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Rekoil Hands-On

Posted on August 11, 2013 AT 01:30pm

Pwn the means of production

Playing Call of Duty online has long been a guilty pleasure of mine. It’s a pleasure because the ambush-heavy, close- to midrange firefights feel great to just pick up and play. It’s guilty because, well, the franchise has become bloated with so many unnecessary complications—levels, prestiges, perks, unlock tokens, killstreaks, deathstreaks, racist 12 year-olds—that’s it’s kind of a mess from a big-picture standpoint. What I would really love, more than anything, is a game that keeps the feel and map design philosophy of Call of Duty without any of the nonsense.

Enter Rekoil, the debut title from indie studio Plastic Piranha. Designed from the ground up to blend the sensibilities of modern FPS games with the simplicity of older genre standouts like Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and Call of Duty 2, Rekoil aims to prove that a back-to-basics approach can still work in an era where gamers have become accustomed to grinding their way to the top.

While Rekoil does feature customizable classes, every weapon and piece of equipment will be available to you from the moment you boot up the game for the first time. In addition, the team is quick to tout the heavy emphasis they’ve placed on balancing the game to ensure that every fight feels fair. Balance is always something of a moving target, but after going hands-on with the game, I can truthfully say that they seem to be on the right track. The combat has the same fast, frantic atmosphere that makes today’s triple-A shooters so fun and easy to pick up and play, and the maps are tight arenas, with careful attention paid to sightlines and traversal routes. Every time I won or lost an encounter, I was able to instantly understand exactly why. Someone else got the jump on me, or I got the jump on them. We met head on, but I missed a handful of shots at the beginning that gave the other guy the edge. While I didn’t play nearly enough matches to speak definitively, Rekoil really struck me as a game that’s all about skill and positioning—a definite advantage, given the team’s emphasis on eSports.

If there’s one thing that really sets Rekoil apart from the rest of the pack, though, it’s an uncompromising focus on the players. The PC version of Rekoil (it’s also heading to Xbox Live Arcade) will launch with a full suite of modding tools designed to be as easy-to-use even for those without any prior development experience. The team also plans to include full dedicated server support, seamless Twitch integration, and customizable rulesets that allow you to tweak nearly every aspect of the gameplay experience.

Of course, if you’re a veteran of the PC FPS scene, you’ll know that most of these aren’t novel concepts. Back in the days of Counter-Strike, this level of openness and player were essentially the norm, but with each passing year, they’ve become more and more of a rarity. Multiplayer shooters, even the great ones, have become about selling DLC and using cheap, WoW-inspired psychological ploys to trick you into playing for as long as possible.

Rekoil is quite admirably trying to reverse that trend. This is a shooter that wants you to play it to have fun, not to advance towards some arbitrary end goal with a flashy new icon next to your name. This is a shooter that wants to stay healthy by fostering a community of content creation and sharing, one where the players have as nearly much say in how the game evolves as the developers. Even if Rekoil doesn’t turn out to be your personal cup of tea, it’s pretty hard not to get behind that.

Josh Harmon, Associate Editor
Josh Harmon picked up a controller when he was 3 years old—and he hasn't looked back since. This has made him particularly vulnerable to attacks from behind. He joined EGM as an intern following a brief-but-storied career on a number of small gaming blogs across the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @jorshy. Meet the rest of the crew.

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