This comic book style first-person shooter feels like a breath of fresh air, arriving at a time when the genre leaders are only willing to imitate (cough, Battle Royale) rather than innovate.
Bristol-based Ground Shatter (Binaries, Skyscrappers) has looked to the past to give shooter fans something new, with RICO being influenced by such fast-paced, quick-draw, arcade shooters as Time Crisis and Virtua Cop. Or to be more exact, it’s a thoroughly realised version of Time Crisis 4’s often forgotten FPS mode, which was no longer on-rails but still possessed arcade-like sensibilities. Perhaps not the most useful of comparisons, but rest assured we aren’t in typical shooter town.
Here, you’re kicking down doors and shooting smartly dressed drug lords and tattoo-covered thugs in glorious slow-mo, clearing out one room at a time. Once the dust settles, it’s then a case of collecting evidence (briefcases full of miscellaneous contraband) and scavenging for crucial health/ammo pickups before finding another brittle door to boot.
The developers have implemented ways to keep backtracking to a minimum while hunting for evidence. Not only is the map surprisingly helpful, showing rooms yet to be peppered with bullets (cleared), but items of importance are also highlighted.
Thanks to procedural generation each level is different from the last, and there’s a decent variation in themes: posh mansions, apartment blocks, construction sites, offices, and more. It’s a mystery as to what lies behind a door – anything from a trio of enemies to a dozen, maybe an explosive barrel to thin the numbers if you’re lucky, or a ticking bomb if luck isn’t on your side. If that wasn’t enough to keep you on your toes, destroying servers and defusing bombs will often summon reinforcements too.
The level randomisation isn’t faultless – we came across a few peculiarly narrow rooms and one corridor that lead to nowhere – but for the most part, it does a good job of providing varied layouts.
Mission objectives are likewise doled out at random, complete with a few bonus targets such as performing a certain number of headshots. Generally, though, you’re tasked with either collecting evidence or clearing out every room, with later levels set over multiple floors. Get in, make a mess, and get out while there’s still time on the clock – cases must be cracked within 24 in-game hours.
Completing objectives earns merit points, used to purchase new weapons, larger clips, laser sights, and both frag and flash grenades. Weapons are loud and punchy, becoming more exuberant as things progress. Only two firearms can be taken into battle, and as some have drawbacks – such as heavy recoil, slow rate of fire, or a small ammo capacity – it’s worth mulling over which to buy.
Health carries over from one stage to the next, so occasionally merit points must also be spent on health top-ups. Single-use resuscitators, meanwhile, can bring you back from the jaws of death.