The launch trailer for Rico made it look like at least a somewhat interactive crime drama wherein the bulk of the gameplay would center on kicking in doors and shooting bad guys. Even after booting up the game and watching the intro video, you’d at least think there’d be some kind of story element to the game. It turns out, however, that isn’t really the case, and every bit of gameplay in the trailer comprises the entire breadth of the game as well.
Run and Gun
We live in a time where games exist across the full spectrum of action and narrative. We have mainstream games like Doom where you can (forcefully) ignore the story and get ass deep in the blood and guts in a matter of moments sitting right beside a sea of deep RPGs that might as well be novels with a character creator. Sometimes though, it feels like a developer looks at this spectrum and says, “what if we weren’t even on it?”
Rico manages to take you right off the edge into a territory where you’re practically just loading levels and left clicking enemies until it’s over. They do throw in some different types of objectives to go along with this in each mission, though it’s hard to cite that as adding any depth to the game. Most of the time it involves something like picking up scattered briefcases or disarming gigantic identical bombs throughout a level. This adds a single additional button of interactivity to the tiny pile of actions that you perform.
It might even be redeemable if the combat felt like it had more substance than an asset flip unity game. You’re going to be kicking down a dozen doors (it’s the only way to open them) into rooms filled with armed men just standing around doing nothing. You’ll experience a bit of bullet time slow motion to try and shoot them before they turn to shoot you, but invariably you’ll take some hits. Luckily, the game is generous in the amount of damage you can take, so unless your aim is bad, you may only take a few points of damage. However, once you’ve done this a few times in a level, you’ve pretty much experienced everything the game has to offer.
A Game of Clones
Another piece of this game that makes it feel like an asset flip is that tiny number of enemy models that will be reused not even in the same level, but in the same *room*. I would kick in a door and have to shoot two or three of the same exact guy trying to kill me. It might work in a game full of monsters or enemies that aren’t as distinctive as these, but seeing two or three of the same shirtless tattooed screaming guy coming at me with a melee weapon just looks ridiculous.
Enemies aren’t even the only clones. All of the suitcase “evidence” you collect is the same. Piles of money you sometimes have to pick up are the same. The gigantic bombs, computer screens, desks, and nearly every asset in the game reused dozens of times has one or two versions. That along with uniformity in the levels had me running back to the map all the time just to navigate something as simple as a few apartment rooms or offices. My time in Rico felt like a blur because every piece of it ran together into a mush of clones, subpar shooting, sliding, and door breaking.
The AI and movement of the enemies in Rico just doesn’t seem on par with something I’d expect for a game that has enough clout to end up with physical console releases (how that happened is already a mystery). Finding all the ways to trick the AI that always takes the shortest route straight to you is one of the few entertaining things in the game. On top of their overly simplistic pathfinding and lack of any sort of tactical effort, they turn extremely slowly. So when I would get alerted that ‘reinforcements are coming’ I would stand inside a room to the side of a doorway and let them file in one by one unable to make the turn toward me faster than I could shoot them. Even early games had AI that would strafe through entryways to make sure they could shoot you much more quickly. That’s not the case here.
Then I would regularly have fallen enemies ragdoll around rooms sticking on and through architecture and objects. Sometimes shaking violently and contorting into misshapen blobs on the floor. Pickups would be procedurally generated in places that I couldn’t get to or access in any way. Enemies would even shoot and kill each other in effort to hit me if they were stacked up in a small room. It makes everything about Rico seem cheap and thrown together.
A Failure Even in Simplicity
Sometimes a game falls short in one or multiple areas, but you can see where a developer focused their efforts to make some parts redeemable. Rico doesn’t seem to have any of these areas. It is subpar in the visuals, the audio, the gameplay, the narrative, level design, and the overall staying power of the title. The alternative game modes and potential for local or online multiplayer just take all of the disappointing aspects and let you do them in slightly modified ways. The game’s only redeeming factor is probably that it seems to run without any major performance issues. Though I believe it would be even more ridiculous for a game with such bland visuals to also have poor performance.
It’s hard to see what would make this game worth $20 on Steam or, god forbid, $30 on Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. Even a $5 price tag is outside of the reach of this extremely limited content. If you want a simplistic shooter without any frills or narrative, go play some classic Doom, Quake, or Serious Sam. You’ll find better level design on games from 20+ years ago than you will in this title and you’ll save money in the process.
RICO tries to be a simple run and gun action game even when it could be so much more. Yet it falls short of even achieving that low bar because of poor AI, level design, and an extremely limited variety in gameplay. It also seems to try and leverage itself with a multiplayer that requires you to either convince someone else to buy this disappointment or come sit beside you to to share proximity sadness.
- Runs reasonably well
- Entertaining for at least a few minutes
- Extremely limited content
- Poorly implemented AI
- Repetitive level design
- Clone enemies with minimal variety
- Frustrating use of roguelite mechanics
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