A Spiritual Successor to Classic GTA. Does it Succeed?
My initial impression of Meridian 4’s Riskers told me I was going to embark on a 2D journey in the vein of Grand Theft Auto 2 and Hotline Miami. Stealing cars, gunning down mobs, and exploring a city with a top-down view sounds great in theory, but how does such a game hold up in this day and age?
Immediately, I paid attention to my character, the atmosphere, and the bustling streets around me. I appreciated the random dialogue, how its insertion injected a little bit of immersion. Never a bad thing. Of course, there was no meaningful way to interact with an NPC, so I just had to shelf the idea of a sandbox. Riskers managed to hook me at the very start of its story (important for any game) and made use of comic strips to give the narrative. They were quite enjoyable but unfortunately proved to be rather scarce later on in the game.
After a brief introduction to the story and your character, the first level invites you to participate in some stealth gameplay. No problem. The first level is very fun in that regard, reminding me of the original Metal Gear, which is a compliment to any 2D experience. After the first level, however, the stealth aspect is greatly downplayed, and it really starts to feel like a true top-down shooter. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a shooter, especially when there’s a myriad of weapons involved. With progression, the guns just pour into your inventory. But since the majority of weapons are available early on, the sense of reward diminished.
After just a few missions, the simplicity of the game really started to show itself. I realized that the best strategy, no matter the level, was to aggro as many minions as possible. Then, without thought or consequence, those minions would funnel through the entrances, at which point my ideal mode of play became shooting the entrance as they passed through. This type of scripting took away the drawbacks and advantages of each weapon. Moreover, getting from point A to point B turned monotonous. Thanks to the gunplay, however, the revelation was not so bad; while it’s nothing innovative, it’s still fun.
When we get right down to it, the basic and recurring objective is to kill everything. And because of the size of each level, the combat outstays its welcome. There’s never more than one checkpoint, and dying promised a repeat of everything mentioned thus far. Alternatively, opting for stealth was time-consuming and no more rewarding. Guns aren’t really an option if you’re trying to sneak and vice versa. It would have made plenty more sense if stealth allowed skipping the guards, but beating the mission requires killing everything. A couple sections of the game encouraged mindless killing sprees on the city map. Surprisingly, these were the most fun parts, and I can’t help but feel this was how Riskers was meant to be played. I only discovered these segments twice, unfortunately.
“Riskers hinted at a much better ending through participating in city activities, but the fun factor—or lack thereof—discouraged my trying again.”
What probably hurts combat overall is how easy it is to die. I was constantly looking at the map with a shred of paranoia, afraid that enemies might see me first and send me back to the checkpoint. The moment they pop up on screen is the same moment they’re liable to kill you in one shot. Riskers might have benefited immensely by upping the health bar a bit and dropping items for recovery. Whatever the case, the difficulty wasn’t justified by the fun factor.
So, there’s your taste of combat. How about the driving? Driving in Riskers is fine but it’s not exactly a wild ride. You drive in the city; cars are convenient for getting to the next objective – it’s a nice feature. But the missions that require driving simply fail to impress. The way traffic is terrible in the real world, traffic in Riskers is immersive and will drive you mad (no pun intended). For this reason, missions that require beating a time limit very much depend on how many cars are on the road. This random roll of the dice can make or break the mission. You’ll want to restart as soon as you crash—except there are no restart buttons until you effectively fail.
Where there was potential in the combat, the driving, and the story, the design disappoints on all fronts. Cars are useful but not all that fun; Combat is engaging and brings a nice array of weapons, but it’s repetitive and exploitable as all hell (the only way it’s not ridiculously hard is if you exploit it); lastly, the story lacks enough depth to be satisfying.
Riskers hinted at a much better ending through participating in city activities, but the fun factor—or lack thereof—discouraged my trying again. From what I already experienced, the extra time investment would improve nothing. Too often, a mission that required a rage-inducing amount of tries delivered no more than a single comic strip as the payoff -The comic strip would be nothing more than a series of lines telling me where to kill more people. Rinse and repeat.
Music notwithstanding, Riskers lacks the character of its peers. There’s a big city in which I can steal cars and shoot bystanders, but there’s not much else. The narrative may have helped the game standout, but there’s not enough there to have an impact.
*** PC key provided by the publisher ***
- Decent combat
- Variety of weapons
- Good music
- Encouraging level of freedom
- Very repetitive
- Exploitable AI
- Lackluster story
- Large but shallow world