of strangers, some kind of generic map location and a ton of fire arms – Choose your weapon and get to work. Simple as. Well at least that’s how it used to be in the halcyon days of Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament; a simple pursuit based on skill and a little silliness.
Maybe I’m just showing my age here, but modern FPS multiplayer just feels like an endless grind that doesn’t treat its players like sportsman but proverbial donkeys being driven by a carrot on a stick. All of this unlocking and perks for money or time has created a playing field that’s about as level as a cliff face and as inviting as a minefield to new players. There’s no real reward for being good at these games, only for having played it the longest or invested the most money.
When I first played Rekoil a couple of months ago at an event for 505’s upcoming digital offerings it felt like the game had been constructed with old fucks like me in mind. In the hour or so that I played it, I had a lot of fun and remember how loud and satisfying the game’s weapons were. So when I was offered a review copy I jumped at the chance. However since my PC is in desperate need of an upgrade I had to settle for the XBLA version. Rekoil: Liberation.
I’m going to start by saying that I can’t comment on how well the PC version turned out, because I haven’t played the final product, but dropping mod support from the XBLA version for whatever reason feels like a mistake. In a world full of map packs, the ability to create your own, especially on consoles, would have been a rather fine unique selling point and, as such, could have help Rekoil become the Little Big Planet of FPSs on the 360. Now it’s simply another multiplayer only shooter with very little to make it stand out against the competition.
When I say multiplayer only, I mean it. There’s no single player at all. The motivations of the two warring factions; The Minute Men and Black Water, for wanting to gun each other down in the street are never revealed so for shits and giggles I made up my own. They’re two rival bakeries locked in an endless war over who can make the better Victoria sponge.
There are 5 different classes to choose from, but the only thing that distinguishes one from another is their load out and are otherwise completely pointless. For example, the Shotgunner uses shotguns, the Assault class uses assault weapons, the Rocketeer uses, you guessed it, a rocket launcher. On the plus side, each class has plenty of different guns to choose from and each can be customised with various skins by hitting RT on the gun selection menu.
However, some guns are much better than others are and some are in fact pretty useless. A good rule of thumb is that the rocket launcher will kill anything you point it at, closely followed by any weapon that has a high rate of fire. If you ever have to resort to using your sidearm you may as well chuck the thing at your opponents for all the good it does.
Once you’ve chosen your class and your load out, the only thing left to do is to chose what you want your character to look like. The game’s set avatars include the usual ski masks and balaclava sporting special ops types called things like Alpha and Delta, some dodgy black guys called Dreadlock and Tribal, and Alice, the game’s only female avatar choice.
Every one of these options can by changed mid fight by hitting select to change your class, avatar and load out the next time you respawn. Unfortunately, you can also change your team whenever you like and the game does absolutely nothing to try keep them balanced once a round has started. Often I’d find out that due to people dropping out or just changing teams that a match that had started off as a healthy 4vs4 would end as 1vs3.
The two factions of heavily armed bakers fight for supremacy in one of 11 generic locations taking in such awe inspiring locations as a prison, a park, a dockyard and a sawmill. Okay, maybe a sawmill isn’t that generic but you get the picture. All of the maps are relatively well designed but none of them are at all memorable. The entire experience is just a blur of concrete and indestructible helicopters.
All the usual game types are included: Deathmatch, Domination, Capture the Flaaa… I mean Briefcase, (probably containing some special recipe for blueberry muffins) Hold the Briefcase as well as one original game type – Rekondite. In this mode one player becomes invisible and, armed only with a knife and flash-bangs, hunts the other players. When someone finally manages to kill the Rekondite they become the invisible bastard with a knife and the whole game of cat and mouse starts again. On paper it sounds pretty cool, in practice it usually ends with everyone blasting away at each other and completely ignoring the Rekondite out of boredom.
However, Rekoil’s biggest problem is that it has no bot support. You can only play the game if you can find at least three other people to play it with. Only a week after the game’s release, it is already proving to be incredibly hit and miss. Over three nights I sat down to put the game through its paces, on the first, I had no trouble getting into a game on the second it took me ten minutes to find a game and on the last I left the game running for an hour just looking for a game. I then quit, tried again a couple of hours later and had no problems at all.
Plastic Pirannha’s mission to create a community focused online shooter that rewards skill instead of play time is certainly commendable. However, the bulk of the features that would help foster this are conspicuously absent from the console version and the fact that the game may not even be playable in a couple of months makes it very difficult to recommend. As such, Rekoil on the 360 is merely a serviceable, but ultimately unremarkable shooter that may be fun for five minutes but lacks the features or support to make it a worthwhile investment considering the wealth of other more worthwhile alternatives available.