Developer: ShotX Studio
Format(s): PC (Reviewed), Linux
Despite causing quite a stir and being incredibly popular back in the day, Grand Theft Auto never really had any imitators. Sure, that all changed with Grand Theft Auto 3, but the original top-down action has pretty much remained uncopied – until now. Riskers looks to offer a crime-based action-packed experience that emulates everything that Grand Theft Auto did back in 1997, but is that really enough in this day and age?
Riskers puts you in the shoes of Rick Paradis, a garbage collector who managed to turn his life around after originally being a criminal. After finding and keeping a briefcase full of money clearing dumpsters though, he finds himself up against a criminal mob who want nothing but to take him out. Oh, and they killed his brother too, so there’s a motive for revenge thrown in for good measure. This means driving through the streets and shooting your way through your enemies in an open-world escapade, all whilst slowly working towards taking down the kingpin of crime in Stiltton City.
Given that all Riskers is really trying to be is the original Grand Theft Auto, it should be complimented for offering better gunplay. It feels a lot slicker and easier to control, with it actually feeling a little bit like Hotline Miami (an obvious comparison, but a fitting one) except that you have an aiming reticle. There are plenty of different weapons to use that all have their pros and cons too, whilst you could even take the stealthy approach if you prefer.
It’s all mindless and simple, which should make it a lot of fun. However, whilst it’s technically better, it lacks the challenge to really grip you in. You’ll always find yourself equipped with plenty of ammo and weapons that your enemies drop so you won’t find yourself running out of resources, whilst your enemies also aren’t smart enough to outflank you nor do they ever take a strategic approach – they just seem to keep running in your direction. The only times I ever died was because I got overly cocky, but otherwise you’ll clear areas out with ease.
Other top-down shooters have typically featured some sense of strategy to them, but it all felt a bit dumb here and you could essentially just hold down the fire button and find success. Sometimes, other enemies wouldn’t even join in on the fight regardless of how close they were to the action; I saw enemies ignore dead corpses or the fact bullets were blasting around them, whilst even civilians kept talking about how they’re ‘gonna win big’ when caught up in the middle of a gunfight in a casino. It just felt a little strange.
The driving mechanics are also a little bland, with none of the vehicle-based missions feeling particularly exciting or capturing the sense that you’re speeding through an open city. Of course, it never stops being fun to mow down citizens or cause a bit of havoc, but the novelty of that wears off fast. Don’t get me wrong, there is the occasional chase where you’ll have a bit of fun, but it’s just never consistent. Add to that the fact that the cars feel a little unnatural to control and the that the other driver’s AI is poor, and you’ll find it particularly difficult to have too much fun whilst on the roads.
All-in-all, the lacking gameplay makes it a little difficult to feel inspired to play Riskers all that long. It’s not that it’s bad, but rather that it simply doesn’t grip you in. The same applies to the side missions; their presence is appreciated, but they just exist to give you something extra to do as opposed to rewarding you with anything. Whilst the likes of Grand Theft Auto offer a sense of progression outside of the narrative where you’re building up some cash that you’re able to spend, the only reward in Riskers is reaching the ending. It’s a little disappointing, especially in an open-world game.
It’s a shame too, because the setting has some potential. Don’t get me wrong, it lacks some of the visual landmarks that make locales like Liberty City or Vice City stand out, but it still looked the part and was full of the sort of winding roads and alleyways to put together some sweet high-pressure chases. Even the interiors of buildings where you take part in the shooting missions look good, with some of them full of personality and adding an element to Riskers that was missing in the original Grand Theft Auto.
Maybe the problems stem from the inspiration though. At the end of the day, Riskers is emulating a title that wasn’t really that special from a gameplay perspective, but did something so incredibly unique and unheard of for its time that it was difficult not to be blown away by it. Since then, we’ve seen both Grand Theft Auto and gaming itself evolve to incredible levels, with all-new gameplay ideas that simply surpass the elements of older game design. Depending mainly on the old-school approach has just left Riskers feeling a little bit too bland – it’s a great little throwback, but from a gameplay standpoint a bit underwhelming.
As a small note, the lack of controller support within the game is massively disappointing too. Whilst I’m more than capable of using a mouse and keyboard, I would’ve much preferred to have got stuck into it with a controller in hand. I think it’s something the developer should prioritise introducing.
I wouldn’t call Riskers a bad game because there’s nothing about it which feels particularly awful. It’s just a little uninspired and dull, with the decent shooting mechanics held back by the lack of challenge and the driving segments simply lacking in pace and action. It’s alright to play, but that’s all.
When making a game that was clearly inspired by an older title, you’ve got to get a balance of enjoyable gameplay to go along with the nostalgia, but unfortunately Riskers just feels aged. If it came out back when Grand Theft Auto did all those years it might’ve been outstanding, but in 2017 it just feels a little underwhelming.