Death of the Critic

The Backlog - Receiver

Written by: Tom Blaich


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

It turns out that guns are more complex than video games make them out to be. You don’t just hold down the giggle switch until all the bullets kill all the bad guys. There are a few more steps to remember.
Receiver tries to capture some of this complexity by putting you in control of every aspect of your handgun. You search a dark building scattered with lethal flying drones and automatic turrets that are ready to do their devastating duty on your flimsy body. Luckily, your enemies are as fragile as you are, and you have to survive while finding tapes that can tell you more about the reality that you have found yourself trapped in.

Every time you spawn in, you are given one of a few different handguns and a pocketful of bullets. Maybe you’ll even get a flashlight, if you are lucky, but don’t count on it. You could find yourself with a Glock 18, 4 fully loaded magazines, and a flashlight, or you could have a revolver with half a cylinder of empty shells and six usable bullets. It quickly becomes a game of managing what you have, balancing your few available rounds between whichever magazines you are lucky enough to start with or find. There is no ammo counter, or indicator of how many rounds you have left. You have to remember how many shots you have fired, how many fit in one magazine, and how many rounds you have to reload with.

It’s easy to find yourself in a situation that will get you killed because you aren’t prepared. You forgot to take the safety off, and you die. Your hammer isn’t cocked, and your gun can’t be fired. You only have two rounds left in your magazine but three enemies are coming at you. There isn’t a quick reload here, and it comes down to finger dexterity to see if you can survive. It makes each room into a nailbiting-ly tense experience. You don’t know what is around the next corner, but you know it can kill you in a split second.

You are fragile as hell. If you are so much as touched by an enemy, you are about to die. You might have a few seconds while you are bleeding out, but you won’t survive. It is brutal, and it changes every encounter from something normal into a life or death situation. All of a sudden the shot you are about to take is way more difficult. The possibility of death lurking around the corner compels you to panic. You’ll die countless times as you try to learn the world and it’s mechanics, and there is something amazing about the first time you manage to operate the gun without using the help menu in the corner fo the screen. The learning curve is practically a vertical line, but there is something intriguing about the way that the game plays.

The fundamental idea is solid, and the simple environment can be beneficial as it contains no distractions, just the few things you need to notice to survive. It is like a proof of concept that this can work, I just wish that there was a little bit of variety in the world. What would it be like if you were dropped in a forest full of monsters with a hunting rifle, or in the streets of a war torn city with an M4? I loved the idea, but I found myself enjoying the idea more than the execution sometimes. There are marked improvements that could be made to the graphics, voice-acting, level design, enemy variety, and more. But the core, the fundamental idea is as solid as I’ve seen. With some amount of polish and experimentation it could be great.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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