RICO review (PS4)

First person shooter RICO, published by Rising Star Games and developed by Ground Shatter, is out now for PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. We played the PS4 version.

RICO stood out from the first moment we saw it, which was way back in 2017. This wasn’t just due to its cell-shaded visual style (reminding us of the excellent XIII), but also because the gameplay felt quite unique. While RICO’s cop-centered style might be reminiscent of something like Battlefield Hardline, the way it all plays out is unlike anything I’ve played before.

Although you can also play RICO as a single player title, it’s built around the concept of a duo of cops joining forces, kicking down doors and taking names. Almost literally, as the game’s central gameplay dynamic is lining up at a door, kicking it in and taking out enemies as time briefly slows down while they’re caught by surprise.

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There is a story in RICO, in a way, but it’s nothing like the police drama that is Battlefield Hardline. Instead, the case you’re trying to solve gets broken down into little mini-objectives – and completing them earns you upgrades as well. There’s a roguelike element to this as well, as you retain some of the boosts you’ve earned in a subsequent playthrough if you’re taken down – so eventually you’ll reach the end of the story/case where you take on the big crime lord at the top. Or actually, I should say A crime lord – as you can’t resume an existing case but start a new one when you restart.

RICO’s other big major difference is that the levels in the game are all randomly/procedurally (what’s the difference?) generated for each playthrough. This encourages replays and works extremely well from the roguelike perspective, but it will leave those wanting who were hoping for a tightly designed story-driven narrative.

Although RICO cleverly disguises its procedurally generated nature behind the many (primary and secondary) objectives you can chase after, the real heart of the game is the gunplay – the developers at Ground Shatter have clearly taken inspiration from the classic trigger happy cop shows and films – with echoes of John Woo in between. The action sequences can feel “rinse and repeat”, yet never feel boring as you can mix things up a bit due to the random placement of enemies, cover and the odd explosive barrel here and there. There’s a bit of thrill involved in chasing after secondary objectives as well, as spending too much time doing so can also lead to reinforcements that overwhelm you.

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One of my favorite bits about RICO is that, in its efforts to be a cooperative shooter, it doesn’t just have a multiplayer mode – it has local, split-screen multiplayer. A rare treat in modern day first person shooters, this makes RICO a blast to play as a couch coop title. Lining up together at a door and then bursting in is an adrenaline rush that makes you want to high five each other at the end of it.

The game’s audiovisual style, though not extremely detailed or varied, is definitely striking. I was surprised to see a few performance dips though. Granted, I was playing on a standard PS4, but having seen what my console can do (in RDR 2 or God of War) I certainly hope this is something that will be ironed out in a future patch.

Despite a few small drawbacks, RICO is certainly a very refreshing take on the shooter genre – a game that shows that there’s definitely life in between the multiplayer-focused franchises and the traditional single player campaigns. For those interested in something different, be sure to give RICO a look – especially if you enjoy a little couch coop.

Score: 7.1/10

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