Rekoil Review (PC)

Picture yourself playing a multiplayer online FPS in the late 90s or early 2000s, and what do you see? Perhaps it’s a sparse server browser, dominated by a couple of popular game modes with objectives that never stretch beyond killing anything that moves. Maybe it’s a muddy set of textures, coupled with flat lighting, fast-paced movement and rapid frame rates; or maybe it’s round after round of tightly-focused twitch gameplay, stretched thin across a handful of maps - of which only two or three are ever particularly popular.

Welcome to Rekoil, the modern warfare military-tinged 2014 multiplayer FPS that’s likely to make you nostalgic for the past and ridiculously appreciative of the present all at once.

You may recognise the setting

If your idea of a back-to-basics online shooter is booting up Counter Strike for a couple of rounds, then please allow Plastic Piranha and 505 Games to redefine that notion. This is the FPS boiled to its absolute essence, focusing on Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch almost exclusively, and shorn of any notion of persistence or character-building. You boot up, pick your server, pick your class from one of six, customise your loadout with a handful of weapons and then proceed to run rampant or be spawn-camped into extinction.

As fits the mould then, this is fast, breezy stuff, with barely a few seconds of downtime before you’re back in the action after being killed or a few moments when choosing the next game between rounds.

The handful of maps that ship with Rekoil play into that design choice and are laid out in such a fashion as to encourage a quick understanding of choke points and the best routes to take with any given class. They can be brutal when paired off against an experienced team, but once you know each of the layouts then Rekoil’s no-frills approach to weapon handling compliments their design, with both long-range and short-range firearms easy to learn whether you favour a corridor-based run-and-gun approach or not.

Part of that ease comes from a Battlefield-style hit indicator that lets you know in no uncertain terms that you’ve landed a hot leaded blow on your opponent, whilst a quick cut-away kill cam lets you know exactly which member of the opposing team is wiping the floor with your blood - repeatedly. Sensitivity and FOV sliders give you the control you need to tailor the action to your tastes, whilst the multitude of graphical options should allow for Rekoil to run on just about anything at frame rates that match its old-school appeal.

As encouraging as that basic mechanical functionality is however, Rekoil is some way from being the shot in the arm so clearly aimed for by the developer. Instead it’s just a, well, a *shot* in the arm.

Should have gone with a sniper rifle

Of course there’s nothing wrong with the simplification. I still enjoy booting up Unreal Tournament or Quake 3 every now and then to get my fix of no-frills speedy deathmatch action, and there’s something to be said for Rekoil at least attempting to distill its FPS formula instead of bolting on needless frippery. To get away with offering so little you need to be up there with the best of the best however; to have flawless maps that promote tactical variety at every turn, and enough mechanical to promote a shallow but lengthy learning curve.

Rekoil has precious little that ever rises above the average.

To start with the most obvious facet, this is a game that looks like an approximation of the shooters of yesteryear, but devoid of any style or art direction that makes those classic titles appealing even today. Muddy texture work, dull lighting and cluttered visuals combine with a basic selection of character models that animate awkwardly amidst settings that you’ve seen a million times before. Refinery, check. Saw mill, check. War-torn city streets, check.

It’s not long before a few mechanical failures begin to show themselves either. Spawn-camping is rife amongst the non team-based modes, and in the moments when you can get away, you’ll frequently find yourself gunned down from a no-scope close-range sniper rifle shot with alarming frequency. With the focus on making a sparse selection of weaponry completely accessible to all, the one-shot rifle has become king, to the point that I saw little else during my hour-long session before writing this review.

There are glitches too. At one stage I was teleported around 50ft away from my spawn point and dropped dead as the game cut to a kill cam of an opponent frozen in place, whilst a few crashes to desktop complimented the regular boots to the main menu. Lag also appears to be a problem even on servers reporting low pings, albeit an issue that mostly worked in my favour - with criminally missed shots somehow finding their mark. It’s not quite so easy to detect from the other side, given the majority of deaths in Rekoil are one-hit kills from range that could feasibly have hit with any weapon. Who knows.

As good as the visuals get

There’s also the other small part of the player count, which at the time of writing stands at 15 across all servers. Twitch TV support is included for those of you interested in running commentaries or tournaments (Plastic Piranha seem to have big ambitions on that front), and although my test broadcast worked without a hitch, it was also the only channel across the whole service running for Rekoil. The comprehensive level editor that ships with the game is a welcome addition, but with this level of player population I doubt we’ll be seeing too many custom maps working their way into rotation.

To declare Rekoil as an unmitigated disaster is some way of the mark, but it just isn’t executed with the quality necessary to back up either its e-sports or casual play ambitions. There were a few brief, fleeting moments during the Team Deathmatch rounds that propelled me back to a simpler, more enjoyable time for multiplayer gaming, and in that sense I get the feeling that a title of this ilk with a suitable level of polish and quality could make a mark even in this day and age. Unless you’re looking to spend a few hours plugging away to experience those glimpses however, Rekoil just isn’t worth the effort.

Best Game Moment: A cross-level hip-fired headshot.

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