A lot of modern games try for “realism,” usually by including real-world weapons and making you die (or at least bleed out) after a single hit. Receiver aims to put those games to shame.
Receiver (free on the Humble Store for the next 12 hours as of the time of this post) was created by Wolfire Games during last year’s 7 Day FPS Challenge. It’s a simple FPS that revolves around one concept - painfully realistic gun play. To reload you don’t just hit a single button, you need to eject the magazine, put it away, grab another from your inventory, place it in the gun, and release the slide. Don’t have a spare mag? Then you need to holster your gun to free up another hand and load the individual bullets you find scattered around the level one by one. Safeties can be turned on and off, hammers can be pulled back or released, etc. The game has three guns (Glock 18, 1911, and Smith & Wesson Model 10) and every single control on each can be actuated in-game. If you’ve handled firearms in real life the main challenge comes from memorizing the key binds - if you haven’t, get ready to learn. Thankfully you can turn on a kind of cheat-sheet overlay that not only lists all the game’s controls but also highlights them at the appropriate time (for example, when your revolver is empty it will highlight the buttons to swing out the cylinder, empty it, load new bullets, and close the cylinder step-by-step).
So what are you doing with your gun? Surviving, mostly. The game drops you into a randomly-generated world populated by killer robots and gives you one goal: find 11 audio tapes. Why? Well, that’s kind of vague. The audiotapes themselves reveal the story but there’s no guarantee you’ll encounter them in any particular order. What I’ve gathered so far (over about an hour and a half of playtime, hearing about half of the tapes) is that some terrible event called the Mindkill occurred and killed everyone except for specially-trained Receivers who can utilize Mindtech to fight the Threat…. yeah, it doesn’t make any sense to me either. It’s the kind of vaguely-mystical pseudo-philosophy/cyberpunk mixture that made The Matrix both fascinating (in the first movie) and confusing (in the rest).
The previously-mentioned killer robots come in two flavors: stationary turrets armed with machine guns and flying drones armed with tasers. Continuing the “painful realism” theme, a single shot from either will kill you (immediately from the taser, or after about 2-3 seconds from a bullet). The robots can be also be killed with a single shot, but only if it hits the right spot - the game is damn picky about that. It’s deliciously satisfying when you get it right and hair-pullingly frustrating when you don’t. Sometimes I’d round a corner and drop two drones and a turret with three shots total, other times I’d blow an entire mag on a single turret and not make a dent.
The randomness of the game adds another layer of difficulty. You can spawn once with three full mags and a flashlight, die, and come back with a completely empty gun. Sometimes you’ll spawn with a drone hovering right above your head and die before you can even turn to look at it (this was thankfully rare). They key is moving slowly, investigating thoroughly for ammo and tapes, and keeping track of how many bullets you have loaded (oh, did you think there was some kind of HUD? You must not have been paying attention to this review).
So what’s the verdict? I’m enjoying it, but I’m also glad it’s free. It’s $5 normally and even that seems a bit high for how threadbare the game is (only 3 weapons, 2 enemies, and 1 environment that, while randomly generated, looks largely the same each time). Whether that’s worth the price depends on how much of a gun-geek you are and/or how much you want to support a small developer. If you can grab it for free, go for it. It’s a unique experience and definitely worth trying at least once.
- Garrus Vakarian