First person shooters are somewhat under-represented on Switch. I imagine that’s something to do with the relative lack of horsepower compared to other current gen consoles – but also, I imagine that the perception of Nintendo’s console being more family-oriented is also a factor here.
This means that RICO on Switch has a lot less competition than it does on other consoles or PC, which is great. Especially given that it can be played in handheld mode, which is clearly a very big positive.
RICO isn’t a standard FPS, however. It has a rogue-like design; players are tasked – either alone or in two player co-op – with taking down bad guys, collecting evidence and/or defusing bombs in a number of different buildings (though the variety of these buildings does seem limited, which is likely due to the procedural generation of levels). Missions form part of a randomly generated campaign, with a choice of which mission to tackle next – you’re given an idea of the difficulty of the mission before starting, along with an idea of the mission’s setting. Each campaign is a series of missions on a branching map, with the route being decided by the player, depending on the challenge and/or task they want to tackle next (though limited by the path you find yourself moving down as you progress).
With limited health – that persists between missions – there’s a risk/reward mechanic in place that proves compelling in practice: do you leave the level with the progress made or keep pushing forward at the risk of failing the campaign altogether? Fail the campaign and a new one is generated, so you’ll need to balance the risk in order to make the necessary progress.
That’s the mission structure, but what about the actual moment-to-moment gameplay? Here’s another few elements that set RICO apart; rather than just working your way through a randomly generated, criminal infested building in typical first person action style, RICO has a few wrinkles to the gameplay to spice up the proceedings. Firstly, rooms are cleared one at a time; until you’ve cleared a room of enemies, you can’t open a door to another room if there are criminals lurking in that one too. To add to this, the method of opening a room sees your player kicking the door down, setting off a brief few seconds of slow motion – in which players aim to take down as many bad guys as possible before time speeds back up to normal again.
Mission objectives are random and can include collecting a certain amount of ‘evidence’ (cases containing various items), taking out a specified number of enemies with headshots or defusing a certain number of bombs, to name a few. The bombs introduce a real sense of pressure: once you’ve found the first one, you’ll kick off a timer which will immediately start counting down – you’ll then have to find and defuse all other bombs within that time or you’ll be blown to smithereens – and it’ll mean saying goodbye to the entire campaign if that happens.
Though weapons, add ons and other consumables such as medical kits and adrenalin shots are all lost when you fail a campaign, your character does level up and unlock perks which you can keep when attempting to beat the next randomly generated campaign – so while failure is frustrating, you can at least make some progress even though all seems lost when a campaign run is over.
There are some issues with RICO that I must mention. The visuals, though looking acceptable in portable mode, look painfully basic when playing on a larger screen. The cel-shaded style goes some way to hiding this, but there’s no denying how sparsely detailed it looks when viewed on a big TV. The randomly generated nature of the levels can lead to some bizarre level design and a random mix of goals, the toughness of which can cause random spikes in difficulty between missions.
The initially compelling slow motion mechanic can also seem inadequate, with the same few seconds given no matter how many enemies you’re faced with after kicking down a door. There’s an option to slide into the fray while shooting, which is intended to evoke the OTT moves deployed by Hollywood action heroes – but which is rarely of practical use, I found.
One major gripe is that, whenever you start a campaign from the beginning again – which you will be doing a lot – you must replay a tedious tutorial level, which sees you clearing out a faked building environment of electronic targets – though this is good training for how the game handles and what it expects of you the first time you play, it’s ridiculously unnecessary to have to do this again at the start of every single campaign you play. [Update: as of 12/6/19, the tutorial is now skippable, thanks to a new patch. There’s other issues that have been fixed too – a full list of the changes can be found here]
Local co-op and online multiplayer modes are available, as well as one-off (non-campaign) missions and Daily missions, but at the time of writing I’ve yet to play these.
The central, rogue-like structure of RICO is pretty addictive and for the most part does overcome the issues presented by the game clearly being made on a low budget and by a small team – quite frankly, the game being as well done as it is with so few people involved is actually pretty impressive. The campaigns are compelling and, despite the few annoyances – chief among them being the seemingly unskippable tutorial level – will see you returning to the game time and time again to see how far through the missions you can go.
With little competition on Switch, an excellent amount and variety of content – and as long as you can forgive the aforementioned issues – I’d say that RICO is worth a shot, particularly as the short bursts of play – presented by the bite size length of mission – are well suited to gaming on the move.
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