Receiver was originally made for the 7 Day FPS Challenge, a challenge that entails making an FPS within a week (shocking, I know). Wolfire, the developers of Lugaru and Overgrowth, came up with Receiver – an FPS devoted to gun mechanics and bullet physics.
It’s evident from the first seconds of the game that Receiver is unique. You’re dropped into a dystopian, gray building with a randomly selected weapon and gear, tasked with collecting 11 tapes.
These tapes explain the nature of a Receiver (you) and reveal the brief storyline that runs in the background as you continue to sneak around the complex. Ammo is scattered around the randomly generated, chunk-based level, and you’ll need to collect as many bullets as you can if you don’t want to run out of ammunition at a typically inopportune moment.
In Receiver, your gun is your best friend and a great deal of care was put into making said weaponry behave realistically. You can’t just reload with the press of a key, instead it’s closer to six key presses and is likely to be more. The guns in Receiver are highly detailed and require realistic operation, so to reload you need to:
- Remove the magazine from the pistol by pressing E.
- Press ` to put the pistol in your inventory.
- Tap Z to push bullets into the mag until it is full.
- Press ` again to get your gun back out.
- Push Z to load the mag into the pistol.
- Press R to pull the slide back and chamber a bullet.
- You’re ready to fire!
Those are instructions just for one of the game’s guns, of which there are three: the Colt 1911, the S&W Model 10 “Victory” Revolver, and the Glock 17. Each gun operates slightly differently, with the Revolver being the outlier of the three, and each of them works like they do in real life.
It sounds more complicated than it is, as the game gives you the necessary help to get to grips with the weaponry and inventory system. If you press the question mark on your keyboard a list of the available commands will appear on screen with the relevant ones you need to use at that moment highlighted.
It’s genuinely interesting (at least to me who has no experience with real guns) to see how the weaponry works and, more importantly, it actually adds a lot to the game experience. You can’t just wander around shooting things all willy-nilly when you need to conserve and manage your ammunition.
Anything you can pick up glows in Receiver, which makes it all stand out against the oppressively eerie complex you’re sneaking your way through, so provided you look in all the corners you’re bound to find something useful (read: bullets and tapes). That is unless you’re unlucky, as the placement of supplies and tapes is random and changes every time you restart.[drop]It won’t be too long before you wander into the path of the game’s two enemies; turrets and taser robots, with turrets being the easier of the two to tackle. You can spot a turret by the blue light that shines in the direction it is looking. If you’re caught in that light it’ll turn red and the turret will unleash a torrent of bullets in your direction. The slightest hit and you will drop quickly; even if the hit itself doesn’t kill you the blood loss that comes as a result won’t take too long to finish you off.
The taserbots are far more dangerous than the turrets. These things hover high in the air scanning the ground below them and, if you’re caught in its blue spotlight, it will hurtle towards you with its taser sparking. When it inevitably gets you you’re dead.
Fortunately, a taserbot is pretty easy to kill when it’s not aware that you’re there, but the moment it starts its beeline towards you all pretence of professionalism goes out of the window as you run around shooting in its general direction like a moron, just hoping you manage to shoot it down before it takes you out.
What’s really interesting about Receiver’s enemies, however, is the way you defeat these enemies. Both the turrets and the taserbots are made up of separate components and you can disable each component individually with a well placed bullet.
For example, if you shoot out a turret’s targeting system it’ll go about its day but won’t be able to see you. If you damage it’s firing mechanism it will aim at you threateningly but be unable to shoot, whereas if you shoot the hinge that allows it to move its aim up or down it’ll be unable to keep its gun up, instead staring down harmlessly at the ground.
Likewise, you can shoot a taserbot out of the sky and it can still be alive on the ground, sparking its taser as you draw near, but ultimately harmless unless you’re careless enough to get too close.[drop2]The detailed gun mechanics, the tactical combat, the game’s generally dull, gray aesthetic and even the way you sprint (tapping W repeatedly) combine to form an experience that is more than the mere sum of its parts; a remarkably tense ordeal where the next corner could be hiding the ammo you so desperately need or the turret that will end your life. The beeping noise that both enemies make when they spot you will become a panic-inducing sound that could very well be the last thing you hear before the zapping or gunfire that inevitably finishes you off.
I rarely panic in a game, but when I wandered into a room as carefully as possible and still heard that beeping and the whirring of a taserbot I jumped out of my skin and lost any semblance of order. I wasn’t running away, of course, it was simply a tactical retreat whilst I regained my bearings; a sound battle plan had I not randomly sprayed my mag all over the room.
Conversely, after a half hour or so when you can become so adept with the gun mechanics that you can almost reload without thinking about it. When your new found skills allow you to take out a taserbot with one well placed bullet a split second before it reaches you the feeling of accomplishment is considerably higher than any set piece in a AAA first person shooter.
Once again the permadeath, randomised roguelike influence is here in full force and it raises the game far above what it would be otherwise. This, combined with the deadly enemies, makes Receiver a tense adrenaline rush. While it may have started out as an experiment with realistic guns, it has become an effective, unique game with a hook that simply can not be found elsewhere.