ReCore is Xbox One’s answer to Metroid Prime
With names like Keiji ‘Mega Man’ Inafune and the director of Metroid Prime in ReCore‘s credit list, you’d hope that Microsoft‘s latest Xbox One exclusive would somehow mesh together to create the perfect run-and-gun Metroidvania game.
However, with thirteen years now separating us from Prime‘s glory days on the GameCube, and Inafune’s recent Mighty No.9 debacle still fresh in our minds, it’s clear that the talent behind ReCore might have seen better days. That’s not to say ReCore‘s a bad game, but it certainly has a hard time living up to its lauded forebears.
You play as Joule, a lone mechanic stranded in the wastelands of a planet called Far Eden who’s waiting for the rest of Earth’s evacuation ships to arrive from orbit. However, it’s clear that something’s gone horribly wrong in the years she’s been in cyrosleep, so she and her robot dog Mack set out to find the cause of the planet’s disarray. Along the way, she’ll find other friendly robots such as the gorilla-like Duncan, the petrified spider Seth and the tiny, chirpy Violet to help her in her quest, but Joule herself remains a fairly static kind of heroine, her handy energy rifle upgrading automatically as you level up.
Instead, it’s the robots that give ReCore its character, and their charming bleeps and bloops and twitchy animations help breathe some much needed life into the game’s rather bland, barren sandscape. And yet, even the robots feel undercooked here, as the additional powers they offer not only feel incredibly obvious (Duncan smashes rocks, Seth climbs magnetic rails), but they also never get to use their individual strengths effectively during combat. Tap Y and they’ll attack your current target, but the bulk of the work is left to Joule’s rifle.
There’s still some solace to be found in ReCore‘s combat, though, as its frenetic pace and colour-coded attack system adds some much needed spice to its simple gunplay. Joule’s attacks might be limited to regular, rapid-fire shots or slower charged blasts, but match the colour of her bullets to the colour of the corrupted ‘corebot’ at hand and you’ll do more damage. It sounds simple, but when you’re facing a whole group of different coloured enemies, switching bullets with the d-pad can become surprisingly tense.
It’s not perfect, as a combination of its rather haphazard targeting system and Joule’s frustratingly slow recovery time can often leave you completely powerless and unfairly overwhelmed even by low-level enemy packs. However, when you’re dodging in and out of enemy fire and dashing out of harm’s way with Joule’s jet boots, there are moments when it all melds together perfectly, showing you glimmers of what might have been had it had a bit more polish.[gallery:2]
The same goes for ReCore’s extensive crafting system. Whereas Metroid Prime‘s well-guarded treasures rewarded you with vital suit upgrades, here it’s blueprint after blueprint for additional robot parts, which don’t feel nearly as special or important as a new suit power or handy bomb or missile expansion. Yes, each blueprint’s key to upgrading your robots’ stats, but when your companions play such a minor role in combat, it all ends up feeling pretty pointless.
The world of Far Eden itself isn’t particularly compelling, either. Its huge structures and cavernous valleys do occasionally demand an intake of breath, but with its wide, open expanses of empty sand and clearly telegraphed platforming areas, its flabby level design just goes to show how tightly compact the world of Metroid Prime was by comparison. It doesn’t take much detective work to uncover its secrets, either, as most are either hidden in plain sight or masked by crudely marked obstacles.
That said, its vast sand dunes and towering pylons do look a hell of a lot better on PC than they do on Xbox One. Technical problems still abound – I fell through the environment on a couple of occasions which forced me to restart – but the ability to knock up the graphics to their max settings and open up the frame rate to a full 60fps on PC certainly goes a long way to make up for it.
However, when the core story is often interrupted by rather inane and prolonged fetch quests, ReCore has a terrible habit of stalling just as it’s about to get going, making the world a chore to traverse as you hunt down more mystical dodads. Likewise, why its many underground labs and facilities have the rather clumsy moniker of ‘dungeon’ is beyond me, as it makes no sense within the context of the game’s narrative.
Still, for all its flaws, there are flickers of greatness to be found in ReCore, and its likeable cast and light-hearted storyline barrel along merrily enough to make it an enjoyable experience. Likewise, the fact it’s part of Microsoft’s Xbox Play Anywhere Initiative means you can always play on it on PC if you don’t own an Xbox One, or switch seamlessly between the two, as buying an XPA title digitally automatically entitles you to a copy of the game on both platforms at no extra charge. It’s a shame ReCore hasn’t forged a closer bond with its developers’ back catalogue, but squint and you might just see the family resemblance.