I simply love Run and Gun shooters, and I believe the genre is surprisingly underpopulated. Or at the very least, there aren’t enough quality run and gun shooters that can compete with the likes of Contra and Metal Slug. So I was pretty excited to see Rive, and even more excited to see the preview videos. It’s a 2.5D shooter in which you tear through hordes of robots and see their metallic innards burst apart, so the premise definitely had me hooked. However, I was concerned that Two Tribes wouldn’t be able to deliver a hardcore shooter, considering how cutesy their earlier titles have been. Then I launched the game and found that the only option available for a new game was ‘Hard Mode’. Clearly the folks over at Two Tribes aren’t messing around anymore.
It’s more than just tough talk: RIVE is a pretty chaotic shooter that keeps you on your toes. What’s more, it walks that fine line between normal difficulty and frustrating difficulty and manages to deliver an excellent difficulty curve with the right amount of balance. The game is very generous with its checkpoints, meaning it’s closer to the Super Meat Boy style ‘try and die’ type difficulty.
As I said before, RIVE is a 2.5D run and gun title where you mow down tons of machines. From the get go, you find yourself moving through factories and face waves of flying robots careening towards you. The game really manages to keep the action steady, and there’s scarcely a dull moment. Its favorite move is cornering you in a tight spot and having you dodge waves of attackers while returning fire. It’s terrific fun to move between attackers artfully and then grab a life-saving health pack, and Two Tribes really manages to craft a fun shooting experience.
Your main weapon is a machine gun, and you get a few special weapons to add to your arsenal, but they really emphasize the word ‘special’. You almost never get ammo for them, and for some inexplicable reason there’s not a visible ammo meter (or there was and they did just a dynamite job of hiding it). Either way, your shotgun and tesla cannon become like the good china you only take out for company. You can also hack droids that heal you and provide various other forms of support later in the game, and these can be surprisingly useful.
The game’s biggest selling point is just how chaotic (and simultaneously cartoonish) and explosive the action looks. Each robot kill sends nuts and bolts flying, and you really get to feel the impact of your shots. It’s a game that really manages to make the core mechanics feel smooth and fun, and while Two Tribes have cut their teeth with puzzle platformers, they seem to know enough about delivering a good experience to try their hands at something new and excel at it.
Its biggest detriment is its writing. While Two Tribes appears to have secured proper voice acting talent, either the voice actor made a strange artistic choice or they told him to do a funny voice, because I was not a fan of the main character’s voice at all. This is not helped by the game’s typical lame indie game dad humor and dated references (they actually did an ‘I’m on a Boat’ joke – come on guys). I’m all for lightheartedness and silliness, but there’s a point where it just comes off as irritating. However, you can mute the game’s voice audio if it bothers you, and Two Tribes can get away with bad punchlines after making a game this fun.
In terms of content, the game is decent, but Two Tribes really overshot when they said the campaign would take around six hours. It’s definitely closer to around four hours for the whole shebang, and this is coming from someone who’s decent at shooters but definitely needs a couple tries to finish tougher levels. The difficulty curve is an obvious culprit, but at the very least it’s four hours of actual content, not a 2 hour game that you’ll spend four hours grinding through.
RIVE was reviewed using a PC downloadable code of the game provided by Two Tribes. The PC version was tested by Mazen Abdallah on a PC running Windows 7 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 8GB of RAM. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 via digital release. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Chaotic, explosive action
• Terrifically balanced difficulty
• 2.5D visuals make everything feel more intense
• Humor feels forced
• Ammo for special weapons is too scarce