ReCore PC, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES SECTIONS - De­vel­oper Ar­ma­ture Stu­dio, Com­cept Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft Stu­dios For­mat PC, Xbox One (tested) Re­lease Out now

Spoiler alert: some­one at ei­ther Ar­ma­ture Stu­dio or Com­cept en­joyed The Wind Waker’s Triforce hunt. That’s the only ex­cuse we can muster for pos­si­bly the most eye-rollingly brazen bit of endgame pad­ding we’ve seen since. We don’t nor­mally give out point­ers in how to play a game, but it’s safe to say you’ll en­joy ReCore a good deal more if you spend some time hunt­ing down Pris­matic Cores (the game’s most cru­cial col­lectible) be­tween crit­i­cal story mis­sions.

The clos­ing stretch is chal­leng­ing enough as it is. Two-minute load­ing times aren’t how we’d have cho­sen to make play­ers fear death, and they make a mock­ery of the no­tion of fast travel. It’s all rel­a­tive – yomp­ing across a vast ex­panse of sand does take longer than watching cir­cu­lar blades ro­tate be­neath a loop of tips you al­ready know. But tele­port­ing back to base is all but ne­ces­si­tated by lim­ited in­ven­tory space and the im­por­tance of up­grad­ing your ro­botic al­lies ahead of en­coun­ters with en­e­mies who aren’t afraid of launch­ing a one-hit-kill attack when they’re low on health. Still, who­ever was re­spon­si­ble for the load­ing-screen art will be de­lighted. Their work has never had such ex­po­sure. All of this is a shame, be­cause some­where within

ReCore is a de­light­fully breezy and well-paced six-hour ad­ven­ture that’s been spread far too thinly. De­spite a messy bar­rage of tu­to­rial boxes, it makes a strong first im­pres­sion, with a like­able lead who con­trols beau­ti­fully. Joule has some­thing of The Force Awak­ens’ Rey about her, as a ca­pa­ble and re­source­ful pro­tag­o­nist ex­plor­ing a desert world with a ro­botic ally. She ends up as some­thing of a scav­enger, too, col­lect­ing parts with which she can up­grade her four-legged Core­bot, Mack.

Our Mack ended up as a mul­ti­coloured mess of mis­matched parts sal­vaged from a va­ri­ety of sources. But it’s a mon­grel with real char­ac­ter, and that’s true of ReCore it­self. The leads at Ar­ma­ture worked on the

Metroid Prime se­ries, and that soon be­comes ap­par­ent. Com­bat, for ex­am­ple, lets you eas­ily lock onto en­e­mies and cir­cle-strafe them, al­low­ing you to fo­cus on pri­ori­tis­ing tar­gets and dodg­ing or leaping over any­thing they fire back. Once you’ve whit­tled their health down, you can click in the right stick to grap­ple onto their glow­ing core, prompt­ing a short but en­ter­tain­ing tug-of-war that’s rem­i­nis­cent of a fish­ing game, as you grad­u­ally tighten the line and briefly let it slacken when it’s about to snap. It car­ries a sim­i­lar tac­tile sen­sa­tion to the act of rip­ping off a Space Pi­rate’s shield in Metroid Prime 3: Cor­rup­tion, and it makes for an em­phatic con­clud­ing flour­ish.

It’s en­joy­ably hec­tic stuff, par­tic­u­larly once you’ve fully up­graded Joule’s weapon. En­e­mies come in a va­ri­ety of colours and, to deal with them quickly, you’ll need to match your beam to their core to deal ex­tra dam­age, steadily build­ing your combo as you go, which in turn in­creases the fe­roc­ity of your shots. In a tight

spot, you can waste your combo on an in­stakill attack to clear space, though the trade­off for los­ing the bonus is a gain in ex­pe­ri­ence points. You can also un­leash your Core­bots onto them, though whether it’s Mack launch­ing him­self like a ca­nine mis­sile or the spi­der­like Seth fir­ing a bar­rage of mis­siles, their abil­i­ties are sim­i­lar in func­tion. Then again, swap­ping Core­bots be­comes a valu­able strat­egy in its own right, not only be­cause of the im­por­tance of colour-match­ing but also for the im­pact dam­age they deal when called in.

Tra­ver­sal, too, feels good. Joule’s dou­ble-jump is finely tuned, and it’s of­ten com­bined with a mid-air dash to reach dis­tant plat­forms. It’s solid enough to han­dle the de­mands of dun­geons that re­quire pre­ci­sion to earn the bonus re­ward for fin­ish­ing within a strict time limit. And ReCore isn’t so fussy that it’s not pre­pared to give you a help­ing hand if you end up just shy of a plat­form – Joule will reach out for the lip and scram­ble up. The cam­era may not al­ways pro­vide the ideal an­gle for judg­ing dis­tances, but you’re oth­er­wise made to feel so in con­trol that it rarely mat­ters.

And if the game’s fic­tion be­gins with a con­cept that will be very fa­mil­iar to those who’ve fol­lowed pro­ducer Keiji Ina­fune’s work – ‘lone hero fights ro­bots gone feral’ was even the setup for Mighty No 9 – Ar­ma­ture and writer Joseph Staten find ap­peal­ing nu­ance and char­ac­ter in a generic sci-fi plot. The ro­bots are the real stars, though. Mack be­haves like a real dog, scam­per­ing ex­cit­edly, sniff­ing and paw­ing the ground at new dis­cov­er­ies and even af­fect­ing a plau­si­ble limp when dam­aged – not that you’ll be any less keen to ask for its help in bat­tle, if only as a dis­trac­tion. Func­tion­ally, the hulk­ing Dun­can is your ar­che­typal brute, but as with the oth­ers there’s real per­son­al­ity in its move­ment and be­hav­iour. Per­haps the best is acro­pho­bic arach­nid Seth, whose climb­ing skills are at odds with its deep­est fear. Its first proper in­tro­duc­tion is a clas­sic, as you ne­go­ti­ate a ver­tig­i­nous set of bro­ken rails, grap­pling onto Seth as it clat­ters up and across them.

Both the plat­form­ing and the shoot­ing hold up, then, but they barely de­velop af­ter the first few hours, and for the re­main­der you’re left to com­plete a se­ries of rote fetch quests: Joule’s sur­prise, sev­eral hours in, that a ma­chine is miss­ing en­ergy bots is par­tic­u­larly bizarre since she’s spent most of the game look­ing for them to power dor­mant equip­ment. As the lat­ter third’s tricks get cheaper, you grow less for­giv­ing of the in­ter­minable loads and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing quirks, such as check­points be­fore boss in­tro­duc­tions (sure, you can skip the cutscene, but not that pre­ced­ing part where you had to wrench open a door and walk for­ward 100 yards to trig­ger its ar­rival). Much like Mack, Seth and com­pany,

ReCore’s heart is ex­tremely durable. It’s the pieces sur­round­ing it that are rusty and un­sta­ble.

The hulk­ing Dun­can is your ar­che­typal brute, but as with the oth­ers there’s real per­son­al­ity in his move­ment

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