In a lot of ways, ReCore feels nostalgic. This is not just a dig against its outdated graphics.
ReCore, which comes out September 13 for Xbox One and PC, is about a girl tasked with making a desert-like planet terraform into something friendlier for human life. She’s all alone, except for her robot dog … and all of the other machines that try to kill her. ReCore has a lot of starpower behind it. Keiji Inafune, who worked on the Mega Man series at Capcom, is the producer. Mark Pacini, who directed the Metroid Prime trilogy, is the director. Those are some of the most classic gaming series of all time. It’s a big shadow for this third-person shooter to try to peek out of.
This Microsoft release has some similarities to Mega Man and Metroid. It’s all about shooting and jumping, with surprising depth added with resource-gathering and crafting. Just bring a book or something to keep you busy during all of those loading times.
What you’ll like (so far)
Zelda meets Metroid meets Mega Man
When trying to explain ReCore, my brain becomes obsessed with comparing it to other games. Mega Man and Metroid are obvious because of the people behind ReCore, and you see elements of those here. The focus on shooting and platforming is similar to Mega Man, as is the reliance on so many robotic characters. The isolation and lock-on mechanics for shooting remind me of Metroid Prime, the 2002 first-person shooter for the GameCube.
What surprises me is how much Zelda is in ReCore, especially in its structure. You walk around an overworld littered with dungeons, which work here like they do in Zelda: You unlock doors, solve puzzles, fight enemies, and beat a boss.
But ReCore also has more role-playing game mechanics than those series. You and your robot friends can level up the more you fight, and enemies also drop items that you can use to craft new gear. Like how Zelda rewards exploration by giving you rupees, new items, or extra health, players can discover rare items and schematics for upgrades to their robot companions.
Lots of mechanics
Shooting and jumping in Mega Man was relatively simple. You just needed a couple of buttons. ReCore is more complicated, but its numerous systems add depth. Your main weapon is an automatic laser rifle. Every enemy has one of three color types (blue, red, or yellow). Your gun can also shoot ammo of each color (although you only start out with a neutral ammo type and have to earn the other colors). Enemies take more damage from shots of the same color and resist the others, so you’ll often have to switch your weapon type in the middle of the fight.
Your robot friends also help during battles. They fight on their own, but you can also press a button to have them do a stronger attack that’s available off a cooldown. On top of your regular shots, you can also fire a charged shot from your gun. This can stagger enemies if they’re in the middle of certain animations.
The most interesting system involves extracting enemy cores. You need them to upgrade your robots, so you’ll want to get as many as possible. You can only extract an enemy core when they’re at low health. Then, you begin a tug-of-war battle reminiscent of something you’d see in a fishing game. You want to pull back on your analog stick to rope the core in, but you’ll sever the connection if you tug for too long while your extraction cable is red.
Trying to remove a core comes at a cost. Doing so can make you vulnerable to enemy attacks, so you may only want to do it when you’re down to one enemy. Also, taking out a core from an enemy means they don’t drop any spare parts, which you need for crafting. I love that you have to make these choices.
What you won’t like (so far)
As much fun as ReCore’s been so far, it has plenty of technical problems on the Xbox One. Loading times are long. You’ll wait for more than 30 seconds every time you transition to a new loading zone, which can happen fairly regularly. Going to a new part of the map, going inside your home base, entering a dungeon, or dying will trigger these long loading zones.
ReCore isn’t the prettiest game. It’s not a graphical powerhouse. You’d probably be fooled if someone tried to pass it off as an Xbox 360 game. I really don’t mind mediocre graphics, but I do wish that such a game would at least run smoothly. Sadly, ReCore struggles to run at a steady framerate, with the action noticeably stuttering when even a few enemies are on the screen.
Conclusion (so far)
I’m sold on ReCore’s base gameplay. I love the combination of shooting and platforming, and it’s great that exploring rewards me with new items to craft for my robots. The technical struggles are disappointing, though. But it could have used some extra time to smooth the experience out.
But I’m having enough fun right now that I’m willing to work around the long loading times and sluggish framerate. We’ve seen so few 3D shooter/platformers in recent memory, I’m glad that ReCore — like a robotic dog trying to get rid of a nano-tick — is scratching that itch.
ReCore takes some of the best elements from its inspirations: the sense of exploration and discovery from Zelda, the isolation of Metroid, and the platforming/shooting gameplay of Mega Man.
ReCore is out on September 13 for Xbox One and PC. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a digital copy for this review.