I found Plastic Piranha's Rekoil tucked away in a small and surprisingly crowded booth on the PAX 2013 show floor. We've covered the title before, but this was our first opportunity to lay hands on mouse and keyboard for a test drive. What I played was a competent first-person shooter that strips away the glitter of perks and scorestreaks to focus on competitive play.
Jumping into the game, players are asked to choose one of six classes: assault, recon, shotgunner, heavy gunner, sniper, and rocketeer. From there, the loadout menu offers approximately 40 different guns, all of which will be available on day one this fall. There are currently 10 maps available to choose from, and we saw a bombed out warehouse and a lumber yard. Both feature an element of verticality, forcing players to not only peer around corners, but keep their eyes up.
Those who prefer to fight from long range will be happy to know that there are great vantage points in the maps. However, all of them are equally exposed. After a kill or two, enemies will likely get smart thanks to the killcam. The play feels well-tuned, and the map design offers many different lanes while still being quite navigable for new players. Put another way, even for someone like me who is terrible at PC first-person shooters, it was a lot of fun.
Rekoil's battlegrounds are no accident. Plastic Piranha CEO Jason Brice has an extensive track record of smart map design. When he was working in advertising, he spent his off hours modding. He cracked the Battlefield 2 editor and made those maps work with Battlefield 2142. DICE took notice and from 2142's 1.25 update through the end of its support cycle, Brice was on board helping. He is responsible for Strike at Karkand, Yellow Knife, and Operation Shingle ports, among others.
DICE even offered Brice a job, but he didn't want to uproot and move to Sweden. Instead, he started his own company, Plastic Piranha. Once deciding that he wanted his game on Unreal Engine 3, it was a matter of finding the right people to build Rekoil.
"In took eight months to get the team solidified," Brice says. "We've been working on Rekoil for three years, two of which were in production." Brice tells us that Call of Duty 4's pro mode, which removes perks and kill streaks, is the inspiration for Rekoil's approach. The game is in very late beta right now, with a targeted October release on PC and Xbox Live.
The team is currently nineteen people, with seven now working on the studio's next project as the remaining staff push ahead toward Rekoil's release. "Skype is our office, even though we do have a space," Brice says. "We're an international team."
On PC, Rekoil ships with a full suite of mod tools and eSports support, including first-person and free-roam spectate modes. Twitch is integrated into the menu and can be activated with one button. "We're focusing on eSports, because it drives such passion amongst the player base," says Plastic Piranha business development parter and strategist Kevin Dent.
Rekoil launches with seven game types: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the briefcase, domination, hold the briefcase, search and destroy, and the hidden. The latter is a Half-Life 2 mod that cloaks one player, who is the target of the others. He/she is only visible as a shimmer when running, but the rest of the players get visual cues to let them know when the hunter is close by. The colors slowly desaturate and then invert based on proximity. Whomever kills the hidden player takes over.
Post-launch support will come directly from Plastic Piranha, but the community will have opportunities to contribute to the map selection. There will be contests for themed map design, and the best will be pushed out to players in future updates. Because Xbox Live doesn't support modding, the best of the PC maps will be bundled and distributed via DLC.
"We can't wait for people to play it," Brice says. Rekoil releases this October for $14.99.