Windows - 1999
Description of Recoil Windows
In a genre full of retreads and clones, it's sometimes hard to find a 3D shoot-em-up that's even vaguely innovative. Is Recoil, developed by Zipper Interactive an exception to the norm? Well, no. The game is rather formulaic in concept and construction and there aren't any outstanding features to speak of. However, a respectable execution that does a good job of combining all of the not-so-outstanding features into one neat, playable package makes Recoil a worthwhile game.
For the token background story, Recoil borrows a page out of Terminator's book. It is the year 2018, and humankind is being crushed under the mechanical heel of an artificial intelligence that has turned on its masters. The Network, as it is called, has turned much of the human population into mindless, docile, computer-addicted zombies--isn't it refreshing to have a contemporary storyline? Only a small underground resistance group has escaped the clutches of the Network, and its members actively strive to save humanity. Now, somehow the resistance has acquired a piece of the Network's arsenal--a tank no less--and the plan is to send it back through time to save John Connor from the evil T-1000... er... I forget how the story really goes, but the point is that it doesn't really matter. Now back to the tank.
Big F*ing Tank
In the game, you most take command of the hot piece of hardware referred to at all times as the BFT (it stands for Battle Force Tank, really). Your goal is to liberate people from computer control, and to achieve this you must annihilate everything in your path while completing a series of resistance-directed missions. In total, there are six missions (magnanimously called campaigns), taking you through a variety of landscapes, several enemy installations, and an army of trigger-happy minions of the Network. Thankfully, you are properly armed for the job, and the BFT allows you to handily take care of the opposition. On top of that, the BFT isn't just a Battle Force Tank, it's a transformer. Given the proper upgrade you transform your vehicle into a Battle Force Amphibious Vehicle, a Battle Force Hovercraft, or even a Battle Force Submarine--nifty or what?
Though I've never actually driven around in a real tank, it seems to me that the BFT is rather zippy and manoeuvrable for something on treads. This is all fine and good as long as don't try to mistake the game for a tank sim. Keeping this mind, we have a fairly decent arcade shooter at hand. The control system is well implemented and quite intuitive. The mouse is used to swivel the tank's guns and aim the targeting reticle, while the keyboard is reserved for controlling the movement of the chassis. This setup is fairly standard among 3D shoot-em-ups, and allows you to dive into the game and be cruising along like an old pro within a matter of minutes.
Each mission presents you with a series of objectives to complete in a prescribed order. These objectives are clearly delineated at the beginning of each mission and you can have easy access to them during the game. Throughout the missions, you are provided with a constant audio dialogue with the rebel leaders who guide you along, giving hints and instructions at appropriate times. Most of your objectives involve destroying some stationary (or slow moving) object or another, and there's less variety in the mission goals than there could have been, but it does lift the game above the level of a mindless shooter. This is actually one aspect of the game that I appreciated the most. While Recoil is an arcade shooter through and through, if you plunge in thoughtlessly, you'll quickly be reduced to a heap of scrap metal. The key to this game is to pick your fights and focus on the objectives at hand--otherwise you'll quickly find yourself outgunned and overwhelmed. Each level is densely populated with enemy vehicles and fortifications, and you need to employ a lot of hit and run tactics to survive. Also, some of your weapons have awesome range, and you'll need to take full advantage of this. The enemy AI is not overwhelming, but it's marginally detectable. The enemies do try to evade your attacks, but otherwise its existence is well hidden. This isn't really a complaint, however, as a killer AI has little place in a shoot-em-up like this--their shear numbers will keep you on your toes.
The locations of the mission have good variety, and each mission offers a balanced combination of open landscapes and winding corridors. The addition of aquatic scenarios is also interesting and the underwater excursions in sub mode add another dimension to the action. The underwater environment isn't too convincing but it does a nice change of scenery. Perhaps my only true complaint with the gameplay is that there isn't enough of it. The missions are on the long side, but even at 30 minutes a piece, there's only 3 hours of gameplay. Granted, you'll need to replay some of the missions several times, especially at the higher difficulty levels, but you can easily finish Recoil over one weekend.
The game's vast selection of weaponry is definitely one of its highlights. The standard blaster is supported by a whole host of offensive gadgetry that includes mortars, mines, lasers, and missiles. Each type of weapon comes in a couple of types, offering great variety in your arsenal. There's also a Freon Cannon, a flame thrower and a lightning gun called the Arc Sabre. The Arc Sabre is one of my favourite weapons as it targets automatically without error, and damages multiple targets at once. However, ammunition for the more exotic weapons is hard to come by and you'll need to rely on your standard-issue blasters quite a lot. Other interesting weapon choices include the tether-guided missiles and nukes that allow you to guide the projectile as it flies through the air. I had many gleeful moments guiding tether-guided nukes around obstacles towards my hapless victims.
Recoil 's graphics feature a lot of glitter and bright lights but it's been done to death. We've been treated to the same pink and purple explosions in every action game released in the past year, so please excuse me for not wetting myself at the first sight of coloured lighting. The game's huge arsenal of weapons lends it plenty of opportunity to show off its repertoire of special effects, and shoot-outs are almost always spectacular light shows, but it's all just visual fluffery. Beneath this superficial eyecandy, the game is rather weak in the graphics department. The levels are fairly varied in appearance, but everything is too blocky and the terrain is uninspiring and devoid of detail. Some areas seem composed entirely of a couple of basic geometric shapes and even fewer textures. This may sound bad, but to be fair, this deficiency isn't too noticeable while you're blasting your way through the levels since the aforementioned explosions tend to hog your attention. In all, Recoil is fine looking game--as long as you don't look too closely.
The audio in the game is above average. The light techno soundtrack isn't going to win any awards, but it gets the job done. Techno music is a popular choice of game developers for these futuristic shoot-em-ups and I'm sure most action gamers have heard their fair share of grating soundtracks. Recoil 's musical selection is well suited to the game, complementing the game rather than disrupting it. The sound effects are also decent and the game makes every attempt to take advantage of sound cards that support A3D. The weapons are all accompanied by believable effects and the explosions pack a punch.
Recoil makes use of Westwood Chat,the familiar online service used by Red Alert, to support net play. Thankfully the game doesn't force you to use Westwood Chat, and freely allows direct TCP/IP connections. I didn't find any public TCP/IP servers, but if you're looking to play against a friend over the net, the TCP/IP option is perfectly serviceable. Your results will vary with the quality of your connection, but I managed to play a few relatively lag-free game sessions. Other connection types allowed for multiplayer games are IPX and direct modem connections. The game provides a selection of multiplayer maps, however, I was disappointed to discover that the game only supports deathmatch and a strange racing mode that's reminiscent of Carmageddon. I would have really liked to play through the game missions in a co-op mode, and I can see no reason why this option should not have been offered. This definitely puts a damper on Recoil 's multiplayer playability as the deathmatch play only has limited appeal and the racing mode is more of a joke than anything else.
Recoil won't wow you in any way, and there's no one feature to write home about. However, it does a competent job of everything and there isn't anything to dislike about the game. I quite enjoyed the pacing of the game and it was fun to explore the tactics of all weapons. Fans of arcade shooters feel right at home in this game, and you'll get your money's worth as long as you're not expecting gameplay of Half Life 's proportions.
Review By GamesDomain
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