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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews ReCore.

Transcript Edit

Well, this is a bit of suspicious serendipity on Microsoft's part. Out we staggered from Metroid Prime: Federation Force's bring-your-own-self-flagellation-device BBQ when Microsoft sidled up and whispered "Hey, you like Metroid Prime?" and after we'd finished weeping and rending our garments it continued...

"Well, we've got a game that takes influence from Metroid Prime and was directed by the same bloke who directed Metroid Prime --"

"Oooh!"

"And he also worked on Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale."

"Oooeeueuegh..."

"And it's only available on Xbox One!"

"What did you say Microsoft?"

"I said it's only available for Windows 10."

"That's what I thought you said. So what do you call this game?"

"ReCore!"

"Recall?"

"No, ReCore, as in, take the core out of something and then put it back in."

"So it's a game about apples, is it?"

"Look. forget the title. Just play the fucking thing!"

So I did, and no, it's not a game about apples. It's a game about some lady hanging out on an inhospitable desert planet who presumably subsists on handfuls of sand and whatever condensation she can lick from the underside of her suspension every morning. What with North America having recently come down with a nasty case of me, I had to offload most of my gaming shit for the move, and I'm presently working off a single Windows 10 laptop. But ReCore seemed happy to run on it once I've reduced the resolution down to the equivalent size of a wide-screen Post-it note and chucked out graphical features like an angry Midwestern dad searching his teenage son's bedroom after he carelessly expressed his enthusiasm for Bob Marley records. It did, however, initially refused to start until I closed down Steam. Oh, Microsoft, there's no need to be petty. Don't be so insecure. I'm sure there are plenty of features that Microsoft Store offers that Steam doesn't. And I'm sure I could even think of one, given a team of researchers and a month.

Anyway, as we've established ReCore is set on a desert world in the process of being terraformed for the human race to populate and spread the incurable disease that is their existence. Our heroine is an engineer tasked with maintaining the robots and equipment that are doing the terraforming and her name is Joule, because the writers thought calling her Rosy McLikeselectronicshit will be just a hair too subtle. Joule combines the technical skills, daddy issues, robot dog and vague but undeniably progressive mixed-race genetics of Alex Vance with the technical skills, daddy issues and abandoned on a desert planet-ness of that lady from the new Star Wars, which probably means they sell the likes of her off the peg at the strong protagonists shop. But perhaps the closer comparison would be Jade to the strong female protagonist with technical skills from Beyond Good & Evil. Since both protagonists have to run around one of those Zelda-like open worlds that aren't quite the same thing as a sandbox, and get their hands around a load of big, shiny balls. Also Jade ran an orphanage and Joule has to play mother figure to a planet's worth of feisty robots that have been given personalities for some no doubt enormously obvious reason that presently escapes me, taking in the friendly ones and dishing out the spankings to the ones that went astray. For in a plot development about as surprising as your previously not-hungry girlfriend suddenly wanting to pinch all your fries, the robots on the planet with completely necessary personalities have declared war on humanity. Humanity's presence on the planet consisted at that point of 3 or 4 tech nerds, but then I suppose it's good to keep your goals manageable.

So what we have here is a game with much of the PS2 era about it, that is to say, you jump a lot and collect glowing geometric shapes that are floating a foot off the ground for no adequately explored reason. Speaking of 'explored', it has a bunch of token open-world side challenges to be attempted alongside the main dungeons, of which there are grand total of about 3. So perhaps 'main' was the wrong word for dungeons that also happened to be there. And this gets us to one of the major gripes about Recorked: its relationship with the concept of structure is a nodding acquaintancy at best. Once it runs out of dungeons, you go to the final confrontation at Ft. Climax, fight the final boss, and a fucking stop sign pops up and smashes you in the face like a comedy rake. 'Find 20 of the magic testicles to proceed!' So I tucked my climax blueballed back inside my trousers and go back to the overworld to meet my quota, come back, get to do another load of climactic challenges before the stop sign pops up again! 'Piss off and dig up another 5 Easter eggs to continue!' Fucking hell, whatever exciting climax that's waiting at the top of this tower, I hope it's got a fucking book to read!. You're just trying to draw playtime out, aren't you ReCore? "No-- *beat* I'm-- *beat* Not?"

I might appreciate it in another game, taking the reins off to let us explore the open world, but the problem is, the open world is a desert planet, which is one of the definitive boring settings alongside antarctic research stations and any living room in which a slide projector has been set up. On top of that, it feels like they've built exactly as much world as they needed to contain all the gameplay and then clicked on the little bounding box, and expanded it till it was about 3 times bigger. So you have to trudge through blinding white sand for ages to get anywhere. And since you can double jump and jetpack boost right from the start, it doesn't open up in a gradual, organic manner. They're just a couple of highly contextual environmental barriers you need specific robot sidekicks to get past. And that gets me to the next armed grenade hidden in the exploration porridge. Joule only has room in her strong protagonist underpants for two robot sidekicks at a time. So if you didn't call the sidekick hotline that morning, so you brought the smashy robot and the tentacle robot without realizing you've stumbled upon something that needs the hovery robot, you get to trudge all the way back to the fast travel point to swap them out. It's like being a server in a restaurant full of Alzheimer's patients.

Well, I still got one last bit of bio left and I already read the election news this morning, so I might as well vomit it all over the combat, which is about as fun as nailing dogs to a wall. The color coding system is intuitive enough. You have the red gun, the blue gun and the yellow gun, and they do the most damage to enemies of the same color - the excitement of frenzied death battle combined with the wholesome educational value of preschool colouring-in lessons. But your capabilities are limited to attacking one single enemy at once when they are always in groups. So you're constantly getting blindsighted by enemies whose attacks couldn't give two straining constipated plops whether you think you'd pressed the dodge button in time or not. Plus they've all got health bars longer than the amount of time it takes to clean out a bathtub at Brian Blessed's house, and of course the enemies respawn every time you re-enter an area, so I assume greeting every combat encounter with a weary sigh and a hanging of the shoulders like a water slide attendant watching a massively obese family of four ascend the stairs.

On the whole, ReCore is ve-ry-flawed: better than Federation Force, but then so is getting your nadgers pinned to the ground by a filing cabinet full of unflattering school reports.

Addenda Edit

  • Left with no recourse: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • See most people would have just gone by Jools and no-one need to know that their dad was really weirdly into consumer electronics
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins

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