ReCore is a game that is clearly battling with inner demons. It’s an almost-AAA game that kicks off beautifully but quickly squanders any potential it has to be a mid-budget legend with a host of problems. And that’s a pity. Because the more you play ReCore, the more you want to like it. Sort of like eating food with hot sauces lathered generously on it. Sweet Grodd it tastes good, but you’re going to regret that burn the morning after during your AM constitutional.
There’s some superb talent behind ReCore as well, as Keiji Inafune and his Comcept team have joined forces with Microsoft Studios and veteran writer Joseph Staten penning an interesting tale that binds all the various elements together into a cohesive narrative. And it all starts off with a promising setup. As Joules, it’s up to you to get to the bottom of the mystery of Far Eden, humanity’s future homeworld that was supposed to be ready for our civilisation to begin anew on.
Something naturally went wrong however, as the sandy climate is still a tad bit uninhabitable and apparently populated with a corrupted army of worker robots who’d sooner wipe their rectal gears on Asimov’s three laws of robotics than follow it. Fortunately, the peppy Joules has an arsenal to play around with and assistance from robotic pals that don’t want to murder her in her sleep.
The actual start of ReCore isn’t too shabby either. There’s a sense of adventure there, a sandbox of interconnected dungeons that blend influences of Metroid and The Legend of Zelda nicely together while a snappy auto-target makes Joules lethal to any hostiles. It’s properly solid here, as the gameplay feels like peak Keiji (peaKeiji?) Inafune: Robots, dashes and unlimited ammo. Coupled with the tag-team use of your mech mates and a colour-based ammo system, and it has all the right ingredients to succeed.
Yanking the core out of an enemy adds salt to the wound, a little tug of war which rewards savvy techniques from players with resources. It’s undoubtedly the highlight of ReCore, a combat system that makes me want a 3D Megaman even more than ever using this setup. Far Eden itself is a gorgeous location, an eternal desert that is home to locations both overt and covert and wanting to be explored as you gather up a band of misfit mechs.
They’ve all got personality, from Mack who resembles an AIBO on steroids to the skittery climbing of Seth who looks like an overweight tech tarantula. There’s a lot to love in ReCore. But there’s also an equal amount to hate as well.
The most glaring of which come down to the technical side of ReCore. On Xbox One, you’re going to face load times aplenty as you criss cross between locations and your immobile base. Need to sort some upgrades? Back to base! In about a minute at least. It’s one of the core problems here (heh), as going anywhere in ReCore requires playing a waiting game instead of the main title itself.
And that’s odd, because ReCore doesn’t exactly look like a demanding game. It is pretty, but they aren’t the sort of visuals you’d shell out top dollar for to see on a 4K TV. And tallying up all those loading screens became somewhat obscene, as if ReCore had raided Skyrim for inspiration. Downtime compared to actual game-time was frustrating to say the least and it got even worse with other technical hiccups.
Graphical slowdowns weren’t uncommon, bugs were present as more than just aerial enemies and several glitches required a restart of ReCore. And more of those damn loading screens. Hell, I thought having my controls freeze was bad enough, until one of my save-games got wiped somehow and required a return to a previous state hours behind.
A video game is meant to be a time-sink, but not the kind of diversion that steals hours away from you through sheer unpolished work. And that all makes for a massive tragedy. ReCore is a fascinating throwback to the retro charms of the past that is entirely undone by its various internal foibles. Maybe in the future Comcept will patch it up and allow it to shine the way it was intended. But I can’t give an uncertain future a score, as much as I enjoyed the combination of puzzles, shooting and platforming when ReCore wasn’t crashing on me.
It might be a proof of Comcept (HA!) that the studio is still capable of some magic, but ReCore definitely needs some time back in the oven. Maybe as a future budget title, it’ll find an audience. Although I really feel bad for all those robots when I think about them a bit more.
Last Updated: September 19, 2016