RICO places you in the well worn and rather clichéd shoes of cops working on the outside edges of the law. Rather like the A-Team, if there’s a job that needs doing and the official channels are going to take too long, the RICO crew are sent in to solve the problem, and by that I mean they shoot every bad guy they can find.
The game has three modes, a single level quick Operation, Lockdown, which is a horde mode, and Case Files, the campaigns. Rather than plough through the same maps repeatedly, you’re busting into procedural generated buildings so you never know what’s going to be round the corner. However, the action follows a single repetitive loop: smash a door down to activate bullet time, down as many enemies in the room as you can whilst in slow motion, then mop up the rest in real time. Once the room is cleared you can check for objectives like evidence recovery and computer terminals that need destroying, but then it’s on to the next door and more slow motion head shots.
That is really it. There’s nothing big of complicated about the game – one of the hints on the loading screens even states “Kick doors, kill men”. There are a few nuances, as some levels will have a high value boss target you need to kill, and once you have completed your objectives you have to run for the exit as fast as possible as henchmen stream in from all angles, but mechanically the game is basic and repetitive. Thankfully the gun play is really good. Pulling off head shots is immensely satisfying and sliding through a door in slow motion and firing a burst of bullets into a henchman’s crotch never gets boring.
The weapons in RICO remind me of the thumping, weighty guns in the classic PS2 shooter Black, or perhaps those of Killzone. They have real heft, sound great, and seem just a little overpowered to make you feel completely badass. You start with a standard pistol, but can spend the merits you’ve earned from objectives on shotguns, assault rifles, grenades, attachments, health kits, and armour.
When playing a Case File campaign, you can’t just run and gun as you’ll end a level without any merits and end up woefully outgunned for your next objective. You have to take time to study the map and work out the best route through the building. If you do get knocked out you can use you a med kit to revive yourself, but run completely out of health and that’s it, case closed. Hand in your badge, your guns, merits and restart the case from scratch.
It’s a challenging game, but I never felt my death was unfair; you die because you have not been paying attention to how many bullets you have left in your clip or because you’ve not cleared out every nook and cranny of every room.
Happily the game includes online and split screen mode and teaming up with a partner really adds to the buddy-cop movie vibe. You have to time your breaches to gain the slow motion bonus so working together is best, but if you’re feeling lucky (punk), you can split off and try and clear the building as fast as possible, both of you going lone wolf. Just beware that friendly fire is on so you really need to make sure of your targets before firing.
The art style reminds me of XIII, another classic PS2 shooter. It’s crisp and colourful with extravagant spurts of blood splashing across the screen, and there’s also a limited amount of destructible environment to let you blow a hole through a chipboard wall and surprise the goon on the other side. That said, with just a few level themes, the mix of office blocks, mansions and warehouses start to merge into one very quickly.
When there’s a lull in the action it is unnervingly silent, but it’s not long before weapons thud and crash through the speakers. These are some of the few sounds in the game. There’s no music and, outside of the odd grunt, the enemies don’t say a word. It would have been nice if they had a few phrases to shout so it felt like you were attacking real bad guys rather than a gang of mildly nefarious mime artists.
Unfortunately there is one annoying problem that RICO has in common with far too many games made in Unity. Yep, it’s the frame rate. For the most part it’s perfectly fine, but slo-mo slide into a room packed full of enemies and it’s got more jerk than a Jamaican grilled chicken. It’s not game breaking, but it’s quite noticeable even on a PS4 Pro, and lining up a head shot gets tricky when your gun is skittering across the screen.