Though I’m sure there are a few out there, I can’t think of many games that do close to exactly what they say on the tin. Well, Running With Rifles is one of those games; a top-down shooter which relies as much on twitch reflexes as it does on a sometimes excessive amount of legwork.
At least, at first it seems that way. Gameplay might appear to be a simple point-and-click affair with the frequent and obligatory use of cover, but a tactical element does emerge, albeit worryingly abruptly, as you venture deeper into the game. Simply put, by design Running With Rifles progressively becomes more of a Sneaking With SMGs.
This is no bad thing, except of course for the gung-ho, all miniguns blazing, type of player, but at times the evolution of gameplay detracts from what makes Running With Rifles such a joyful premise in the first place. Indeed, mid-game is where the fun’s at – early game is all about getting to grips with the one hit kill mechanics, while later scenes are likely to elicit verbalised expletives and fist-to-desk frustration.
While we’re on the topic of game mechanics, ranks in Running With Rifles succeed in adding some feeling of progression throughout the game. From Private to General, a certain rank carries with it certain privileges, such as access to new weapons or additional squadmates under your control. Unfortunately, squads are more often targets than they are assistance, though I did encounter one or two situations in which they were useful in drawing fire away from me. I will say that, despite the complete absence of verbal feedback, squadmates provide much in the way of amusement. For instance, one NPC proceeded to ram his humvee into a wall, only to say, ‘The steering must be inverted.’ These instances occur often enough for Running With Rifles to be more funny than your average game.
Visually speaking, the game is adorable. Scores of miniature men quickly pile-up on screen, as do their corpses, while the graphics are akin, you might say, to the illustrative cel-shaded style seen in Borderlands, though not quite as sophisticated – a good thing if you’re on a low-end machine.
The abundance of death and destruction only ramps up once you jump into multiplayer. However it does seem a little half-baked, especially when the multiplayer side of things has the potential to be the game’s finest moment. Some of this could be blamed on the severely underpopulated servers – I’ve never been able to access a PvP game, and while co-op is fun, turkey shoots often occur, which leaves much to be desired as far as challenge is concerned.
For the first seven hours, Running With Rifles is puts you in a place where you feel like you’re playing a modernised version of the ‘93 classic Cannon Fodder, which is no bad thing. Later, the game begins to unwelcomely abandon this premise, forcing you to adopt tactics you might employ in whatever iteration of Splinter Cell. It’s a shame, then, that the game’s progress and enjoyability is hampered by the painfully frustrating final missions.
- A welcome addition to the squad-based, top-down, tactical twitch shooter genre
- Death and corpses have never been so adorable
- Hilarious comrade banter
- Late difficulty spike
- Multiplayer feels like the lights are on, but nobody’s home