I’m sure everyone who has been a child at one point has taken strange bets with little reward besides bragging rights and injured body parts – developed for the 7-Day FPS Challenge, Wolfire Studio’s Receiver is about as close as you can get to a big boy video game developer bet.
The game’s cyber-noirish premise is vague but moody – an event called the “Mindkill” has left you, the titular Receiver, alone in an empty cityscape with nothing but a gun, dwindling ammunition supplies, and a tape player. In attempt to ward off the effects of the Mindkill and figure out what exactly is going on, you must retrieve 11 tapes scattered throughout a randomly generated map populated by machine-gun toting turrets and zealous, low-flying taser drones.
Let’s ignore the story, though – Receiver’s focus is on what exactly is doing the shooting in a first-person shooter. As such, the game features three firearms in gory detail: the venerable Colt 1911, the hard-nosed Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver, and the Austrian-designed Glock 17. Each weapon operates much like their real-steel counterparts because, as it turns out, real-life guns have a lot more bells and whistles to them than hitting “R” to reload: with the semi-automatic Colt and Glock, for example, magazines must be filled to capacity before being loaded, after which the slide must be pulled to the rear to chamber a round, and in the case of the 1911, the hammer must be cocked prior to firing.
It’s difficult not to be intrigued by this level of granularity, but putting it into practice is quite the exercise – any level of mastery of previous shooters is of little consequence to the intricacies of the weapons involved, and your first deaths will definitely be prefixed by a frantic fumbling for spare magazines and loose rounds. This would maybe be a little easier if what equipment you spawned with wasn’t randomly generated – it’s more than a little disconcerting to be using the revolver, which is ostensibly the easiest weapon to operate, for three lives in a row before being given either of the semi-autos and being expected to be just as proficient with your gunhandling. This ruthlessness, however, is pretty consistent with the rest of the game.
Contemporary shooters are replete with regenerating health and red-tinged screens, but Receiver goes the opposite direction and makes most anything kill you instantly. The game’s Rogues Gallery is limited to the aforementioned stationary sentry turret and flying drone, which, despite looking utterly horrendous, offer surprisingly elegant variety to the game’s brief, but urgent gunfights. Sentries hide in corners and nooks for unsuspecting players to spray bullets at in a moment of weakness while drones buzz incessantly as they divebomb their prey to deliver a jolt of deadly electricity.
Unique hit models add to spice up the obvious lack of volume in enemy type. Shooting out a sentry’s gun, for example, renders it incapable of gibbing you in a stream of bullets but still lets it track you if you get in its line of sight. These tiny details make each encounter deceptively complex – sometimes you take a shot, and step past the smoldering wreckage of a sentry, and other times you take a lot of shots, all of which seem to bounce harmlessly off the drone you’ve been eyeing in the distance. But for all the subtle complexities that Receiver has to offer, this is a game made in seven days and it shows.
Aside from the game’s minimalist, some might say crude, visual style, its story is, more often than not, incoherent. This is mainly because the only exposition you will get is from the tapes, which are randomly given one of the 11 audio tracks that gives details on things from the Mindkill, to weapon operation. It’s an interesting take on non-linear storytelling, but the game’s punishing nature will most likely leave players frustratingly deprived of what is otherwise a pretty compelling narrative. Anyone with the skills to make it to 11 tapes in a single sitting will have quite the story to piece together. It is once the game is finished, though, that its lack of longevity becomes obvious – there is little reason to replay Receiver besides playing around with the guns and it is here that it falls very, very short.
What Receiver lacks on the “full-fledged game” front, it makes up for in sheer moxie. The 7-Day FPS Challenge began specifically to bring freshness to one of the most stagnant genres today, and Receiver does so by expanding on the most important aspect of the first-person shooter: the gun. Receiver is by no means a knock-down triple-A title, but for less than the cost of a movie ticket, you can play one of the most unique shooters to date.
Available on: PC; Publisher: Wolfire Games; Developer: Wolfire Games; Players: 1; Released: April 29, 2013; ESRB: Teen; MSRP: $4.99: Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.