Sprawling triple-A adventures can allow us to get lost for days, weeks and sometimes even months on end, but on occasion it’s nice to just sit down, relax and push on with something a little simpler; something that doesn’t require months of grinding or levelling up. RICO, the latest shooter to arrive on Xbox One, may just be that little adventure you’re after. You see, it’s a simple adventure that still manages to retain all the blockbusting slow-motion you’ll find in your favourite shooters.
The main premise of RICO is this: You’re a cop – or one of two cops should you be playing co-op – and your role is to clean the city streets of San Amaro of criminal behaviours and habits. With San Amaro billed as a city in which ‘any street criminal can become a kingpin, and every meth head an entrepreneur’ – as the opening introduction given by Commander Karen Redfern indicates, this is expected to be no easy task.
Why you though? Well it’s simple, Commander Redfern has chosen you as one of the members of her handpicked team of relief, a team that can get things done by any means necessary, even if that causes the government leaders a headache. You fit that bill perfectly. As part of this response team of sorts, you’ll be going in gung-ho to stem the tide of crime, all by mastering the two-key mechanics of RICO – or rather the only real mechanics to RICO. Kicking down doors and shooting men.
There are a few different modes to get stuck into with RICO, with Operation and Lockdown joined by Case mode and some Daily Challenges. There is an additional training mode included to help players get to grips with things, but by the time you’ve restarted Case mode a few times, and gone through a few procedurally generated objectives, you’ll soon find the training mode to be a pointless exercise.
Case is going to be the place where players spend the majority of their time, heading through a web-like tree of procedurally generated missions, in an attempt to get through each level of the criminal empire and take down the mob boss kingpin at the end.
In this mode players are given a timer, or at least what appears to be a timer, from which to make it through the web of missions and carve a way to the boss at the end. In each mission, you will be found setting foot into a randomly generated building from which you must bust down each and every door and eliminate the enemies within. You will however also have to pay attention to a few objectives along the way such as seizing evidence, disarming bombs and destroying assets.
When busting your way through each room, an initial kick of the door is enough to trigger the breaching slow-motion effect that we’ve seen frequent shooters over the years and at this point players have a small window of opportunity to put a bullet in as many heads as possible, before normal speed resumes and the enemies quickly begin to fire back. It’s an interesting concept at first, but after you’ve entered the fifth room, things start to feel a little stale. Multiple missions later and RICO comes across as very repetitive.
What’s worse however, is that once you’ve kicked in the many doors, and shot your way through the limited enemy types found within the levels, there’s very little left of RICO to experience. Sure, you’ve got a few different building layouts to explore, and there are at least some different weapons and attachments to collect which can be bought from merits earned by completing a few simple challenges in each mission, but once you’ve completed one level, there is nothing to give you a fresh experience. In fact, once you’ve completed one level, you’ve seen the core experience.
Should you fail during your case and end up falling victim to the progressive difficulty with no revives purchased, you’ll find yourself forced to start the entire case over again, meaning yet another training level and another run through the same mashed up levels and doors you’ve already seen a million times over.
If you find yourself tiring of Case mode, there is always the chance to jump into the other aforementioned modes. Operation is basically the same thing just with the option of entering the level ID of the randomly generated cases rather than being given one at random, whilst Lockdown on the other hand is one that will feel familiar, as you are thrust into a wave-based horde type affair with 15 waves of enemies of increasing difficulty. It’s not revolutionary, it’s not original and in RICO it’s not really all that fun either with levels proving bland.
As for the Daily Challenges, and this is where players are at least given the opportunity to start the game with some of the better weapons, meaning a quicker way through each mission. There is also a leaderboard for each of the different difficulties which seems to be cross-platform friendly, but once again there is nothing here that you wouldn’t have already experienced by the time you’ve finished your first case mission, and that leaves a sour taste in the mouth with the game feeling very empty content wise.
Now before you take the entire RICO experience as a negative, it needs to be said that the art style is something I enjoyed, at least at first, and it’s certainly this that initially led to my interest in RICO. With its cel shaded visuals that prove highly reminiscent of 2003 conspiracy shooter XIII, there is at least a visual look that feels unique in today’s gaming. Unfortunately, the art style can only be praised for so long and it seems like only a matter of minutes before you’ve seen the same textures and designs, with each of the different buildings proving rather empty and sparse and only a handful of enemy designs to really take note of.
My biggest issue with RICO however isn’t the content but rather the shooting mechanics. In any shooting experience, if gunplay is going to be a key part of the game, it needs to be fluid, smooth and run without a hitch. Sadly RICO doesn’t quite manage that and whilst the aiming feels smooth at first and the weapons look fantastic, the accuracy of any given weapon appears to be diabolical. Throughout my time I have witnessed numerous occasions in which I can aim down the sights and be looking directly at an enemy, only to find my bullets making absolutely no contact whatsoever. At first I thought maybe it was me being a little rusty, but it wasn’t the case and it turns out that if you’re going to kill an enemy you’d best make sure you’ve got your weapon lined up with their torso, as aiming for a headshot is almost guaranteed to see your bullet miss the target entirely.
RICO on Xbox One does however deserve a mention for the inclusion of both online and local multiplayer for those that fancy running through the game with a co-op partner. But with so little to really get stuck into, the only real positive to co-op play is that it allows players to blast through the missions even quicker.
Overall and if you’re a fan of FPS adventures and are looking for something different, RICO may not be the best way to go. Whilst the initial concept is one that has plenty of potential, a lack of interesting and meaningful content, bland design and poor gunplay make this an experience that is easily forgettable. With no story to speak of besides the opening cinematic with Commander Redfern, there’s really no reason to care about cleaning up the San Amaro city streets.