Receiver - A First Person Survival Simulator Review

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This game is a first person shooter made by Wolfire Games and built with with the Unity engine as part of the 7-day FPS challenge to "explore gun handling mechanics, randomized levels, and unordered storytelling".

But dig a little deeper and Receiver is a strange, almost psychotic, firearm-survival-simulator.

The Unity engine on the surface seems like a bland excuse for a graphics engine but in this case it serves as a blank canvas for a minimalist story, allowing you, the player, to fill in those blanks.

Not that there isn't a story. You find yourself waking up on the top of a skyscraper, with a gun, a cassette player, headphones, two AA batteries, a colour palette and soundtrack from the 1980s.
You find more ammunition and a torch around in the environment as well as 11 different cassette tapes that narrate the overarching story. These tapes range from practical advice on your gun through to explaining the situation you find yourself in.
It is a strange story mentioning, among other things, 'Mindkill', the brainwashing effect of the media and the titular 'Receivers'.

Although I don't think it was meant to be taken seriously, there isn't much tying you to the story. Unlike the meta-story audio recordings used in games like Bioshock, which add to the world that you're currently in, these recordings are more disjointed when they're not about the practicalities of gun use or enemies. They also sound like they were recorded by an Elcor reading too many conspiracy theory blogs.

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The gun mechanics are obsessively realistic. You spawn with one of three firearms: a semi-automatic pistol, an automatic/semi-automatic pistol or a 6-shooter revolver. With the two pistols, you can remove the magazines, take out or add individual rounds, have a round in the chamber, eject a round from the chamber, put on the safety, etc. Likewise with the revolver.
This adds a layer of difficulty as each individual action is bound to an individual key on the keyboard. There is a helpful in-game help menu that highlights what you need to do to ready your firearm, as well as any other actions available.

But it is certainly not anything like a traditional first person shooter.
It takes at least five different keys to be used in order to change a magazine, and any rounds still in the ejected magazine aren't put in your loose ammo pool, they stay there until you go back and pick them up.

Not that you'll get many opportunities to try to reload in a life or death situation as there are three things standing between you and the 11 cassettes.

Shock drones and automated machine gun turrets are two of them.
These are tough, but stupid, enemies. The turrets are stationary but have a long range while the drones fly around the level and are very close range, like a taser. However, they are both one-hit-kills and require between one and three direct shots to break. Not that the odds are stacked against you. They both have three modes expressed through light and sound: blue as neutral, yellow as searching and red as open fire/tracking.
As mentioned before, they are not very sophisticated AI, especially the drones. If you walk behind a wall, it will fly into it. However, this lack of tactical sophistication is made up with the one-hit-kills.

But it's not only these robots you have to contend with. The third thing is the environment itself, which is deadly. Falls that would be shrugged off in most traditional shooters will also kill you in one. Sprinting is also bound to the W key and activated by mashing it over and over while jumping feels constrained. This can be a little frustrating at times, especially because of the exploratory nature of the game, but means you take each room and jump carefully.

A very interesting feature of the game, though, is that it is procedurally generated. That means what gun you spawn with, how much ammo you have, where the ammo and tapes are in the environment, the locations and numbers of enemies and the order of the rooms varies with every new game.

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The areas and rooms themselves are stereotypically bland, sterile, blocks of furniture, machinery and architecture. You'll easily see the same room more than once in a single play through. But what the environment lacks in variability and beauty it makes up with sound and light. The whole game is very dingy, some areas absolutely require the in-game torch to even begin navigating, but where there is light it adds a whole new layer of urban, utilitarian, almost cyberpunk, coldness. The red, pink, blue and grey colours add to the 80s asthetic as well as the ambient soundtrack which is as synthetic as your advisories. What the audio tapes lack in story, the environment makes up with in spades.

This is a fun little romp into obsessive gun mechanics and strange, cyber-noire, meta-storytelling.

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NB: I have been advised to clarify that I have nothing to do with the development or sale of this game

Now this is what I wish I could write when I do my own reviews. Bravo, Chrono, top marks mate. :D

Love the review, but I would like to mention that term "survival" is used loosely in the case of Receiver. With same effort you can use any game where character can die - A Survival Simulator. Just an IMO.

Hmm, I've never heard of it although I might go e it a try. I actually like the attention to detail with the guns.

 

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