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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: R.I.P.D. The Game (PS3)

Movie tie-in games generally induce cringing from gamers who have been getting burned on their sentimentality since the Atari days (E.T. anyone?). Every now and then, a licensed game surprises though, delivering a knockout experience (like Goldeneye. Remember that one?). Generally, these are the ones where the developers can take some creative license and create their own spin to the movie material, while not being too tied down to following its plot.

R.I.P.D. stands for the Rest In Peace Department and is based on the movie that was recently released and has proceeded to bomb at the box office. There have been a lot of quips that the movie should have stayed dead (or at least to the comic books it was based on), but the game had some hope since the premise seemed like something the development team could build off of. After all, the movie has lots of shooting scenes against a variety of undead (affectionately referred to as Deados), and if we know one thing about the games industry, people like playing games where they shoot things, Deados or otherwise.

For those familiar with the game God Mode, or who have spent time playing games with online modes where you are fending off waves of AI baddies (think Gears of War or Mass Effect 3's online), you pretty much know what to expect here, at least in principle. You and a partner are dropped off in one of six different arenas as you try to stave off waves of Deados. The premise is simple enough, and there really is no story to speak of here, though the visuals are actually pretty decent and you can easily recognise the main characters as their movie counterparts, so one would assume the developers simply expect you to create your own plot to fit with the movie as you go along.

There are a couple of features that weigh this title down right from the beginning, however. First and foremost, it is meant to be played with a partner. In fact, you cannot play it solo, which is a bit of a bummer. I spent over an hour waiting to find a partner to play with before giving up the first night. Of course, that was a Friday night, which is when most people are out and about. (That being said as a gamer Friday night is usually when I stay in, so take that how you will). The next day I sat again for about forty minutes hoping to catch a game, but still no one bit. I checked all of my settings, and there was nothing that should have been keeping me from getting connected to a game with someone if indeed anyone was out there playing it.

So, I enlisted help just like in the movie. Okay, well - nothing like the movie actually, as I just walked into the living room and had my son download it and play from our PlayStation 3 in there. Success! We were ready to roll. Once the game starts up, you are introduced to a betting system, which was a bit confusing right at first, but once we got a couple of matches under our belts, it made perfect sense. Essentially you and the other player are trying to whittle down from one of several potential 'wagers' to one (such as the person with the most headshots, or who lives the longest, or kills the most enemies) - allowing you to get bonus money at the end of the game.

Then you proceed to play. While the waves of enemies idea is similar to Gears or multiplayer Mass Effect, the execution is not. There is no cover system, but then it hardly feels needed as the simple jumping roll will get you out of most tight spots. Enemies come at you in a handful of flavours, from those using ranged weapons, to melee, to hulking masses of undeath that body check you to healing Deados who walk around keeping their comrades alive. The AI is incredibly simple - I did not die until my fourth match. There are a trio of difficulty settings, and at the higher ones... well, I am not convinced that the AI is any smarter, but they sure seemed to deal damage more quickly.

Rounds generally consist of waves of Deados coming at you as you gun them down, then you'll pick up more ammo, build up special abilities (healing, binding a target, setting up a turret gun, etc) while you wait for more to come. Major enemies spawn near the end of the round, giving you a chance to first take them down, and then either arrest them or finish them off. Arrest yields better results but is a bit more challenging because you have to hold your ground to stand by the Deado, while waves of the lesser ones rush at you, providing probably the best, tensest part of the game.

The shooting mechanics are decent, though movement can be a bit odd at times (it took a bit of getting used to how zoom works. It is a toggle, not something you hold down and then release to slide out of, and while zooming your mobility is severely limited) and the melee - while useful - seems to struggle with hit detection at times.

The primary hook to keep you playing is that once you have survived, you earn money. That money can be used to buy and upgrade your weapons (you can take two into combat) and consumable bonuses. Still, the game itself is really only so-so, and you can get through all of the content and most of the trophies in a day or so. This might be fun to sit around and play with a couple of buddies for an afternoon, but given the awkward required co-op and the lack of active community, combined with so-so combat, it becomes hard to recommend the game.




- Nick H
 Senior Journalist
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Review: R.I.P.D. The Game (PS3)
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