An Empty Clip
Rekoil was a game with promise. When convention goers first got their hands on it at PAX 2013, the reports were positive: Rekoil was a game to take first-person shooters back to their roots. It did away with the bog standard progression systems of today's post-Call of Duty world and instead replaced it with pure, skill-driven gameplay. It was to be a shooter in the purest sense and would come packed with a full featured level editor ensuring hour upon hour of bullet-riddled fun. Now that Rekoil has launched, the truth has been revealed: this is a game with an empty clip.
Who needs a story when you have a gun?
This is usually where I would talk about story but there is none to speak of. Rekoil stakes all of its claims on multiplayer. There is no context for the action, no reasoning behind its selection of maps. This is a game about dudes killing dudes who kill dudes, mostly wearing gas masks. If it were a competent shooter the lack of single-player campaign would be all but an afterthought. This is, after all, the premise of most of this generation's ilk of military first-person shooters. Unfortunately, even here the game falls flat.
Like David to Goliath
To its credit, Rekoil tries hard to deliver on the depth of its bigger-budget cousins. Though the game lacks a progression system, it still comes equipped with six customizable load outs, each allowing you to choose from a handful of primary and secondary weapons. You can also choose an avatar from a modest handful of choices. One load out feels limited to the point of pointlessness however: the rocketeer, with only a slow loading, slower shooting RPG to its name.
The same can be said for the selection of maps and modes. Though I expected Rekoil to be steeped in the familiar (and safe) waters of Deathmatch, I was surprised to find seven different game modes. Domination makes an appearance, as well as Hold and Capture the Briefcase modes. The most interesting of these is a one-against-all match type which gives one player invisibility and super speed but removes all of his weapons.
Interesting, yes, but almost impossible to play. Throughout my last week with Rekoil, I have found the fledgling community struggling to maintain more than a handful of servers. These almost always fall back on deathmatch or domination and even then only attract a fraction of what you would hope for. At the time of this writing, only three out of nearly thirty servers have enough players for a match. The rest are empty.
When you get in, you may be surprised to find an eleven map rotation waiting for you. The locales for your firefights are well-varied. After a long match in the close confines of Subway, moving into the open, arena-like verticality of Prison is a nice change of pace, even visually. Again, it is obvious that developer Plastic Piranha aspired highly, as if they wanted to prove that a massive budget isn't the key to depth in a competitive shooter. Rekoil is the David to Call of Duty's Goliath.
They did not succeed.
Sadly, all of that reaching only serves to highlight how short Rekoil falls. Virtually every system, every map, and every mode, Rekoil is a pale imitation of the games it emulates. The truly disheartening part is that it could have been good. As a budget title, it is much easier to forgive the occasional glitch or loading screen. But in the case of Rekoil, its core gameplay is fundamentally flawed.
Playing a match involves choosing a load out, but the reality is that this choice is almost meaningless. Sure, you can choose between a submachine gun or assault and sniper rifles but each is as deadly as the next. The differences between each automatic weapon are hardly felt once you have aimed down the sights. The real choice is if you want to one-shot kill an enemy halfway across the map or play at short range, but even that is undermined by a single-shot shooting mode which ramps up the accuracy of any weapon that features it.
Many maps, multiple modes and a decent level editor
Weapon choice is almost meaningless and an almost total lack of community