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RICO London Review

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Inspector Redfern, the lead character of RICO London, clearly isn’t the fun-loving sort. It’s New Year’s Eve 1999, and rather than take advice from Prince and ‘party like she’s out of time’, she’s headed to a tower block to disrupt an arms deal, against direct orders from her superior. She’s working her way up the tower block, Dredd-style, taking out hundreds of gangsters without a whisper of back-up. After several hours of shotgunning enemies in the head, we began to wonder if her superior had a point. 

RICO London takes the formula of the original RICO and simplifies it a little. It’s absolutely still a roguelike FPS, pushing you to breach-and-clear your way through a tower block, upgrading minor elements as you go. But instead of encountering sub-objectives on the way, as RICO did, RICO London is focused on killing, and lots of it. Preferably, with as few gaps between kills as possible, ratcheting combos as you go. 

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For those who are new to RICO, it’s probably worth diving a little deeper. You start the game with a rifle, pistol and your fists, all in a fairly typical first-person perspective. You are in a room, and there are several doors out of it. Step close to the doors and you get a handy ‘Breach’ prompt. Kick down the door and you get a Max Payne-style period of slo-mo, as you roll, dive or run into the room, headshotting as many miscreants as possible. If there are still enemies when the slow-mo finishes, then you’re probably going to get shot yourself, and combat returns to a normal speed. 

With all the enemies dead, you’re scanning the room quickly for little packages that represent ammo, health or ninja daggers, while also being mindful of your gun and ammo situation. Some guns will auto-pick up, refilling your current gun, or you might want to try out that sniper rifle or sawn-off shotgun that just dropped. Then it’s onto the next room and the next, following the same process, trying to stay alive until you’ve killed a miniboss or found yourself at the next floor. 

At a floor’s end, you can purchase upgrades with some limited currency, buying guns, perks or some of those little packages we just talked about. Then it’s onto floors that represent offices, casinos or hotels, and potentially even the end of the game. 

There are three modes, with Operation representing the roguelike campaign; Daily Play being a randomly chosen set of floors and gun loadouts, generating a score that can be compared against other players (we got second out of two! Go us!); and Challenges, which are bitesize levels that task you with a feat against a time limit. All of this is playable in one player or cooperatively.

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RICO London is clearly not your big-budget FPS. It’s not even mid-budget, really. It’s the most ramshackle, janky little shooter we’ve played since the XIII remaster, and while there’s a schlocky kind of joy to be had from it, it’s mostly plain old bad. 

Take the gunplay. Breaching a door is when RICO London is at its peak. You take a deep breath and you’re in, using the reasonably slick FPS controls to headshot some goons. The combo builds and it makes you feel something approaching godly. But the joy is short-lived, because design decisions and wonky tech hits you round the back of the knees with a two-by-four. 

An enemy might lob a grenade at you, at which point there’s no hiding. The grenade’s yield is frighteningly large, and the rooms are small enough that it’s often impossible to actually get away from one. You can be on the best run of your life, but it all gets undone by a single grenade. 

Melee, too, is problematic. A yob with a baseball bat can be on the other side of the door when you breach, and their reaction speed is such that they will hit you before you can actually get a shot off. We were also in situations where our own melee simply didn’t work. We had no problems with hitting other melee enemies, but if we tried to bonk a gun-toting enemy, the effect would splash fifty percent of the time. 

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The list is pretty much endless, and we were never quite sure if design or bugs were to blame. Take the moments after you’ve cleared a room. You need a better gun, so you look to the floor, but your character has harvested it for ammo before you can press the button long enough to pick it up. Which gun gets swapped out is inconsistent, too: we tried to get rid of a naff pistol, but regardless of whether we made it our primary or secondary weapon, we would only ever drop the other gun that we wanted to keep. And that’s without mentioning the care packages, which were almost impossible to spot.

Enemies ragdoll into ceilings, dangling like Happy Birthday banners. Cooperative playthroughs offer you walls where a door clearly should be present, but the asset’s missing. And you’re given so little currency at the end of a level that you struggle to find something worthwhile to buy. Playing RICO London is like a game of spot-the-difference, but nobody’s given us the original picture to compare the faults with. Everything’s off. 

In spite of it all, there is a modicum of enjoyment to be had. The controls are just good enough to make the basic shooting satisfying. We found ourselves hoarding an assault rifle and a shotgun that made each breached room a cartwheel of bodies and combos. We had adapted enough to the weirdnesses that we could complete rounds and get high(ish) scores, almost in spite of the obstacles put in front of us. 

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But there was always the possibility that an impossible-to-dodge baseball bat would smack into our kisser, because – while it is possible to adapt to the sheer jankiness of RICO London – it also has some jank that can’t be avoided. No matter how well we’re doing in a run, some cheap nonsense could always spell the death of us.

For £24,99, it’s hard to make a case for the goofy but messy RICO London. It only has one trick – breaching and clearing rooms in glorious slow motion – and while that trick is fun, it’s not enough to hold up this mid-budget FPS roguelike. If it was more polished, we might have been forgiving. But this is as polished as a lump of coal.

You can buy RICO London from the Xbox Store

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