Gene Rain is a third person shooter, set in a futuristic world where some things have happened. It’s difficult to be more precise about what’s going on than that, as the game is presented in a fractured timeline style where the levels split between different characters and periods of time without so much as a bye.
Coming from Chinese studio Deeli Network, Gene Rain is a cover based shooting game with more than a nod to the Gears of War mechanics. Can it live up to its lofty source material, or is it not fit to hold a candle to the mighty Gears?
The gist of the story is that there was an attempt to rewrite the human genetic code to make everyone equal, and the titular Gene Rain was the chosen method of delivery. Obviously, things didn’t go according to plan, and after 20 years have passed, new mutant lifeforms begin to emerge. This is where the story kicks off. You are thrust into levels full of waist high walls, and as any gamer worth their salt knows, waist high walls equals cover based shooter. The enemies also make use of this cover, and picking them off can prove tricky once they are entrenched. Strangely for a game of this type, there’s no option to blindfire, so if you want to shoot the baddies you have to pop up out of cover, exposing yourself to hostile fire. When you’re surrounded by 15 foes all blasting away, this option becomes less than enticing.
The first thing that hits you on starting up Gene Rain is the frankly bemusing game dialogue. The dialogue that is spoken doesn’t match the subtitles that are displayed, something which is a bit of a pet hate of mine. The actual spoken words look and sound like Deeli Network inserted what they wanted into Google Translate and then just went with whatever it said. The voice acting is shonky, with intonation in the words easily on a par with “Hope that’s not Chris’s blood!” from the first Resident Evil game. When Salman, one of the characters you play, tells another character to “Relax, buddy!” the emotion was almost too much for me to bear. My favourite phrase that is spoken, however, is when you pick up an ammo crate, where whichever character you are playing will utter the immortal words – “Sufficient supply! Begin counter attack!”. Even if you are all alone on the level.
Other than the dialogue, the rest of the presentation is quite pleasing. The design of the world in particular is very good and creates a believable universe for the story to operate in. The enemies are quite a varied bunch as well, ranging from mechanical bugs like spiders and scorpions, all the way up to armoured battle robots armed with rocket launchers. Everything has a post-apocalyptic feel, with ruined buildings and debris everywhere, but then in the flashbacks, it appears that we are playing through a Blade Runner-esque landscape, all glaring neon and rain. The level design is pretty good too, with some exploration rewarded, but in the end they all come across as fairly linear, with a definite goal in sight throughout the entire level.
When it comes to gameplay however, this is where the wheels really start to fall off. The cover mechanic is so inconsistent that it may as well not be there. It’s the standard “Press A to take cover” system, but sometimes it seems to ignore any frantic stabs to leave your character standing around in no man’s land, getting filled with holes. It’s the same when it comes to exiting cover, with a press of Y supposed to see the character vault the cover and land on the other side. Again though it is very unresponsive, which is not what you want when a grenade has just landed next to you. There is also the opportunity to dodge, but you’ll have to take it from me as I was halfway through the third level when I accidentally found that little gem out as the tutorial failed to cover it. The rest of the gameplay is straight out of the Gears playbook.
Each of the three main characters that you play as also has a special ability, which can be used when their stamina bar is full. Alex, the half-human half-robot character you play as first, can call in a drone to assist him which flies around shooting at the bad guys. Salman, a robotic character, has an energy shield that can absorb damage, and Li Ying, the only fully human character, has an ability where she can slow time down. This comes in incredibly handy, as some of the enemies that she has to face are like robotic ninjas, sprinting and teleporting around the place faster than you can aim.
The feel of the guns is another negative point. At no point do you feel like you are wielding bad ass pieces of hardware, and despite the fact that guns can be upgraded, they still feel weedy. Trying to take enemies down with a melee strike is so hard to do that it is basically a waste of time; your character actions a very short range shove that misses the enemies way more than it hits them. Enemies don’t have any such constraints, sidling up and giving you a clip round the ear with impunity before scuttling back into cover and avoiding your counter stroke.
All in all then and Gene Rain is a disappointment. It is ultimately good looking enough, but shallow, with poor gameplay and frankly laughable dialogue. The acting is poor, the guns lack heft and the cover mechanic is broken so much that you really don’t want to get me started on the big enemies whose rockets can penetrate cover. There are flashes of a good game to be found, but the overall impression is one of a Gears clone too far.