I love the whole ‘buddy cop’ thing that we see in movies, where two police officers work together to infiltrate some sketchy gang meetup and then bust down doors to carefully pull off some well-orchestrated attack as they wipe out every bad guy they see with ease. It’s just super cool, but it’s something we don’t get to see a whole lot of in video games. RICO, the first-person shooter from Ground Shatter Games, takes that whole concept and runs with it. This is a game that’s all about kicking down doors, killing enemies, gathering evidence and repeating the process, with players working through cases made up of multiple levels where the ultimate goal is to take down some criminal kingpins.
Sounds rad, right? Well, it can be, but it also has a fair few shortcomings that leave the game feeling a little bit too repetitive at times.
RICO’s main single player component puts you in cases where you work across multiple levels, with each one tasking you with taking down enemies, grabbing evidence, and perhaps even disarming a few bombs or destroying computers along the way. It’s a simple enough concept, with the first-person shooting itself not doing anything you wouldn’t have seen before – it works in the game’s favour though with RICO proving very accessible from the get-go.
The big hook of the experience comes with the excitement of kicking down doors and clearing out rooms, with enemies never coming out to pursue you but essentially waiting for you to come after them. Each level is procedurally designed but built to offer lots of different rooms – of course, more rooms means more doors, which in turn means more instances of kicking them through and blasting enemies in the face.
In fairness, I never grew tired of kicking down doors. There’s just something incredibly satisfying about seeing the slow-mo camera kick in as you slowly pick off unaware enemies with a string of headshots or, alternatively, find yourself getting completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of foes waiting for you. If you prefer going down the ‘action hero’ route you could even slide in through the door on your knees and blast at foes, which isn’t only more stylish but also something you’d expect to see from the slick action movies that obviously inspired RICO. There’s a snap aim function in place too so you shouldn’t have too much of a problem picking your shots, which just adds to the satisfaction.
Between the shootouts with foes and the procedurally generated nature of the game there is a lot to like about RICO, but I couldn’t help but to find that it got repetitive very quickly. Sure, it’s fun to kick down doors and kill enemies, but when that’s essentially all you do throughout the majority of the game it’s a little difficult to not tire of the same looping routine. Side objectives do give you something different to handle along the way, but none ever add anything too unique to the core experience to make you feel like you’re really doing anything different.
At least you can unlock additional gear, with your arsenal of weapons ever-expanding as you earn more XP throughout the case. The weapons themselves feel great to use too, with each one lending themselves well to both breaking down doors to catch enemies off guard and the shootouts that follow (you won’t always kill everyone in that moment of slow-mo after all). It just shows that the game does get a lot of stuff right, with the shooting itself arguably one of the most important things – it just isn’t fleshed out enough to hook you in for a long time.
Want to know the worst aspect of the game though? If you die in a case you lose all of your unlocked gear and have to start it all over from the beginning, albeit with some unlockable traits which improve your abilities in-game. I’m used to the perma-death aspect of rogue-likes and have actually appreciated it in some games, but RICO’s lack of variety just made doing the same things over and over again feel little more frustrating than rewarding. There just isn’t a real sense of progress to be felt, whilst the fact that your health doesn’t recover between levels just made it all feel a bit too punishing.
Thankfully, RICO has a great multiplayer component in place that adds an extra degree of excitement to proceedings, with it playable in both local and online co-op. You’ll be doing a lot of the same things from the single player, but there’s this extra sense of tactical thinking where you’re able to co-ordinate with a pal and take down enemies through teamwork – believe me, kicking down doors together, clearing out rooms after calling out foes, and just working as a team felt SO good in the game. It’s definitely the best way to experience RICO and makes the whole repetitive nature of the game a bit more forgivable…. only a bit, though.
Visually, RICO looks decent enough – I’m a fan of cel-shaded visuals so I like the character models, but on the flipside the environments themselves could look a bit bland at times. It’s the performance that lets it down the most though, with the framerate often dropping during busier sections and some objects seemingly getting stuck in the environment. It never hits game-breaking levels of low performance, but it could’ve definitely done with a bit more work just to ensure that players had a smoother experience.
RICO takes a simple yet exciting concept and makes an enjoyable experience out of it, though it doesn’t take long for it to feel a little bit too repetitive in design. The gameplay loop of kicking doors and killing foes just isn’t fleshed out enough and with little in the way of side objectives to spice things up, it’s easy to grow bored of the game after just a few hours play.
Sure, it does have its moments where it shines and RICO can be a blast when played with a friend in co-op, but when you consider it also has its share of technical issues too it’s easy to see that it falls short of the mark in a few too many ways.
Developer: Ground Shatter Games
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC