Arcade shooters hold a special place in my gaming catalog. Fast to the action, light on the story, and ever-increasing difficulty. It’s the perfect recipe for the gamer with a little free time to kill. NEUN Games is looking to put that recipe to work with their 90’s arcade inspired shooter, Revoke, and today we are going to see how it holds up.
In Revoke you take on the role of Major Miya, a member of the Rebel Army, who is tasked to recover the last organic human on Earth. After a botched rescue attempt, you and all your comrades are captured by Government forces. You wake up in a recovery tank in a Government testing facility, but unlike your comrades, your mind is still your own. The objective is clear, fight your way out, even if that means killing the people you once fought alongside.
The concept behind Revoke, and most arcade shooters, is very generic on the surface. Keep moving forward and killing everything in your way. You need to use cover, pick up power-ups, and make use of your special abilities if you want to survive. The further into the level you go the harder surviving becomes until you complete the stage, or use up all continues and die a final death.
Playing as Major Miya, your bionic hands give you access to a couple special moves that spice up the repetitive shooting with a dash of tactics. You can lay down a shield for cover, fire off a hand cannon, or even slow down time. However, the real gem in this otherwise basic shooter comes in the way of boss fights.
Each of the three playable stages comes with boss fights. The first level has one at the end and one halfway through, however the second level only has an end boss. More on the third later. The boss fights end up breaking the gameplay up in a way that instills a pretty solid feeling of progression and accomplishment. The fights are also broken down into two phases, so you feel engaged the whole time. Best of all, each fight is introduced in true 90’s fashion with a Metal Gear style cut-scene!
Arcade Shooter Goodness
When it comes to the gameplay in any arcade style shooter, in order to be enjoyable, you need a couple of things. Weapons that feel good, power-ups that feel godlike, and enemies that keep you on your toes. Revoke manages to hit all these beats. The default pistols are fun to shoot and are effective with well-placed shots. You can pick up other weapons that are usable until out of ammo, that give you a boost to your killing efficiency.
Your power-up abilities are game changers. To charge them up, you need only kill bad guys. However, properly using them to their fullest is where you really get to flex your tactical skills. Each level has a wide range of enemies. Flying, suicide, heavy weapons, and basic grunt types can each ruin your high score if you go into a fight unprepared. Choosing between blasting a heavy gunner with a cannon, or laying down a shield due to a lack of cover, definitely pushes the gameplay up a notch from your basic arcade shooter. However, none of that would matter without proper enemies to war with.
Bad enemy AI can ruin any game. Luckily, Revoke doesn’t have this issue. While it isn’t the best AI in the history of arcade gaming, it is pretty damn good compared to other VR shooters on the market. The bad guys will play to their abilities, try to flank the player, and utilize cover. About the only way the AI could get any better, is if they managed to work as a team, pushing forward on the player as the player pushed back. One day we will get F.E.A.R. level enemy AI in VR. Until then, I can’t complain about what we see in Revoke.
Controlling the action in Revoke is where things start to get a little dodgy for me. Unfortunately, the game lacks a quality tutorial, or even a mapping diagram. The tutorial you do get is a little unintuitive and the text gets lost under the gun model, making it hard to read. However, once you do fumble through the buttons you need to push, it becomes a pretty standard affair.
Moving is done through free joystick locomotion, smooth turning, and you can take cover by physically ducking down behind objects. Shooting is trigger bound, with your right and left guns working independently. Reloading can be done manually or automatically after the last round. All of this felt smooth and well designed around the gameplay. The only real difficulty I had in regards to control came from picking up special weapons and health packs, and using my power-ups.
After each final boss, you get a new power-up ability to equip, with two slots available to fill. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really tell you how you can toggle between the two once the power-up bar is maxed out. As for special pickup items, they would sometimes come to me when I shot them. Other times, I would have to walk over and shoot down at them. The game was never really clear on what the norm for this process is. Eventually I did find that shooting them is the answer. They could really use a better design that highlights the hit-box for triggering the effect.
Visually, Revoke is a mixed bag. The character models, weapons, power-ups, and effects look great. The levels are somewhat bland in some spots but, alive with action in others. Unfortunately, everything is taken down a notch due to graphical glitching during gameplay and odd instances where effects will only display in one eye.
You can control the video settings; however, the medium and high settings seemed to be unstable, resulting in low settings for me. While even the lowest settings looked great, the unstable graphics need to be sorted out.
The audio in Revoke does need some work before the game officially launches. I experienced issues with excessively loud or looping dialog and out of place audio effects. Most notable was when I was getting shot and kept hearing the male enemies hit sound. On top of that, the voice acting on the main character is a little amateurish.
For the Rebellion
Despite some technical issues, Revoke is shaping up to be a pretty solid arcade style shooter. You get a nice variety of enemies with good AI, some really fun two stage boss fights, and a nice balance between vulnerable and godlike moments during gameplay. However, my most positive experience with this game, is that it ends up being very challenging the further you go. An arcade style shooter should never be a pushover and Revoke reflects that.
That said, I would like to see a little more variety in the gameplay, additional content, and lots of bug fixes before I would recommend this game. The top negative takeaway for me is that the third stage is demonstrating a fatal flaw. After an intense helicopter fight, my character can no longer progress through the stage. The way is simply inaccessible and appears to be blocked by an invisible wall. Being early access, I could see this as something that is patched relatively soon, but it is a major let down right now. Also, the audio and graphics issues definitely need to be addressed. The only other issue is the price of the game.
Even with the special -10% promotion going on, $17.99 is a lot to ask for three, or more realistically two and a half, levels. Granted, the levels are pretty long and feature boss fights, it’s still an unattractive price for the amount and quality of content. If you manage to catch this one at $9.99, down the road, it would be worth a buy. If a lot more is added, I could even see this as a $14.99 game. Luckily, you don’t have to take my word for it. Revoke has a free demo available on Steam, so be sure and check that out first.