It's difficult to have a unique idea in a genre that's as over-saturated as 'first-person shooter' is. With Call of Duty, Halo, and Battlefield already out there year after year, making a multiplayer game enticing while offering something fresh and unseen is becoming harder and harder for developers to accomplish.
Rekoil: Liberator (PC, Xbox Live Arcade [reviewed])
Developer: Plastic Piranha
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: January 28, 2014 (PC), January 29, 2014 (XBLA)
Rekoil: Liberator's (or just Rekoil as it's known on PC) marketing touted the title as being a straight-forward shooter, where things like perks for kill streaks didn't exist. It offered the "pure shooter experience" where the genre went "back to it's roots" and eschewed earning weapons through rankings and held only scoring as key. While that certainly can level the playing field, it can also be a rather shallow gaming experience if you have nothing to work for beyond the leaderboard. Still, maybe there was something to this idea.
When it came to actually viewing and playing the game, however, all of those hopes fell away in a poorly-executed, trite mess. There is no single player story, no campaign to speak of, and no real explanation as to why you're shooting at whomever wanders into your crosshairs. The Dark Water corporation and the Minutemen militia serve merely as skins and teams with no rhyme or reason as to why they're trying to give each other lead poisoning, and I suppose that's to allow players to cut to the chase and get to shootin'.
The problem is, it's just too generic. While being able to choose whatever loadout you want from the start is nice, all the weapons behave in pretty much the same way -- which is to say, they all have shit accuracy. Save for the RPG or the shotgun, aiming with any of the weapons and hitting your target with any amount of precision is pure luck. Don't even bother with iron sights, either, as the targeting reticule or red dot may end up blocking your view rather than assisting your aim.
The whole game is downright ugly too, as character models are barely a step above PS2 blockiness, and every map is a wash of greys and browns. The character models are as basic as they get, with only mild differences between skins ("oh, this guy has a hat!", "look, it's the same guy, only with a mask!" or even "finally, some diversity...he has dreadlocks!").
As for the game modes, you get your typical deathmatch, team deathmatch, free for all, king of the hill, capture the flag -- er, briefcase -- and so on. There's at least one mode worth playing, called Rekondite, where one player is apparently the Predator from the movies, only with a knife. You can run faster as you invisibly stalk your foes, and if they kill you, they become the invisible hunter, with the winner being the who racks up the most kills as the Rekondite. Not that the knife is a one-hit-kill weapon in this game. No, that would be too much like other shooters, where the melee is actually useful.
In fact, most of the control schemes in Rekoil will have you throwing your controller in anger. Switching between primary and secondary weapons, grenades, and your melee -- which, yes, are all a separate selection; you can't melee or throw grenades without selecting them -- is done on the d-pad, but I could never get it to be consistent in which direction I pushed to pull up an item. Sprinting is also a hit or miss exercise, as I could never keep running for longer than a few seconds and could see no meter on screen telling me I had no more sprint stamina, or anything of the sort. Apparently, you run faster depending on which weapon you're holding in your foot-shaped hand, but that still never lasted longer than a few feet from when you started sprinting.
The thing that drove me the most out of my mind in the game is that, in any team match, friendly fire was always turned on. Always. In my first match, I killed 3 people on my own team (because everyone looks like they're all on the same team) and did not get penalized for it. While it subtracted from my match-end tally, the announcer in the game at the time lauded me for my skillful headshots. And since the number of kills you rack up or however long you keep the briefcase doesn't unlock new weapons, all team-killing does is bring down your possible leaderboard rank. Even when I wasn't slaughtering my own generic looking squad on purpose, they were often cut down as I tried to hit enemy forces, as they just ran directly into the path of my bullets. Causalities of war, I suppose.
If there's one good thing to say about the game, it's that I didn't really have any issues with getting a match to connect or really experienced any lag (which, from what I hear, is more than can be said for the PC counterpart). Matches were running smoothly (or as smooth as the engine would allow with the floaty aiming) and no latency issues were detected in the few matches I played.
Rekoil: Liberator is as generic as they come. Basic maps, uninspired character models, the "same-old, same-old" game modes we're all used to. What it tries to do to make itself stand out it fails at, and what does make it stand out is nothing to be proud of. And the one aspect every shooter should have -- competent shooting -- just isn't there. There is literally nothing to justify the $15 price-point, and woe to those that drop the coin into this steaming mess.
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