Over the past year or two I've read a couple of books and watched a couple of films that personally I think would make epic video games.
Receiver Review: Realism in an FPS
Wolfire Games made Receiver for the 7-day FPS challenge, focusing on realistic gun handling mechanics. Your character has only a handgun and a flashlight to explore the building complex where the game takes place. Cassette tapes found in random locations provide clues to the story. But to get them, you must dodge drones and avoid being shot by machine guns on turrets.
In other FPS games, you simply press a button to reload your weapon. Receiver breaks down the process into the actual steps needed, so it can educational to see what actually needs to happen in order to keep shooting. The realistic gun handling is the jewel of Receiver. Actions that you need to learn to perform include ejecting old shells, loading new ones into either the gun itself or into a magazine to put in the gun, and a few others. There is a lovely help menu that you can access in the game without stopping the action, but the whole point is to learn to perform all the actions without needing the menu.
One of the reasons FPS games makes reloading sort of simple is that doing it realistically would take way too long when fending off aliens, zombies, or whatever hordes of creatures are trying to kill you. While speed-loaders and magazines make things easier, it would be unneeded realism in many of the games out there.
It makes perfect sense to me then, that Receiver’s enemies are more the type you run across rather than ones that actively chase you. There is one slight problem with this, in that most times when you spot an enemy, it’s already locked onto you and is in the process of blowing you away. It only takes a single hit to kill you. There is an alert sound for the gun turrets, but it’s still usually too late to escape their deadly barrages. The drones are easier to escape but harder to spot, and targeting them when they’re flying at you was impossible for me to pull off. I could take them down if I saw them first, but most times they were paired with a gun turret or another drone, which made for a messy death for me even if I took down my target. One good thing was that if you spotted the drone far enough away, then you could lose it by running away.
Perma-death can be a real headache in some games, and in Receiver it definitely is. I realize they’re trying to be realistic, but it makes collecting all the tapes you need next to impossible. Adding to that headache and taking away some of the realism is the randomization of both the building layout and the location of the tapes. I think perma-death would’ve annoyed me less if both the building and the tapes were stable instead of random, as each time you played would add to your knowledge and help you complete the game.
The tapes are cryptic but interesting, but it’s a test of patience to play the game long enough to gather them all given that the likelihood of you surviving that long isn’t very high. I’d be ok with perma-death if you got to keep the tapes you collected, even if it was only in a fashion where you could listen to them outside of the game and still needed to collect them in one session to win.
Receiver definitely shows its roots as a simulation instead of a game. I like it enough that I’d love to play a more advanced version of the game, where you could either survive the first hit from the drones and turrets or a version with no perma-death at all.