E3 2016: ReCore Hands-On – Tinker Tailor Soldier Corebot

5 min read
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Exploring a seemingly abandoned station buried deep beneath years of sandy erosion, Joule ventures forth into the unknown with her trusty Corebot at her side. Shifting forms as new opportunities present themselves, the two combine to form a formidable pair, tackling other more hostile robots throughout the facility. ReCore at its heart wants to be another charming yet deep action adventure, but it seems a little stuck on the execution.

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Joule and Corebot alone though don’t make for sticklers though. From the moment I was introduced to them during my rather brief hands-on session with the not so AAA exclusive, I immediately connected with the two. Joule wears her scavenger persona proudly, with a weathered buff across her face keeping her safe from the dusty caverns I was able to explore, Corebot was consistently fun too, taking the form of whatever Joules and I decided was necessary for the task at hand.

During the conference Microsoft showed off four distinct variations of Corebot, but only two were on offer here. I could keep Corebot in the standard (and far too adorable) dog form, having him scamper around Joule as she explored the small areas ahead. At the press of a button however, I could easily transform Corebot into a far more handy spider-like form, allowing me to traverse otherwise impossible gaps with its ability to latch on to specific magnetic platforms.

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Switching between these two forms opened up some light puzzle elements, where I was able to use the latter form to scurry about in the confined room by room spaces. I can certainly envision a full game truly testing reflex fast Corebot changes, as Joule leaps from platform to platform with different equipment required to interact with them. In that regard, ReCore excites me, but its combat – the bulk of the demo – leaves a little to be desired.

ReCore is first and foremost a fast-paced, arcade styled shooter. Numbers fly off enemy bots as you chip away at some surprisingly meaty health bars, while they bombarded you with flurries of bullets that Joules can often almost effortlessly glide through and avoid. Shooting is about staying mobile as much as it is about simple crowd control, although the demo on hand offered little reprieve in this regard.

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My main weapon didn’t have limited ammunition, but instead limited me based on heat generated to keep bursts short and sweet. Standard shot could be traded for more powerful (and more heat expensive) charged shots, which rounded out the abilities I had at my disposal for the play through. Outside of Joule’s direct attacks I could command Corebot to attack with the press of a button, burning through an action point that slowly recharged over time.

This, with the combination of borderline bullet hell scenarios, should’ve been engaging, but even in the short time I had it flirted with the mundane. Smaller enemies went down fast, building up my combo counter fast and allowing attacks to start doing more damage. But later scenarios just forced me into corners with multiple bullet-sponge drones, which seemed to take far too much damage to make any discernible impact. And since combos only really seemed to generate from kills, that made the entire system redundant – a pity considering it ties nicely into some spectacular melee kills if you get the multiplier high enough.

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The only really interesting twist to combat forced me to consistently survey who my enemies were by colour. Rogue Corebots could easily be identified by colour, either taking on red, blue or yellow. Joule, as a counter, has four different types of ammunition corresponding to these sets, with the fourth being a completely neutral white. Match the ammunition to the enemy and you do more damage, although it becomes a tense affair when you’re swapping out coloured charged shots in the heat of battle with multiple enemy types swarming on to you.

This colour distinction extended to Joule’s friendly Corebot too, with each variation doing slightly more damage to a particular enemy type. While the way they attacked didn’t seem to vary (or at least I noticed no real difference), pointing them in the direction of the correct enemy certainly did. Combine this with a leveling system that is only briefly touched upon, and ReCore suddenly has some semblance of depth. Even if the demo tried its best to convince me otherwise.

It’s just a little frustrating then that the first hands-on time anyone is really getting with one of Microsoft’s more intriguing exclusives is this limited, especially considering the proximity to launch. ReCore might not carry a premium price or the same AAA swagger, but it’s a game that certainly could have the punching power to be well above its weight. We just need to see a lot more of it to decide properly.

Last Updated: June 14, 2016

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