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ReCore review [Xbox One]: more like ReBore

Microsoft’s latest “Windows 10 and Xbox One” exclusive, ReCore, is a title that not only showed promise, but one that had gamers salivating when it first appeared at E3 2015. The final product is anything but a steaming pile of garbage.

ReCore’s story stars Joule — a clever pun for the game — who wakes up to find that she’s the only person on a desert planet. Well, it may be a desert, but it’s not deserted. The world is inhabited by all sorts of robots who were supposed to be terraforming the land to make it, basically, the next Earth. Our lone hero sets out with the trusty companion — a robot mutt named Mack — to find out exactly went wrong.

You’ll start ReCore by going through a tutorial dungeon, which ends with a relatively easy boss. Along the way you’re introduced to the game’s fighting mechanics, some of the platforming aspects, and given a taste of things to come. Couple that with the absolutely gorgeous visuals and you’d be forgiven for thinking that ReCore could just be a contender for 2016’s game of the year. It only takes a few hours for the game to show its true colours and everything that’s truly wrong with it.

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The game suffers from heavy load times. According to my Xbox One, I’ve been playing it for close to 15 hours. I honestly shudder to think about how much of that was spent waiting for the game to load, waiting for areas to load, and even waiting for the main menu to load. By my estimates, it’s probably around two and a half hours. Yup, that’s two and a half hours of my life I’ll never get back as I watched that swirling white icon do who knows what. A second patch for the game has been issued to fix some of the load time, of which it’s shortened some, but it has also introduced other problems as well.

What works in ReCore’s favour is how gorgeous the game is

What works in ReCore’s favour is how gorgeous the game is. The desert wasteland, gargantuan structures, and dungeons are all a sight to behold. They’re beautiful and wonderful and I could stare at the outdoor environments all day. Even the enemies, all of whom look like ReBoot rejects, are pretty in their own way. And then there’s gorgeous Joule with her adorable freckles.

The game’s beauty does come at a price, though. While the outdoor environments run at constant speed, without any noticeable dips in framerate, the indoor and cramped ones are another story. These areas are susceptible to frame-rate drops when in battle or just mulling around the price. It perplexes me how the game struggles with the dungeons, especially a small corridor, but not the big open world.

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ReCore’s first dungeon is a cosmetic cover-up for the wart that is the game’s battle mechanics. We’re introduced to a relatively easy-to-use lock-on system, jump and dash mechanics, and also different coloured blasters to take on enemies. After a few hours, it becomes apparent just how mundane the lock-on system is, and how it likes choosing targets you don’t want to fight right now. In fact, flying enemies are the bane of your lock-on existence as the system just doesn’t like targeting them at all.

ReCore’s first dungeon is a cosmetic cover-up for the wart that is the game’s battle mechanics

The game allows the enemies to spam you with attacks all they want without any real time to recover from your injuries or to compose yourself. An opponent can hit you with a fire attack, which will stagger slightly, then the game expects you to put out the fire on your body by boosting while there are two more fire attacks incoming. I cannot even recount the number of times I died in battle (and waited over a minute to respawn) because an enemy kept hitting me without any cooldown time for their attack.

As mentioned earlier, the latest patch seems to have introduced a new bug into the game: stuttering during battle. Yes, the game will jerk terribly for freeze for a second while you’re trying to fend off all of the spam attacks. Upon realising this new problem, I promptly switched off the game and vowed never to touch it again.

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The world is to be explored and areas re-visited when new abilities are unlocked, which adds longevity to the title. This throws Joule into the role of an adventurer, but the game holds her back. She isn’t the next Lara Croft, that’s for sure. I missed too many platform jumps because of camera issues, which lead to quite a few swearing sessions.

Joule is a pretty rubbish fighter. Throughout the game, you can upgrade her health with canisters, but these tiny increments feel useless in the heat of battle. Couple that with the fact that only your robotic companions can be upgraded and you’ll be relying a little too heavily on them in battle while Joule takes hit after hit. The companions are an interesting mechanic, but their ability to be useful on their own leaves much to be desired. All of the stat numbers feel as though they mean nothing.

In order to upgrade these companions, you’ll need to find blueprints and scavenge parts scattered throughout the world. The system seems simple enough, but it also feels as though it’s not thought-out at all. There could be more going on here, but it was rushed, like the rest of the game.

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ReCore still shows a lot of promise, which is probably its biggest flaw. There are hints of Metroid Prime and MegaMan throughout due to creators of those games being involved with ReCore, but nothing ever really comes to fruition; it’s all very slap-dash and half-hearted.

Game information

Release Date: 13 September 2016
Developer: Armature Studio, Comcept
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Action-adventure
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows 10, Xbox One (review platform)
Launch Price (RRP): R449 (Xbox One)
Industry average score: 63/100

Verdict: Don’t be fooled by the game’s gorgeous art-style and interesting looking combat. ReCore is a title that showed much promise, but ultimately under delivers in almost every way. Even if you see it in the bargain bin, pass it up because life is just too short.

Score: 4.5/10

Author Bio

Graham van der Made: Staff Reporter
Graham started out as an electronics manager at Take2 Home Entertainment and went on to spend a further ten years in the South African ecommerce industry. During this time, Graham founded and managed an online geek and hobby shop. He has always had a passion for writing and has contributed... More
  • Graeme Willy

    Microsoft: “We need a game to the likes of Metroid and Mega Man…will you do this for us, too?”
    Armature Studio: “Sure! For the right price!”
    Microsoft: “Deal!”

    Armature Studio: “So, here’s what we got, on paper, and in development…and here is where we want it to go. The idea, is you capture these little cores and put them into companion robot chassis that you find along the way. It will be open world, post-apocalyptic setting…it will be kind of like Metroid and Mega Man, together.”

    Microsoft: “That’s fantastic! But, we have bad news…see, we’re doing this new ‘Play Anywhere’ thing, now…and we just need a quick test-bed to showcase it. It was initially going to be Quantum Break, but ‘Play Anywhere’ wasn’t ready yet, so, now that’s you guys…”

    Armature Studio: “So what are you saying?”

    Microsoft: “You now only have half the time now…Play Anywhere launches by 09/13/16…sorry.”

    Armature Studio: “….”

    …and that’s why the game is now soulless. Go back and listen to/ read commentary from the developers and watch the original trailer. It had high ambitions, but it never turned out to be everything that it was to be. It literally has the feel of a game that was supposed to be something, but Microsoft went a different direction and/ or decided to prioritize one IP over the other and this wasn’t it. Microsoft’s pricing of 39.99 shows they know it, too. Otherwise, they’d have ignorantly priced it at 59.99, like they did Quantum Break. A game whose content and hours are more within that of a $19.99 title…and even then, I know of some 19.99 titles that play longer and offer more gameplay than that.