Right off the bat, I’ll start by letting you know that RICO is pure bullet hell. No, not in the sense of the sub-genre, but by the game’s design alone. Here, you’re thrown into the role of a cop that’s tackling massive drug busts and terror within a twenty-four hour window. Being a part of the RICO task force means that it’s no holds barred as you murder each and every scumbag that you come across, allowing no one to get in your way. On paper, that sounds like a pretty damn interesting premise, but in practice, it comes off a bit half-baked overall.
The game is described as a procedurally-generated action movie FPS, in which you’ll take to the experience as a solo-player, or with a teammate, kicking ass and taking names along the way. Though, through structure alone, things are never as easy as they seem, largely thanks to the fact that the game’s environments and placement of enemies will constantly alter, as do the objectives. Mercifully, there’s no shortage of weaponry to utilize as you work through the game. Now, as it stands, the game has a few modes to select from overall.
The meat of the matter sits with its case mode. Here, you’re given a twenty-four hour window to complete the case; which amounts to roughly three hours of playtime. Each case has about fifteen to twenty missions included, all presented on a web-like grid. Missions weave and interconnect on this grid layout, and you are indeed free to choose your own pathway to get to the final assignment and take down the organization’s kingpin. This is largely where the game’s procedurally-generated content slots into place.
As alluded to above, RICO’s maps, missions, and enemies will change and alter, but the crux of play remains the same; see bad guy, kill bad guy. The missions within are objective-based, meaning that you’ll regularly be given different tasks throughout. Whether that’s room clearing, bomb defusal, enemy neutralization, or anything besides, you’ll find a passable degree of variation within. It also helps to keep the game feeling a bit fresh starting out, but, to its detriment, it doesn’t take long for repetition to sink in sooner than later.
Whatever the case, the bulk of play will see you and a buddy fulfilling the above goals. You’re free to take two weapons into the fields of play; one main, and one pistol. You can also hold up to two stim-packs, which you can use to revive either yourself, or your buddy cop. You can indeed purchase new weaponry and extras with points earned from completing missions, but these are case-specific, meaning that you’ll need to re-buy your tools of destruction throughout each and every new case. It’s a fair and basic system when all is said and done.
The game’s controls are relative to just about any FPS on the market and are fairly easy to pick up and understand. Before long, you’ll have gelled well enough with the game’s simplistic mechanics to feel confident enough to see each fray through, one door booting shoot-out at a time. The way this all unfolds is pretty solid. Upon loading a new mission, you’ll be met with a random layout of rooms that you need to breach. These doors can be breached in two ways; booting them open, or sliding through them in Max Payne-style.
I reference Max Payne as upon each breach, there’s a brief slow-down of time, allowing you to get a quick lay of the land and giving you just enough time to take out the odd enemy or two. Your style of play will largely be determined by your current objective. When it comes to clearing rooms, you’ll want a degree of strategy to see each bout to its end. Though, when you’re faced with bomb defusal, and you’re on a timer, strategy tends to go out of the window in favor of tense and faster-paced gun fights. Nevertheless, it’s a sturdy affair.
Once you’ve cleared a room, you’re free to take your time to soak up any intel before moving onto the next. Rinse and repeat. Each new door brings with it a new challenge, and you never truly know what sits behind a door until it’s breached. It could be anything from a wide room full of confused and angry brutes, right up to a tight and confined space with opposition that’s as precise and as sharp as a katana. The differing weaponry that you take with you house pros and cons as far as handling goes, but there’s a fair balance on show.
That said, and despite the fact that the game is constantly unpredictable, it grows quite stale just a few hours in. This mostly consists of doing the same thing over and over, but to a slightly different backdrop. There’s also some frustrating technical and design issues to contend with – mainly that of the game’s fluctuating framerate and the irritation of needless and, frankly, cheap deaths. Less dominant issues are equally as annoying, mind, but far less frequent. I’ve encountered quite a large number of bugs during my time with the game.
I’ve seen enemies getting stuck in walls and flying through the environment, and I’ve spent time looking for evidence that the game has failed to load in, forcing a bad mark. That’s fine on its own, but when you lose for reasons beyond your control, it leaves a bad taste that’s just a bit too difficult to overlook. Some more time on the proverbial drawing board prior to release would not have gone amiss, or perhaps a brief introduction into the popular Xbox Game Preview before launch – RICO certainly would have been all the better for it.
The more you play, the more XP you’ll earn throughout, which goes towards your level-up and grants you the ability to unlock useful additions. Using the points that you’ll earn through natural progression, you’ll soon amass a stocky arsenal of guns and extra equipment to make use of further in. In its current form, until the developer can iron out its issues, RICO is a serviceable gun-fest. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t doubt that it will find its following, but I wouldn’t wholly recommend it due to its issues and its samey-samey play.
If you’ve a love for this sort of thing, on the other hand, and you can overlook its lack of gameplay depth, RICO will serve you well. I personally like myself a shooter, and I do certainly appreciate a game that tries to stand out, but that, to me at least, is all RICO is, a game that tried but doesn’t quite achieve as much as I suspect it meant to. Let’s hope we see a post-launch patch in due course to fine-tune it, and some more additions to feed into the gameplay’s variation to help it in spicing things up outside of its unpredictable approach.
When you’re done with case mode, outside of expected extras, there’s a daily mode that you can take part in that has you playing on easy, medium, or hard setting. There’s enough content here, but even so, it’s content that rarely evolves. The game’s audio and visual design gets a pass. There’s a nice amount of detail on show, and a good portion of distinct locations, but it’s hardly going to blow your socks off. I can say the same about the audio design, being that it doesn’t go above and beyond, it’s just there, and doesn’t do too much to stand out.
RICO’s a very hit and miss affair overall. There’s no denying that it wears its procedurally-generated content quite well, offering some exciting and constantly unpredictable gunplay as a result. Unfortunately, it’s hard to overlook its gameplay repetition, and there’s some irritating design choices and a bunch of technical issues to contend with throughout. I’ve no doubt that it will find its following, but I cant wholly recommend it as it is.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.