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Rive Review

  • First Released Sep 13, 2016
  • Reviewed Nov 25, 2017
  • PC
  • PS4
  • NS
Chris Damien on Google+

Bullet Heaven

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Backed into a corner by curtains of laser fire, I hop and twist, curling my shots and grinding foes into nuts and bolts. After hacking a support drone to bring in some extra muscle to the fight, I battle my way out and continue my maelstrom of destruction. These moments are common in Rive, and they're emblematic of how the game melds sharp design and challenging encounters to reinvigorate the shoot-em-up genre. It's a chaotic game backed by explosive action, snarky cracks, and an affection for the ridiculous.

You play as a no-name, space-salvaging badass in a robust spider tank. It’s an armored, all-terrain machine with a giant machine gun for its basic weapon. As you progress, you’ll earn more upgrades like new weapons and armor, plus some gadgets that let you take control of everything from turrets to trains.

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In the beginning, you stumble across a gargantuan derelict vessel ready for plunder. But, of course, there's a catch: As you explore, you’re accosted by countless drones and bots programmed to put you down. You'll learn to shoot, move, and use some other basic skills, but then Rive situationally limits how can use your newfound abilities by forcing you into a corner or into a zero-g bubble. These moments are as tense as boss battles, asking you to utilize your skills in novel ways, all while under the duress of constant, high-energy action.

Despite that, Rive rarely feels overwhelming. It's intense and taxing, but it doesn't often feel like it's asking too much. It's common nowadays to herald difficult games as intrinsically “good,” but that trend belies that fact that there's a tenuous balance between difficulty and frustration. Rive is challenging, but even if you die, you can instantly jump back into the action. You never lose more than about 30 seconds of progress, and death doesn't drain resources or knock down your overall score. The game includes plenty of tough spots, but it doesn’t take too long to acclimate to the challenge and wriggle through.

Along the way, you'll find some rather strange locales, given that the majority of the game takes place on a spaceship. Between giant lava lakes, oceans, zero-G bubbles, and the like, Rive gives you plenty of playgrounds to explore. Each area is bright, colorful and gorgeously animated. Creatures skitter along the floor while lights and backgrounds hum with life. That's all window dressing, sure, but each level is also distinct, presenting new sets of challenges every few minutes.

One of the few solid knocks against Rive comes from its protagonist. He's got all the corn and cheese of classics like Duke Nukem (without the crass misogyny). He has all the personality of a brick, and only a couple of his jokes hit their mark. It's a strange addition that doesn't seem necessary given the game's focus on action over storytelling, and is borderline cringeworthy.

Rive is demanding, but it pushes the kind of near-thoughtless play that shoot-em-ups strive to achieve. When faced with an onslaught of enemies and environmental hazards, you'll have to think fast or die. Rive also doesn't run all that long, but what's here is excellent, top-notch action, and the game delivers some of the most memorable moments in a shoot-em-up in years.

Editor's note: After a few additional hours of testing, GameSpot has updated the score to reflect the Switch version of Rive: Ultimate Edition. The new version of the game includes additional score-based modes, performance optimization, and a co-pilot mode where two players can individually control the tank's movement and attacks. - Nov. 27, 2017, 8:00 AM PT

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The Good
Exciting, white-knuckle action
Gorgeous backgrounds and fluid animations
Excellent pacing and level design
The Bad
Flat humor
On the short side
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

A dyed-in-the-wool child of the ’90s, Dan Starkey is a fan of over-the-top action. He played through Rive once on Hard mode (the default setting) and part way through again on Soft. GameSpot was provided a complimentary copy of the game for the purpose of this review.
24 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for Barracuda54

Gotta admit, this game had my attention from the git go, it's challenging but not that difficult that you can't get through the levels after you've died scores of times, great job on this game!

Graphics are excellent, gameplay is stunning, I did shut the music's a game with great replay value on higher difficulty.

Avatar image for killerious

Stunning visual effects!

Avatar image for v8p

The music is especially good, might get it on NS.

Avatar image for gameroutlawzz

I just want a Salt and Sanctuary sequel.

Avatar image for beantownsean

Would be nice if it had online multiplayer (PC), like Resogun.

Avatar image for OneStrong2

Um. Where's the video review?

Avatar image for jinzo9988

Somehow I missed this one but I'm glad I did now that it's out for the Switch. These are the kinds of games I'd love to build a Switch library with. I'm likely going to be busy with Mario Odyssey for awhile but I'll definitely pick this up sometime.

Avatar image for lorddaggeroff

I only like slug it's cute.

I know ?

Avatar image for deactivated-5a26032528a9b

Remember Heavy Weapon Atomic Tank? Holy shit those were the days.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@pmcollectorboy: I remember. I got a case of Carpal Tunnel from that game.

Avatar image for girlusocrazy

Weird why is a year old review suddenly popping up to the top of the news feed?

Avatar image for sakaixx

@girlusocrazy: probably updated for switch release.

Avatar image for girlusocrazy

@sakaixx: Good point... It's even mentioned at the bottom of the review. *facepalm*

I just played it a while ago and I'm like.... Didn't I see this story before?

Great to have on Switch, it's a good game.

Avatar image for strandedmagma

I feel like somebody just took a hit of their fat buddha, looked at their Rift and Vive and said "DUDE, OUR AAA TOPSELLER WILL BE CALLED THE RIVE!"

Avatar image for MJ12-Conspiracy

@strandedmagma: naww it was the chronic man.....

droppin chronic plates on yo ass beeyotch!!!!

sorry, that just popped in my head for some reason lolz

Avatar image for luckford

Anyone else feeling a little Blaster Master nostalgia?

Avatar image for MJ12-Conspiracy

@luckford: Blaster Master?? BLASTER MASTER??? i got yer blaster master right here....

that game was pretty badass actually, i never got too far in it though eh

Avatar image for thedaringrogue

So are there not going to be any more video reviews? I personally hate expecting a video review and just getting a gameplay video. If I wanted a gameplay vid I'd have clicked on that link instead

Avatar image for da_nibbler

again a game review with a featured video at the top that is NOT a review! stop doing this GS! bloody annoying!

Avatar image for tachsniper

Could this be... dare i say it? Is this what Mighty no 9 should have been?

Avatar image for Abdulrahman1981

@tachsniper: Mighty No. 9 was awesome

Avatar image for rolento25

@tachsniper: Not at all, different type of game. Check out 20XX on steam... Now that is what Mighty no 9 should of been.

Avatar image for Ahiru-San

@tachsniper: this is a run-n-gun/shmup, or not?

Avatar image for RogerioFM

@tachsniper: No.

RIVE More Info

  • First Released Sep 13, 2016
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 4 more
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    RIVE - the metal wrecking, robot hacking shooter - is a game with old school gaming values in a decidedly new school execution. During RIVE's intense 360 degree shooting and platforming action, players learn to alter the behavior of their robotic enemies by collecting and uploading hacks.
    Average Rating12 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate RIVE
    Developed by:
    Two Tribes
    Published by:
    Two Tribes, Flyhigh Works, Super Rare Games, Limited Run Games, EastAsiaSoft, Rainy Frog
    2D, Action, Platformer
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Fantasy Violence, Mild Language