It is said that first impressions are everything, and Rekoil does a fine job of reinforcing that notion. I felt excited when I booted up the shooter for the first time; a game labeled as a spiritual successor to classic shooters of old was appealing to me. I jumped into a server, picked my loadout, and entered the map, where I was promptly killed at spawn. Well, not everyone is an expert right away, I thought. But after I was killed about five times by my new friend spawn camping from a corner, I felt my heart sink. Yes, first impressions can mean everything, and over the course of many hours following, I could only conclude that my early suspicion was correct: Rekoil is a broken game.
An online-only first-person shooter with the military trappings of games like Call of Duty and Counter-Strike, Rekoil takes things back to basics, eschewing many mechanics gamers have come to accept as standard. The game focuses on competitive gameplay without being concerned about experience points, ranks, guard dogs, or tactical air strikes. It offers six loadouts, including the familiar assault, recon, and sniper classes. Each loadout contains five to six weapons, as well as a sidearm, a melee weapon, and a choice of two grenade types, along with multiple weapon skins like arctic camo and glistening gold plating--all of which are available at the start.
Getting into a match is nearly effortless, with the only slowdown caused by irritating load times while choosing your loadout. Starting up, you enter one of many dedicated servers, choose your weapons, and jump straight into the fray, all within minutes. The premise works well, and harks back to the days of Quake and Unreal Tournament, realms of frags and gravel-voiced announcers who barked through your speakers, where getting in and going to work was only a few clicks away. Unfortunately, not long after you enter a match, Rekoil begins to fall apart at the seams.
I suspected something was amiss when I began my first match with a five-death deficit before I could even fire my first bullet. There are many problems that plague Rekoil, but among the most frustrating is the awful spawn system. In a regular deathmatch, I often either entered the game to find myself cut down by an enemy behind me or appeared right in the middle of a gunfight, getting killed before given the chance to gain my bearings. Sometimes several players spawn at a single point at once, encouraging spawn camping. In maps like Refinery or Streets, a player can rack up more than 10 effortless kills before being stopped.
In team-based matches, spawning into gunfire is greatly reduced, because you typically enter the game at the furthest location from the majority of the opposing team. But the spawn woes are not completely obliterated; some maps spawn you in the open where proper cover is in short supply. Experienced players who know where to look keep an eye on these locations with a sniper rifle, picking off players as they enter into the arena.
The weapons in Rekoil are inconsistent, mostly when it comes to accuracy. The AK-47, a popular favorite among players, is labeled as powerful but inaccurate at long distances. However, I could still kill off enemies even while standing halfway across maps, something that shouldn't be possible with the gun's weapon spread. In one match, as I stood in the center of the arena, I got away with four headshots in a row, which led me to wonder if the hit boxes are excessively large. But I experienced other battles where I spent an entire clip firing from the hip at an opponent several feet away without seeing a single hit marker. These issues could be related to faulty hit boxes, but it's different from game to game, leading to confusion.
There are many problems that plague Rekoil, but among the most frustrating is the awful spawn system.
Sniper rifles, on the other hand, feel too accurate. Many team deathmatches devolve into full-on sniper battles, and it's easy to understand why: sniping is effortless in Rekoil, thanks to the fact that nearly every rifle is a snap to aim and extraordinarily accurate, able to kill with a single round to the body most of the time. The unusual accuracy, power, and speed make sniper rifles deadly even in close quarters. In my hands, the sniper rifle defeated three opponents in a row, one with a headshot, all within the space of about 10 feet.
Atrocious server lag causes further problems in Rekoil. There are about 50 dedicated servers available in the game, and only a few of them have acceptable levels of server ping, that is, when they are empty. As players fill servers, ping may rocket up to 150 or more than 200. The high ping creates a host of issues, including players jumping all over the map, missed shots, getting killed even though you already moved behind cover, and, my favorite, grenades that completely disappear into the ether after being tossed. Poor optimization is another issue. Even if your computer easily handles most modern games, Rekoil still struggles to maintain 30 frames per second during busy moments.
Rekoil suffers from game-breaking glitches that range from aggravating to completely bewildering. More than once, the game booted me back to the menu without warning, and often when that happens, the game crashes, forcing you to restart your computer. In more than one match, a player was rendered completely invisible, yet could still kill without restraint. This wasn't an issue of hacking, because it once happened to me. It was tempting to abuse my newly acquired superpower to improve my kill/death ratio while grabbing an easy win, but Rekoil doesn't track any stats, nor does it include a leaderboard, so the novelty of abusing the glitch quickly wore off, and I left to join a different server.
Rekoil still struggles to maintain 30 frames per second during busy moments, even at low settings.
Though Rekoil has an immense number of problems, there are actual moments when the game is genuinely fun. Several of the 10 available maps are well designed, including Prison, where gunfights occur on winding staircases and in empty cells while a helicopter buzzes over a ruined basketball court. Sawmill features two mills separated by stacks of cut lumber, perfect for Capture the Briefcase. Another favorite, Refinery, features arid, sun-bleached terrain. Here, I experienced tense battles, where ebony streams of oil sprayed through bullet-riddled drums while I strafed from side to side, my rifle roaring. These tense, heart-pounding skirmishes are my most memorable moments in Rekoil. In these short interludes, you may briefly recall your years playing twitch shooters such as Quake and Unreal Tournament.
Rekoil currently features several game modes, including the ever-popular Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. Adding to that is Domination, where the two factions fight to capture and hold spots on a map. There is also Hold the Briefcase, in which teams gain points the longer they have the briefcase in their position, and Capture the Briefcase, which is Rekoil's own variant of Capture the Flag. The game also includes its own version of Halo 4's Flood mode, called Rekondite. In this mode, one player is chosen to be the rekondite, a transparent foe gifted with unnatural speed and a strong melee attack. Those killed are respawned as rekondites, and remaining players must survive against the increasing number of invisible enemies.
Rekoil proudly advertises eSport support, offering Twitch.tv tools and a full spectator mode. But while my test run with Twitch seemed acceptable, I cannot say the same about spectator mode. Some of the maps include invisible walls, which range from being a small nuisance, by preventing you from hopping over small rocks or ledges or from getting behind cover, to being problematic, such as tall barriers that bounce grenades back at you. The invisible walls in these maps prevented my floating camera from smoothly skimming the battlefield, forcing me to search for an opening as if I were trapped in an imperceptible maze. I don't believe eSports commentators will find the patience to cover a game that makes it so difficult to follow matches.
Beyond technical concerns, the most problematic issue Rekoil faces is the complete absence of a strong online community. When I first booted up the game on the day of its release, there were no more than 30 people playing it. The number fluctuated throughout the week, and more often than not, I played games only half full and sometimes with odd-numbered teams. Less than half that number showed up to play in the days that followed.
Rekoil suffers from game-breaking glitches that range from aggravating to completely bewildering.
Rekoil has taken a laundry list of what could go wrong with a game and promptly checked nearly every box. There are moments when everything seems to go right, and you are reminded why simple online multiplayer shooters ruled the world. But those moments are wedged between frustrating glitches, lag, and a plethora of other problems. Those dedicated enough can spend time in Rekoil's map creation tool, but with an online community numbering mere dozens and dwindling, it is uncertain there will be many players to share your map with. Rekoil sets its sights on resurrecting the simple online shooter, and promptly misses its target.