One shot, one kill
At the risk of sounding like an old man, they don’t make ’em like they used to. There was a time when the words first-person shooter referred to a perspective and a method of control, not a full set of cookie-cutter genre conventions. We had the fast-paced, fantastical cat-and-mouse of Quake, the cinematic, objective-driven Medal of Honor, and the realistic, highly-lethal, tactical approach of Rainbow Six—along with everything else in between. Recently, it feels a lot like everything has converged into one central approach that borrows elements from each tradition without really staying true to any one of them. There are slight variations, sure, but it’s a safe bet that any shooter you pick up will feature many of the same basic concepts: regenerating health, high survivability, drawn out firefights.
That’s what makes Takedown: Red Sabre so exciting. Originally announced through a March 2012 Kickstarter campaign that succesfully raised more than $200,000, Takedown is the brainchild of industry veteran Christian Allen, who’s worked on such popular franchises as Ghost Recon and Halo. Now, through the work of his new independent studio, Serellan, he’s looking to revitalize the tactical shooter with a modern homage to titles like Rainbow Six and SWAT.
After going hands-on with the game’s co-op mode, it’s clear that Serellan knows their target audience. Takedown is every bit as deliberate as the games it draws inspiration from. Trying to run and gun will get you killed instantly, and even if you move in formation with your teammates and check your corners, missing a single shot can sometimes leave you vulnerable to a speedy demise. This is a game where getting shot once and limping away makes you feel like the luckiest person in the world. This is a game where bullets do as much damage to you as they do to your enemies, and the only edge you have over them are your wits and teamwork.
But Takedown isn’t just about instant death. There’s an emphasis on keeping the entire experience tactical and plausibly realistic. The weapons, attachments, armor, and ammunition types you choose will all make a big difference in how you play the game. If you strap on heavy armor, you might be able to take an extra bullet or two, but your movement will be slowed considerably, and you’ll still be vulnerable to an opponent who sweeps your legs. If you go into the field with a suppressed rifle, that extra length is going to make it impossible for you to hug walls and peek around corners while aiming down sights. With a compact SMG, however, that might be a more viable tactic. You’ll also need to pay attention to what you use for cover behind, since every wall in the game is vulnerable to some degree of penetration based on the material it’s made of.
Then there are the maps themselves. Allen tells me that the team’s goal isn’t to design levels that follow traditional game design methodology, but to instead build environments that reflect real-world architectural principles, then populate them with enemies and objectives after the fact. In essence, it should feel like you’re exploring and reacting to a realistic location, not moving through an environment designed to cater to you. That means a lot of openness, with multiple routes to any location and long sightlines that you’ll need to be mindful of at all times.
The one side of Takedown that excites me most (and the one I didn’t get a chance to play) is the competitive multiplayer. All of the principles I saw at play in the co-op game should make for an adversarial mode that’s much more tense than anything I’ve played in the last decade. If that—along with the rest of what the game has to offer—can hold up to the small snippet I was able to try out, I could see myself getting into Takedown in a big way.