Seven days is not a long time in anybody’s book. Imagine, if you will, creating a FPS game in that time; planning, coding, assets and all. That is exactly what many developers did last year for the “7 Day FPS Challenge”. Instead of utilising traditional FPS mechanics (automatic reloading and magazine changes), Wolfire Games – of Overgrowth fame – opted for a realistic approach. When playing Receiver the player must know at all times the state of their weapon and how many bullets they have in their chamber or magazine.
Receiver is set in a post-apocalyptic, phantom reality known as Reality B. Trapped there, the player is the last surviving human. An event called the MindKill has slaughtered everyone else in Reality B. To escape it the player must find and listen to training tapes scattered around the building complex. These tapes – known as the Perpetual Set – hold the secrets to MindTech. Only by mastering the Perpetual Set can the player become an Awake Receiver and embrace Reality A.
The game begins very abruptly and with no tutorial. The only assistance the player receives is a prompt to press “?” for help. The help menu contains instructions for using your gun correctly. There are many instructions. For the Revolver alone, there are 4 different commands to use before you have even fired a bullet. Is this all really necessary?
After a run-in with an enemy, it is soon clear that the game hinges on its gun and movement mechanics. There are few more exhilarating and terrifying moments in gaming than sprinting away from a KillDrone, only to be backed against a dead end. You pray you have bullets in the chamber and a steady aim. Fumbling around in a futile attempt to load a magazine with bullets will become commonplace. The key to survival is learning to use your gun well and, if all else fails, mashing “w” to run away.
In no time at all you will be sneaking around, taking out turrets and KillDrones, chaining together shortcuts in quick succession. Dislike of the controls soon turns to joy. Little details like removing empty shells and reloading the Revolvers chamber add depth and strategy. Is the coast clear to reload? Do I have enough bullets to get through this room? Can I make it through the room without firing a bullet? All of these questions will cross your mind while playing.
The simplistic design of the building complex compliments and accentuates the eerie atmosphere. There is a genuine feeling of danger lurking around every corner. Rushing from room to room will not end well. Receiver must be played carefully and every action must be calculated with precision. You will be afforded no second chances.
Receiver could be described as a Roguelike. Levels, equipment and spawn points randomise with every play. Deaths are permanent and all progress is lost when you die.
Make no mistake about it, you will die. This is an exceedingly difficult title and many will dislike the lack of a learning curve. Some may even give up before fully mastering the weapon controls.
Sometimes the game is slightly unfair. Many times I have been playing carefully and doing well only to have a KillDrone silently come from behind and kill me. Re-spawning in a room of turrets and KillDrones is also common and frustrating. The game is also slightly unstable, with crashes and black screens occurring fairly often. New areas are slow to load and can put you off your stride if you have enemies in tow. These are very minor issues though, and did not impact enjoyment of Receiver in any major way.
Wolfire Games has created a unique experience from a tired and ailing genre. Focusing on the mechanics of your gun adds a whole new level of depth to gameplay; you actually have to know your weapon well to succeed. While it can be a little unfair at times and downright infuriating at others, there is a lot to like about this game. At $5 it is a no-brainer – a quality title from a quality developer. Receiver is also available for free to those who pre-ordered Overgrowth. For an effort primarily created in a week, Receiver is an extremely impressive package. Tense, atmospheric and sometimes scary, it packs a lot of gameplay punch in a bite-sized package.