There’s plenty to complain about in the modern age of gaming: DLC, sketchy crowdfunding campaigns, Early Access shenanigans and so on. One thing that’s actually been improving, though, is the state of console-exclusive games. They’re much less common these days, and with the odd exception like Bloodborne and Sunset Overdrive (and let’s not get started on the Nintendo stuff) you can get pretty much any game you want on PC as well as on a console.
That’s good for everyone; one case in point is ReCore, the latest shooter from Comcept and Armature Studio that’s being pushed as one of the first cross-platform Xbox Play Anywhere titles.
ReCore follows Joule Adams, a terraforming technician who awakens after a period of cryosleep on the planet Far Eden to find that her coworkers are missing. What’s more, the robots intended to help with the project all seem to have gone a little nuts. Joule will need to explore the planet and stay alive all while searching for clues about what actually happened and if there’s any way to salvage the situation.
Joule is aided in her adventures by her Corebot companions, robots powered by glowing spheres that assist in both combat and exploration. These range from the dog-like Mack, who can sniff out loot, to the spider-ish Seth who can use tracks scattered around Far Eden to aid in your mobility. Your Corebots are customizable, initially by changing out parts on their frames and eventually by changing those frames entirely, and doing so is key to keeping battles manageable. In a nice touch, any customization you make to your Corebots is reflected on their models both ingame and in cutscenes, so there’s a little encouragement to get your bots looking spiffy.
ReCore’s combat focuses largely on synergizing attacks from Joule and her Corebot companions to efficiently take down enemies. Joule is armed with a recharging energy rifle with several color-coded settings; you’ll want to match the color of your attacks to the color of your targets to maximize damage. She’s also got a charge attack that does additional damage and can be used to break targets’ defensive shields. The real damage comes from the Corebots, though, who boast powerful Lethal attacks that will make up the…er, core of your offense. When an enemy is sufficiently weakened, Joule can use her grappling-hook-esque Extractor cable to yank out their core, which finishes the foe off and provides resources to level up the Corebots. ReCore’s combat is generally responsive and fun, which is good since there’s plenty of it.
Otherwise, in a move that seems to hearken back to the classic 32-and-64-bit days, much of your time in ReCore is spent collecting stuff. There are Corebot frame parts strewn about the environment, for instance, offering rewards if you’re willing to explore; you’ll also want to collect parts from defeated enemies as well as extracting their Cores to level up your own bots. You’ll want to keep an eye out for audio logs and health boosters for Joule. Collection is an integral part of progression as well, since ReCore is absolutely in love with the idea of using miniature “key” bots to block off doors. You’ll need to scour an area for all the key-bots to move on; you’ll either love or hate this and that’ll come to color your view of ReCore as a whole since it’s so common.
ReCore looks and sounds great, particularly when it comes to the interesting character and enemy designs. I found myself looking forward to battling new foes to see how they looked and what sort of special attacks they’d employ. On the sound front things are generally pretty decent; the human characters’ voice acting can be a little iffy, but it’s no worse than the average AAA title. When it comes to performance, on Xbox One the engine seems to ask a bit much, as the console version targets 30FPS and only manages to stay there some of the time. Meanwhile, on a PC with appropriately powerful hardware, you’re in for 60FPS glory at all times.
ReCore isn’t perfect, of course. From a gameplay perspective, its combat suffers from drastic difficulty spikes that occur every so often throughout the plot. Joule is easily stunned by enemy attacks, so taking one hit often ensures you’re going to eat two or three more with no way of saving yourself. After the first couple hours, that’s usually all it takes to send you back to the load screen…
…which is a nice segue to ReCore’s most serious issue: it’s a bit of a technical mess. In particular, the Xbox One version of the game has cripplingly long load times for pretty much every action you could imagine. Dying in combat can result in a literal two-minute wait before you get another shot, and given how difficult ReCore can get, it’s entirely possible you’ll spend less time than that ingame before dying again. Meanwhile, there’s a fast travel system, as well as an imperative to regularly return to Joule’s base to deposit loot and upgrade your Corebots, but you’re in for an agonizing wait every time you move anywhere. It’s difficult to explain how damaging this is to the experience until you’ve seen it in action.
ReCore also has the odd technical issue aside from this as well, namely some audio glitches, collision bugs and framerate drops. The solution to all of this? Get the PC version if you can. I found the PC version of ReCore to be a much more pleasant experience, with significantly shorter load times, a drastically improved framerate and much fewer glitches. Running ReCore at 4K on a Titan X Pascal is pure bliss; the game sings when it’s given enough horsepower to do so. The best part of this is that if you buy ReCore digitally on either the Windows or Xbox One store, you’ll automatically receive the other version as well per Microsoft’s Play Anywhere program; the two will also share save data. Note, by the way, that you’ll need the Windows 10 Anniversary Upgrade to purchase and play ReCore on PC, so that might be a consideration for gamers who aren’t running the latest software.
Frankly, it’s much easier to excuse ReCore’s gameplay and technical flaws given the Play Anywhere program and the game’s slightly lower price. At full price it would be easy to tell you to pass on ReCore, particularly if you’re playing solely on Xbox One. Getting both the console and PC versions of the game for a mere $40 is much more palatable, though. In particular, gamers with heavy-hitting PCs are probably going to have a great time with ReCore. Xbox One players, meanwhile…well, you’ll have a lot of time to get up and grab a drink between deaths, I suppose! PC players can take that as a recommendation; Xbox players may want to think twice if easily aggravated by long load times and bugs.