ReCore would be a really solid entry into an otherwise under-appreciated genre, action/adventure, if it wasn't held back by a host of technical problems. The game lends concepts from titles like Zelda and Mega Man, but falls short on the excution of a lot of its great ideas.
+Unique and fun take on action combat.
+Plenty of diversity in corebot customization.
+Beautiful world, both open and dungeons.
+Plenty of great ideas.
-Loading times are painfully long (even reloading sections).
-Stuttering/lagging and massive frame drops.
If the idea of a Zelda-esque adventure title in the far-flung future created by gaming God Keiji Inafune and the creative minds behind Metroid Prime sounds like an exciting prospect, then you might appreciate the amount of fun I had with the first hour of the Microsoft Studios project ReCore. Unfortunately, that kind of high octane excitement is quickly removed due to a host of technical issues that hold the game back from being truly great and instead produce something that I would merely define as "good."
At the center of ReCore is a story about a terraforming mission gone sideways. You'll play as the main character, Joule Adams, who's recently awoken from a cyro-sleep (intended to keep the participants of the terraforming mission alive until the setup is completed) and stumbles across a Prismatic Core (core's being the McGuffin of the game that both fuel mechanized component and serve as your ability to customize your robotic companions).
Honestly though, it's not the story that is the sales point for this game. Like the game it pulls source from (namely Zelda, Metroid, and Mega Man) the game is more about drawing you in through gameplay and allowing you to expand on the story via your own interest level and desire to dig.
Combat is where the game shines, as mentioned it pulls from classic titles like Zelda and Mega Man primarily. If you imagine Zelda with a gun, you're halfway there.
At the start of the game you have a rifle which fires a basic "white" shot, it can be charged up for more power blast with a bit of a stun. As you advance and collect additional parts for the gun (a la Mega Man) you'll be able to shoot plasma of three additional colour types: red, blue, and yellow. These colours correspond with the enemy types you'll encounter on your adventure and rather than being a "rock-paper-scissors" type of battle system it simplifies the process by just letting you colour match. Fire blue lasers at a blue enemy for increased damage.
Eventually you'll learn how to use your grapple hook to speed fights along as well. Once you've knocked down enough of your opponent's life bar you can hook an enemy core directly and engage in a quick "tug of war" mechanic to snag their core out from under them, this instantly kills said enemy and nets you a shiny new core. Alternatively, you can just pew-pew them a few more times and explode them for parts.
Interestingly, each option has a limited number of inventory slots on your character. While it might seem like the obvious move, at the start, to kill enemies quickly with a snag of their core (and cores are a key feature of crafting/upgrading your robots) you don't want to kill everyone with this "fatality" style finisher, or you'll quickly find yourself lacking the secondary components (scrap) to properly build up your robotic army.
There's plenty more the game offers for variety in the combat as you advance as well, including a combo system that builds as you chain attacks against the enemy and ends with a multiplier when you hook a core. Additional there are the robotic companions know as the "corebots" who serve a variety of functions within the world (like the dog sniffing out items, or the bruiser bashing rocks to clear pathways) each with it's on unique combat style. You can also customise various pieces of each corebot with 4-5 options of different armors and cores to give them unique advantages (in example, having built a corebot with multiple coloured armors and cores to give it advantages against different enemy types of the corresponding colours).
Slipping back to a couple of the earlier comparisons for the game (Zelda and Metroid) it's important to note it has an "open world" hub with several key points on the map that lead into dungeons. You can traverse the world rather openly from the start, though you may find some blocked off areas until you have the right gear/corebot companion, but the bulk of the game will take place in dungeons that include combat, puzzles, and bosses very like the look and feel of the Zelda franchise.
For my money, that's a welcome genre to expand on. There's not enough adventure games out there that use this format and I'm excited that others are expanding on this, especially with something like ReCore which uses it well and blends it nicely with a new take on the action-combat (guns instead of swords).
Unfortunately, the lustre of the game wears off quickly and can become a bit of a grind. For fans of the genre that won't be a huge loss, where you will see people losing interest (and the primary reason it became less and less interesting as I progressed) was the massive amount of technical issues that the game has.
ReCore has problems with the game being built in a way that optimizes the technology of the current generation, primarily in its loading times, frame rates, and stuttering. Several times throughout the game I noticed significant slow down when in combat with large numbers of enemies, the problem is intensified if the fight happens to be taking place in the hub/over world since it is an open world that the game has loaded.
The easiest way to "rage quit" the game though is in the absurd loading times.
At several points in the game I lost a boss fight within about a minute or two and had to wait 5-7 minutes to load back in and start the fight over.
When you're dealing with more loading time than actual game-play it's easy to lose interest and walk away. Even from the perspective of a reviewer who is playing the game to an end and needs to see it through from start to finish I found myself walking away from the game after the third time I sat twiddling my thumbs for extended periods waiting to reload a section because I missed a jump, or mistimed a dodge roll on a boss fight.
The hopes were high for ReCore and it's unfortunate that these technical issues weigh down the experience so heavily, it's a sobering reminder how important it is to optimize your game. If it was photorealistic in its graphics, it might be forgiven (though even still unlikely). As a property that doesn't look to be pushing the full power of the current generation hardware though it's hard to justify these technical problems which brings the game down from being a unique and interesting experience with a couple great ideas, which would generally fall somewhere in the vain of a "good game" down to something entirely mediocre.
Review is based on a retail version for Xbox One, purchased by the reviewer.
Release Date: September 11th, 2016