Back in the early part of the 2000s, you couldn’t shake a stick without hitting some new first-person shooter title. Sure, there were your Halos and Battlefields, but let’s not forget about all of the Delta Forces, Soldier of Fortunes and numerous other shooters that flooded the marketplace. However, with rising development costs becoming a serious concern for the industry, the shooter market has been whittled down to essentially only the most elite of franchises. Looking to get a piece of that action, though, are 505 Games and Plastic Piranha with their fast paced arena title, Rekoil: Liberator.
Upon launching Rekoil, the first thing you notice, outside of how bland the menu is, is that the only mode included with the game is multiplayer. There is no campaign and not even an offline mode where you can play against computer opponents. I know not everyone will feel the same, but I have a huge problem with this. Not only is it lazy to not include some form of single player, but with a small title like this that is launching with essentially no hype, a lack of online activity can effectively kill the game before it even gets a chance. It took me days just to find people to play online against and I can only imagine the frustration of other gamers who took a chance on this one and were stuck waiting to be able to actually play it.
When you finally get into a game, you’ll find that all of the traditional online multiplayer modes are included in Rekoil. In the team-based modes such as Team Deathmatch or Capture The Flag, players are placed into either the Dark Water team or the Minutemen militia. However, there’s absolutely no difference between the two sides.
Aside from the standard multiplayer modes, Rekoil: Liberator also features two unique ones in Capture The Briefcase and Rekondite. Capture The Briefcase tasks each team with holding onto a briefcase in what basically amounts to a Capture The Flag match, albeit a slightly more mobile variation. Rekondite is the game’s take on Halo‘s Juggernaut mode and gives one player cloaking and super speed, but at the expense of only being able to use a knife. Neither one is Earth-shattering, but they do give the title some more variety.
An additional way that Plastic Piranha gave Rekoil some variety is in the form of the costumes and weapons that players have access to. Both Dark Water and the Minutemen have an assortment of outfits that allow for both teams to have a variety of characters running about during matches. The amount of weapons included is one of the main hooks of the game, too, and it does not disappoint. Players can choose between which class of weapon best suits them, whether it be an assault rifle or shotgun or perhaps another type, and in each class, there are several different guns to choose from. However, since there are so many weapons available, you can’t customize your chosen one, which is a little disappointing. It’s also annoying that most of the people playing online have already gravitated to the assault rifle class, which kind of defeats the purpose of having so many weapons. Though, I can’t exactly hold that against the game.
What I can hold against Rekoil: Liberator, though, is how busted the actual gameplay feels. Aiming is a total crapshoot, meaning you have a better chance at killing someone if you just blindly fire in their general direction. For example, I killed more people with a sniper rifle when I didn’t use the scope, than when I did. It also didn’t help that I frequently experienced frame rate issues during my playtime, which made aiming and shooting even more difficult. These frame rate issues would also inexplicably lead to my character walking around long after I had stopped moving him, which, once again, made targeting a major issue.
Online lag was another problem I experience during my time with the game, as any match that contained over 6 players would frequently stutter and almost become unplayable. I also had issues when it came to respawning, as I would frequently be spawned with my melee weapon drawn instead of my main gun, or even worse, would be spawned right in the middle of a firefight only to be quickly killed again. It’s a frustrating issue that could have easily been avoided.
All of the frame rate problems and lag would have made some sense if Rekoil was visually impressive, but the title’s certainly not a looker. The character models are blocky and barely look better than early launch window titles for the Xbox 360. Animations are frequently re-used and, in some cases, forgotten about altogether. There is no animation for when you throw a grenade, as it just flies out of your chest like your character is from Wolfenstein 3D or something. Going further, there are an assortment of levels to play through, but none of them are creative (Streets! Village! Sawmill!) and all of them are drab and boring. The sound effects are possibly even worse, as not only does the gun fire sound flat, but the over-mixed in-game announcer overpowers all of the other effects with his lame, stuck in the 1990s phrases.
When it comes down to it, I’m not sure who 505 Games is trying to appeal to here. This is a poorly made first-person shooter that not only pales in comparison to recently released titles such as Call of Duty: Ghosts or Battlefield 4, but also older XBLA titles such as Counter-Strike: GO. Releasing an online-only shooter at the tail end of a console’s lifespan never seemed like a good idea to me, and Rekoil: Liberator only solidified that thought.
This review is based off an XBOX 360 copy of the title that we were provided with.
Rekoil: Liberator may not be the absolute worst first-person shooter released for the Xbox 360, but it's certainly a contender.