☆ Review: Riskers "a game that fades into the shadows of its influences" ☆ #GameDev #IndieGame

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Riskers - PC

I really wanted to like Riskers, all of the ingredients were here for a great game, but sadly it spreads itself too thin to be memorable.

The story that drives Riskers is that you play a garbage collector who finds a briefcase filled with cash, merely days later when you arrive home, you find your brother killed and head off to chase down the assailants.

The plot is pure B-movie gold, the developers describe the game as a mash-up of Hotline Miami, early GTA and Max Payne. I’ll comment on this assessment later in the review.

From the installation of the game I had issues, in that I had to have my TV set to a specific resolution so that the game would be accurately controllable, the developers were extremely helpful and patched the game swiftly, offering advice in the forums within minutes, which is to be lauded as I do feel that with some extra tweaks and care, this game could be far more enjoyable than it is in its current state.

Riskers is played from a top-down view, with an open-world map that has its main missions set within small indoor areas which involve lightning-quick reflexes, pinpoint accuracy and many, many re-tries…a-la Hotline Miami. As you follow the main missions, there are comic-style cut-scenes that move the story along, which is where the Max Payne reference comes in. The music in the game is a pulse-pounding score (that oddly drops in and out) which is very again very evocative of Hotline Miami.

The issue with wearing your influences on your sleeve is that players will instantly compare the games to the stated archetypes and as is the situation here, that comparison can often end unfavourably.

As the game works in essentially two parts, I’ll discuss them separately.The main map of the game is a set of streets in the same vein as the first couple of Grand Theft Auto games. Whilst the graphics are crisp and precise, they also feel slightly generic and lifeless. The streets are populated by pedestrians that spout repetitive, tedious lines like, ‘I think I’ve lost my phone’ or ‘I hope it doesn’t rain today’. 

I imagine that the developers were trying to conjure up the depressing, vapid and yet enjoyable consumer-driven world that GTA and Hotline Miami evokes so well, the problem here is that as the game itself is so bland, the bland comments just add to the mediocre atmosphere and the satire is lost. 

The main over-map of the game has several side quests that are exercises in tedium. One mission had me driving across the city to kill a person (a non-cat lover) and so naturally I just rammed over him with my car which made me fail the mission (you can steal cars as in GTA) then I retried the mission and instead of running the fiend over, I picked up a nearby gun and blew everyone away…which was a success.

It seemed strange, as running contrary to the open-world feel there are actually strict limitations that run invisibly parallel throughout the game. An example of this is how I would come across a gun in the side-missions, then, thinking this would help me massively in the main quest, I’d drive off through the city to start said quest….and my guns would disappear. Arguably this adds to the difficulty of the game but it also makes the progress feel very stiff and unrewarding with no scope of tolerance for struggling players.

In the main city section, police can also catch wind of you and will gun you down in less than a second. Bump a car in front of a copper? Everyone will open fire on you, dead. Accidentally run over a policeman or civilian whilst trying to slowly manoeuvre around a traffic jam (which are oddly regular and difficult to navigate due to the zoomed-in camera and lack of mobility on the streets) forget it, dead. Driving innocently to your next quest marker? Heck, sometimes the police just seem to randomly open fire on you, dead. Try again. The side quests seem pure filler. One had me driving from one side of the map to the other and back again and was only made difficult due to how much it tried my patience.

Cars explode in a few hits and due to the busy layout and narrowness of the streets, you will often be just stuck in traffic, unable to move around other cars in case you tap a pedestrian and a passing policeman kills you in nanoseconds, causing you to restart the mission again.

Moving on to the section that makes up the bulk of the game are the Hotline Miami-esque indoor missions. As a big fan of Hotline Miami, I thought this would be the games’ strong suit as the aesthetic, feel and sound-track was so similar. The problem though was the looseness of the missions, there weren’t any checkpoints and the controls (the game natively only supports mouse and keyboard) aren’t as tight as Hotline Miami and in a game that relies so much on precise movements and swift reflexes this is a real issue. There is a developer comment on the Steam notice board that states that the developer chose to remove gamepad support which is a real shame as this is a game that would really benefit from twin-stick controls.

In regards to the lack of checkpoints, the punishment here really doesn’t suit the crime. You can play for quite a while only to get killed by an enemy that shoots you from off-screen, this then means you start from the beginning of that mission, regardless of how far you’ve progressed and instead of that ‘one more time’ feel I consistently got from Hotline Miami, I felt that the biggest enemy here was unfairness and the controls.

The soundtrack in the game is quite strong, during missions it keeps the pace up and drives tension, however outside of missions, it’s almost non-existent and you are left with generic engine sounds and beeping horns to keep you company, adding to the drabness of the over-world city map. The design of the city doesn’t help things as it’s all square, straight roads. The Max Payne reference that the developers mention comes from the nicely-drawn cut-scenes although they lack the melodramatic voice-overs but are still a really solid part of the game that I do wish was used more effectively.

I had some issues with bugs in the day 1 release I played but the developers seem to be very swift in reacting to feedback from the community, fixing resolution/ratio problems at a pace that has to be commended, although the issues with the game that concerned me most, unfortunately, seem to be design choices and thus un-patchable.

Riskers just seems to bite off more than it can chew. It tries to be reminiscent of the first GTA games but it doesn’t have the variety or personality and it also tries to replicate the teeth-grinding arcade action of Hotline Miami, which it does relatively well but there are several issues which stop it from being a true challenger to the crown.

It’s clear to see that ShotX Studios have real talent and I’m sure with their next game, we will be treated to something quite special, unfortunately, Riskers isn’t what it could have been. 

If you have played Hotline Miami to death and you are craving more twitchy action (and are a dab hand with mouse and keyboard) this could be right up your Strasse, for the rest of us, it’s a sadly missed opportunity.
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Just Falls Short Of Greatness)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: ShotX

Review By Britt

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