Old-school shooters are a bit of a rarity these days. In a world dominated by the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises, where can a fan of old-fashioned twitch shooters get their fix? Rekoil, made by Plastic Piranha, aims to fill that void with its multiplayer-only, fast-paced, class-based gameplay. Unfortunately, it runs into some serious problems along the way that might make you wish you’d stuck to Counter Strike.
Rekoil plays like so many shooters before it; two teams square off in an arena and try to kill each other. There are multiple classes with different weapon choices, and unlike modern shooters, everything is unlocked from the very beginning. You choose your weapons and class, and dive into the fray. While all that I described here is Team Deathmatch, Rekoil does include other game modes such as Capture the Flag and King of the Hill, all going by different names of course, but actually playing these game types is nearly impossible due to the completely absent community.
Every time I loaded up a game of Rekoil, I found a total of between 8 and 20 people online who were all huddled together into a single Team Deathmatch or Free for All Deathmatch game, leaving anyone with a different game type preference to languish alone. I did test these modes out in order to give Rekoil a fair shake, and they played the same as every other CTF or KotH game you have ever played, only with far worse spawn points.
Apparently bringing old-school shooters into the present didn’t necessitate actual improvement on some of the issues that caused gaming to shift in a different direction. Spawn camping is very much a thing you will encounter when playing Rekoil. Sometimes it isn’t even the fault of the player who killed you, since I have seen players spawn directly in front of me for no discernible reason. Dying five times in a row without ever firing a shot is one of the most frustrating experiences one can have in a shooter, and Rekoil will subject you to it many times. And on the other side, it is monstrously frustrating to secure a location, only to have an enemy spawn in your one blind spot and sneak up behind you.
If spawn camping and a small community were its only issues, then Rekoil would just be an unfortunate miss, but other problems abound. Upon launch, there were several lag and stability issues. A recent patch cleared up the worst of the problems, but many still continue. An example of a small, but frustrating problem is that scrolling through the weapon selection screen causes the game to stutter while it loads weapon models and textures on the fly. As you move your mouse, you are constantly met with a loading pop-up as the game streams the data that should have been loaded the second you joined a game.
Balancing of classes and weapons is probably a shooter’s most important design aspect, and Rekoil fails in this respect as well. Weapons designed for close quarters will randomly get one-shot headshots from across the map, then completely waste an entire clip firing wildly at a nearby opponent. Larger maps end up as sniper-fests since nearly all of the sniper rifles are one-shot kills and extraordinarily accurate. The only recourse you have is to switch to a sniper rifle yourself, thus exacerbating the problem. Smaller maps forgo this issue, but introduce more of their own, due to the aforementioned weapon randomness. Firing while aiming down the sights seems to have little advantage, but the time it takes to use has a definite drawback due to the swiftness of combat.
The intent behind Rekoil is admirable, but the execution stumbles in so many ways that there is little reason to play it. Old-school shooters have their fans, and a more modern game with the spirit of the genre could have been great. Of course, if that is what you want, then you can always play any number of Counter Strike games and get a better experience with better graphics and a thriving community.