When you look at the line up of successful game exclusives for the Xbox One, you will see racing in the Forza series, shooters in HALO and Gears of War and time bending powers in Quantum Break. With the Xbox brand enjoying its best period of gaming since the Xbox One was first launched, it has taken time for it to embrace another genre of gaming, the open world action adventure and now it has its very own exclusive in the form of ReCore. The E3 trailer grabbed attention but can the game deliver on the potential that trailer showed?
In ReCore the player takes the role of Joule Adams who wakes up after being in cryogenic sleep for centuries on the planet of Far Eden. A cataclysmic event forced the people of Earth to abandon it and leave for Far Eden and their ships are now in orbit. The plan was to remain in cryo sleep whilst Far Eden was terraformed to make it a more habitable home using intelligent robots and giant machinery. Joules is one of a series of volunteer maintenance teams who if required are activated to make repairs to the terraforming equipment and ensure that everything stays on schedule.
But upon waking up, Joule quickly discovers that something has gone terribly wrong. Far Eden remains a desert world and that the terraforming has ceased with contact with the ships in orbit lost. Not only that but the world has been taken over by wild Corebots, robots designed to assist in the terraforming but are now roaming wild and dangerous having taken on the animal behaviour of their designed frames. Luckily Joule has her trusty Corebot Mack, a K9 framed companion who will both aid and protect Joule as she now must investigate what has gone wrong on Far Eden, get things back on schedule and make contact with the ships in orbit including her own Father, leader of the Far Eden project and creator of the core bots.
The first task for Joule is to find a new power source for her Crawler, a large vehicle which serves as both her home and maintenance ship. This opening segment which serves as a tutorial actually pretty much sums up the majority of the gameplay that ReCore will provide through out its story campaign. Most of the game will have Joule searching for parts and power cores in order to move forward in the campaign and access new areas. The key part of ReCore is exploration and Joule is well equipped for this with her exo frame which gives her abilities to dash and double jump thanks to the thrusters in her frame. For combat Joule is armed with a rifle which can both fire normal shots and charged shots at enemies. Joule is also capable of removing the core of any enemy once enough damage has been inflicted. When prompted, Joule can fire a grapple cable and trigger a mini game of tug of war to try and rip the core from the target. Simply pull back on the right stick until the cable goes red warning the player to ease off and repeat till the core is yours. Different enemies will have different coloured cores but thankfully Joule will obtain coloured ammo packs that can be hot switched between to inflict extra damage when used against the same coloured enemy.
Joule’s corebot companion Mack can also be used in combat to aid the player and along the way Joule will be joined by other corebots, each with their own abilities and attribute that can aid Joule in her travels such as Seth the spider bot and Duncan the Ape corebots. Seth can fire homing missles for extra damage to a targeted enemy in combat whilst Duncan is pure brute force trauma in combat unleashing devastating melee attack. As you progress through the game, the player can discover new loadout schematics for the corebots which will change them both cosmetically but also to improve their attributes. Materials will need to be sourced in order to build the new frames which can only be put together back at the workbench in the Crawler but this gives ReCore a nice customisation and RPG aspect as you progress through, and trying to source the parts needed for some of the advanced frames will only come at later stages in the story so the player is always finding new ways to upgrade the corebots.
One of the aspects I did enjoy was the exploration. Whilst ReCore is not a true open world game as you essentially follow the path the game makes you go on, each area is full of things to discover and enjoy as you complete the objectives needed to go to the next area.. Each area will have Dungeons which really just serve as challenge rooms for the player to defeat. This will combine both the combat and the platforming as the player is tasked with 3 objectives for each dungeon in order to unlock its prize. You will be given a time in which to complete the dungeon which will also have a number of switches which must be activated and a special key which has to be found. Completing all three objectives will reward the player with a prize chest to open which remains locked behind a force field until all three objectives are completed but completing any of the objectives will give you access to a chest their completion will unlock. The dungeons are level locked which means though you may discover the dungeons on your travels, they will only be available once Joule and her corebots have reached the necessary level and so gives ReCore an enjoyable “come back later” aspect.
Despite Far Eden being a desert world, the visuals in ReCore really come to life as you guide Joule in her exploration of Far Eden, with giant machinery scattered across the desert and the remains of previous structures now devastated and left to ruin. This really is a good looking game and enjoys a superb musical score that compliments it beautifully as its rich story unfolds. The animation of the Corebots is really sweet to see as they embody the animal traits they are design on, Mack for example will behave very much like a real dog would and show mannerisms such as barking and scratching its ear with a paw. ReCore really has great little touches throughout which are a shame that it also suffers from issues that can distract you from them.
But ReCore does suffer from a few niggles that take some of the polish off whilst you are playing. The combat does feel repetitive after a few hours into the story, with enemies simply getting tougher with more health and whilst the corebots can be upgraded and improved, all Joule really gets is a little more health and coloured ammo to inflict more damage on the right coloured enemy. The combat never really changes up even against the boss level enemies and as ReCore will make you backtrack to earlier visited locations, the low level enemies become more nuisance that worthwhile fights.
The platforming can feel cumbersome at points with rather finicky jumping segments that can be frustrating with the camera some times being more of a hindrance when it comes to timing the traversals. Whilst using Seth and its ability to fast climb rail platforms, the camera can be so close at times it’s almost guess work to know where to aim it next to carry on with the next platform. In Combat there is an auto lock targeting system but at times there can be so many enemies on screen that it can get confused and target a minor target whilst the main threat comes in and deals damage to Joule. A patch was released in the first week to address the long loading times between the different areas which improved it somewhat but it is still noticeably long and I encountered several crashes of ReCore which became annoying in key battles or exploring platform rich areas.
I really did enjoy my time with ReCore, the story flows really well and through audio logs you pick up along the way it will be expanded. Joule as a main character is relatable and likeable and her journey to piece together what has happened along with her relationship with her Corebots is the soul of the game. I enjoyed the exploration of each area and the secrets to be discovered by doing so and when the story required me to do a particular thing to progress, the often used ‘go fetch this’ never really became too annoying for me. The combat can be fun but the repetitious nature of it can feel less challenging towards the end, especially if you take the time as I did to find and build the more improved Corebot frames for Mack, Seth and Duncan.
The low £29.99 release price for ReCore is a fair one for what it gives as a game experience. It does offer a lot to do but you do feel that the aspects that let it down should have been more polished before release considering the pedigree of the people who brought it to life, the makes of Metroid and Megaman. There is more good than bad with ReCore but it never really feels like an instant classic but for an Xbox One exclusive in this genre, it offers enough as a single player experience to make it worth a punt when it inevitably lands in a retail sale towards the end of the year.