It’s easy to say that even the most fancy hyper-realistic FPS games have some unrealistic qualities to them. It doesn’t matter if your game has the sort of high resolution textures and state of the art volumetric lighting that can wet the pants of even the most snobbish techno fetishistic member of the glorious PC master race if the player character can shrug off more bullets than a damned Sherman tank; the game is still unrealistic. In addition to that; you have to admit that operating a gun in a FPS is as similar to operating a gun in the real world as a walk in the park is to hiking in the amazon. Finally we have a game to address that issue: Receiver.
Receiver was developed and published by Wolfire games. It was originally made as part of something called the Seven Day FPS Challenge , but it ended up being released a full game; first in 2012 for direct download and then in 2013 on Steam, where it is currently selling for $4.99. It’s available for Microsoft Windows, Mac, and Linux. This review covers the Windows version.
The premise of Receiver is pretty simple: you have a handgun, there are enemies to shoot and some sort of goal that needs to be reached. It sounds like any other shooting game ever, but here is the catch: the developers made it so that guns operate exactly like how they do in real life, which means you can’t just shoot your entire magazine, press R to reload, and repeat. You have do everything involved with firing a gun manually – that means there is a button dedicated to cocking your gun, inserting/removing a magazine, inserting bullets, removing the safety, and so on. So after you learn all the individual buttons that have a corresponding action on the gun and what order you have to press them in (which should be around the time we finish terraforming Mars) you proceed down a series of procedurally generated rooms while fighting automated gun turrets and the cyphers from Metal Gear Solid while searching for cassette tapes and ammo.
The first thing you need to know about Receiver’s gameplay is that it’s ridiculously hard. Seriously, if you actually managed to beat this game I want to meet you; mostly because, odds are, that you’re most likely either an android from the future or one of David Icke’s lizard-people. This game has randomized levels and loot spawn points, instant death whenever you take damage, limited supplies, difficult combat, and complex controls. The game can only be beaten by collecting a series of tapes that spawn randomly throughout the game world and doing that without catching a single bullet is damn near impossible. The game’s extreme difficulty doesn’t however get in the way enjoying the actual minute to minute gameplay, which is good ,because the controls do that very well. In addition to accepting the fact that you’re never actually going to finish Receiver;one must also struggle with the controls. With the game being almost entirely about simulating the mechanics of a real world gun there is a shit load of hotkeys and sequences in which to press them to memorize. Once you get over that, the gameplay is pretty fun in a sort of System Shock 2 way as you explore a dark environment full of enemies that can swiss-cheese you in a moment’s notice while carefully managing your resources. It does get a little boring and repetitive after awhile, as the number of different kinds of rooms that can be randomly generated aren’t that big and there is no guarantee that all rooms will contain supplies or enemies. Once again all the flaws in Receiver’s gameplay do little to ruin the overall experience.
Receiver does have a lot of smaller problems that need to be addressed. The most glaring of which is probably the textures, or the lack thereof. To put it lightly the game looks horrendously ugly. To say that the entire game looks like someone figured out how to make some sort of hybrid between a post-2005 Lindsay Lohan and a duck’s penis (this is definitely a thing) couldn’t even do it justice. I’m no PC elitist techno-fetishist and I can let poor graphics slip if I’m dealing with something that provides a great narrative or intense gameplay, but with Receiver’s good story, immersive gameplay, and creepy world where death can lurk around any corner; the graphics just stand out even more! The game spends so much time building such a realistic experience and the graphics do such a good job at messing that up. Despite the visuals, the game still does a good job at remaining impressive and terrifying.
Another problem I had with Receiver was with the story. I thought it was nice and it certainly caught my interest, but the presentation was… sub-optimal. It was delivered through a series of audio tapes scattered throughout the game world with no particular rhyme or reason. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that the gameplay forces you to die over and over again, frequently after listening to one or two audio tapes. After awhile of this you end up listening to all the tapes and start to realize that the voice actor speaking in the tapes has one annoying monotone.
The final and two most annoying issues are the shitty optimization and the lackluster amount of content. Receiver runs poorly even on decent PCs and it had the nasty habit of briefly freezing while I entered a new room, allowing a few seconds for gun turrets to draw a bead on me and force me to do an impression of Bonnie and Clyde’s death car. The other issue I had with the game was the lack of content. Receiver has 3 weapons currently available: a Colt 1911 A1, a Smith and Wesson revolver, or a Glock 17 (oh and they are assigned randomly so if you end up with the Glock, the red-headed stepchild of the trio, you can pretty much go fuck yourself) and a reasonable amount of mostly similar rooms. The problem with this is that it doesn’t take long to have seen all the content the game has to offer and rogue-like games (yeah I guess you can call it a rogue-like, though it wears the title rather loosely when compared to games like FTL or The Binding of Isaac such as Receiver need more content and more variety to stay engaged for long. Unfortunately Receiver doesn’t have that much content and it’s developers are currently too busy with other projects to make some more.*
Despite it’s flaws; Receiver is still a great game. If you can look past a lot of the glaring issues there is still an enjoyable experience to be had from Receiver. It’s only five bucks on the Steam store and seasonal sales are very much still a thing over there (if you’re that cheap). So you should check it out if you’re interested in a little experimentation with FPS mechanics.
* This may change as time goes on, Wolfire may add more content when they are done with their current project and there are always modders out there.
2575 Views // October 7, 2014