Game Review: Total Recoil (PS Vita)

Game Review

Total Recoil is an arcade twin stick third person shoot ’em up action game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. The game is an improved port of the iOS version, which itself was released across all territories on November 15th 2012 and on May 23rd 2013 for Android devices.

There are two game modes with only one being available from the start, which is of course the story mode, but that is not a bad thing at all as it allows Total Recoil to focus on its best attribute, which is undoubtedly the fun factor. Total Recoil is all about the fun factor as it states from the very beginning that stories are for wimps and that there are only two rules to Total Recoil with the first rule being that you must shoot everything that moves and the second rule that you must shoot everything that doesn’t. Based upon those two rules, it is rather easy to immediately notice that the game won’t have much of a story to it and is purely all about the action. The fun gains further intensity from the unlockable survivor mode, which tasks you to eliminate wave after wave of enemies.

Alongside the story and survivor modes there are a set of challenges consisting of killing a set number of enemies; destroying a set number of crates, barrels and turrets; and calling in an artillery strike. As there are only three challenges available at any given time; if you believe any of the challenges are too difficult and seem impossible to achieve, then you can skip onto the following challenge for 5,000 bucks of the in-game currency. The challenges are executed just as well and are somewhat reminiscent of those found in Jetpack Joyride in regards to achieving the appropriate balance between providing a genuine challenge, while remaining lots of fun and adding a further layer to the gameplay.

An additional approach of keeping the game as fresh, fun and insane as possible is provided by killing sprees, which are displayed upon the screen and via the announcer to tell you how many enemies you have killed or destroyed within a very short period of time. The killing sprees include: +1, double kill, triple kill, rampage, awesome and outstanding, followed by another outstanding kill for as long as you are able to keep the chain of kills together. The higher the killing spree results in more artillery strike options as your reward between planes, tanks and sentry guns.

The levels are spread across eight mission dossiers which open with a single simple tutorial mission called boot camp that will introduce all of the elements of the game from the controls to the weapons and beyond, which you must complete before accessing the real missions. After the initial tutorial, each of the remaining seven mission dossiers contains six levels totalling an impressive forty-two levels set amongst varying environments from oil rigs to jungles and even train yards. In addition to the seven mission dossiers; there are also unlockable mission dossiers consisting of survivor based missions set amongst the backdrops of the story mode missions with wave after wave of enemies descending upon your location.

The mission select menu displays statistics for the level that you have chosen from the story mode mission dossiers across numerous details including: the difficulty rating; your personal best highest amount of kills; your personal best highest amount of waves cleared and the maximum amount of waves to be cleared; the number of medals that you have found within that particular level and the total amount of medals that can be found in that particular level and the type of enemy boss located at the end of the level, while the survivor mode mission dossiers detail the highest kills and the highest amount of waves cleared with the breakdown at the end of the survivor mode including a detailed breakdown of how many of each type of enemy you have killed. This is all helpful information as it allows you to assess your own performance and provides you with knowledge on how you can improve upon your personal best high score for each level.

Every mission has a three star system with each star awarded for completing tasks consisting of killing every enemy from all of the enemy waves within a set period of time; finding the hidden Total Recoil medal by destroying the object blocking your path with the particular gun that will only destroy it and completing the mission. The stars awarded will help you to unlock further missions from the other mission dossiers; providing a very effective method of linking all of the key areas of the game together and giving them some added importance to your progression through the game.

There is a strong variety of weapons with seven in total including: the assault rifle, flamer, chaingun, cannon, tesla gun, grenade launcher and hammerhead, alongside artillery strikes, various types of sentry turrets including a chaingun and flamer and a tank. The attributes of the weapons vary greatly with differing amounts of impact and damage dependant upon the type of weapon and how far it has been upgraded from the in-game shop. The variety and power of the weapons add to the fun factor of the game, but also add to the strategy of how you approach an area of any given mission. Whenever there are a lot of enemies descending upon you at once, you need to have a rapid fire weapon, such as the chaingun, whereas a lower enemy count can be more accurately dispatched from afar with a laser guided missile from the hammerhead.

Purchase the weapons to start with all seven of them from the beginning of the mission or wait until you collect certain weapons on particular levels, although if you have not purchased the weapons that you have collected within a level, then you will only be able to keep those weapons until the ammo has run dry. This keeps the game feeling fresh and giving you a teaser of what you could be using in each mission if you purchased the weapon. Purchasing the weapons is not only based upon your amount of currency, but also your current ranking as certain weapons are not allowed to be purchased without having a higher ranking, such as the chaingun unlocking when you reach the fifth rank, the tesla gun unlocking at rank seven and the hammerhead unlocking at rank nine.

Ranking up the soldier is based upon the stars that you have earned from successfully completing challenges with the ranks including rookie, private, private first class, corporal, corporal first class, sergeant and many more besides them.

There is also a strong variety of enemies to encounter including: foot soldiers with weapons ranging from an assault rifle to a hammerhead; planes; helicopters; sentry turrets ranging from assault rifles to flamers; remote control cars; mines and many more besides, alongside enemy bosses at the end of every level.

The in-game shop is a key feature of the game as it allows you to upgrade your loadout with the categories being split into: sale discount; weapons; killstreaks; equipment and bucks. The sale discount keeps the store looking fresh as it will randomly update the store every so often with reduced prices offering 25% off the purchase price of a weapon, killstreak or equipment. The weapons area allows you to purchase weapons from the seven available weapons once you have reached the amount of currency required and the appropriate rank and to upgrade those weapons across five upgrade purchases. The killstreak area allows you to purchase various killstreaks, such as artillery strikes; smart bombs; sentry turrets; strafe runs from planes and tanks once you have reached the amount of currency required and the appropriate rank and to upgrade those killstreaks across five upgrade purchases. The equipment area allows you to purchase a variety of equipment, such as shields; invincibility; medipacks; armour; a coin magnet; damage multiplier; extra lives; increased speed and health once you have reached the amount of currency required and to upgrade the equipment across five upgrade purchases. It is important to note that you can try out all seven of the weapons and their relevant upgrades via the in-game shop without even having attained the appropriate rank to unlock them for purchase. The try out option will provide you with a trial lasting for two minutes that will place you in a tutorial style mission in which there are no enemies, but only cardboard cut outs, crates and barrels to destroy with your chosen weapon or weapon upgrade. However, none of the killstreaks or equipment is available for a trial period.

Examples of the differences that are implemented from purchasing upgrades include: weapons inflicting more damage, having an increased range, an increased clip size and a quicker reload speed; a killstreak inflicting more damage, increasing the size of the damage area and increasing the amount of potential targets; increasing the efficiency of the armour in preventing damage; increasing the active length of time for each available shield; increasing the breadth of the area the coin magnet can draw coins from; increasing the speed of your characters’ movement and many more besides

The final area of the in-game shop is called bucks, which is in reference to the name of the in-game currency. The bucks area allows you to purchase in-game currency from your real life money via microtransactions, although it is very important to note that this is only ever required if you want to skip far ahead with your purchases and upgrades. The developers have made absolutely sure that you do not need to purchase any bucks via microtransactions unless you absolutely want to; as you can make all of your purchases and upgrades from the currency that you collect within each and every mission from the story mode and survivor mode. You can earn between 15 to 150 bucks of in-game currency by destroying barrels and crates and killing enemies during missions and when you destroy an enemy boss you can earn multiple coins worth 150 bucks each. It is perhaps the easiest to earn in-game currency in survivor mode as it is even faster paced than the story mode due to the nature of the game mode with wave after wave of enemies descending upon your position.

The difficulty level really depends upon your loadout of weapons and how effectively you have used the currency that you have collected at the in-game shop as there will certainly be occasions were a number of enemies creep up at once, so you will definitely want to prepare sooner rather than later by thinking about weapons, killstreaks and equipment upgrades between every mission.

The controls are very well explained during the boot camp mission, although a screen displaying the control configuration is lacking. The controls are well mapped with an appropriate mixture of the face buttons, touch screen and rear touch pad. The controls consist of pressing triangle to open the weapon cycle wheel to choose your weapon from your currently available arsenal; O to call for an artillery strike; X for a sentry turret; square for a strafe run; the left, right and down d-pad buttons are assigned to using a medipack, shield and invincibility; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to shoot and start to pause the game to view the current available challenges and to access the options menu. The touch screen is used as an alternative method for some of the controls that are assigned to the face buttons and d-pad, such as tapping the medipack, shield or invincibility icon situated on the top left of the screen will use the required ability; as is the case with tapping the artillery strike icon to call for an artillery strike or tapping the sentry turret icon to produce a sentry turret, while the weapon cycle icon is situated on the bottom centre of the screen and tapping the pause icon to the top left of the screen to pause the game.

However, the touch screen controls do have added applications, such as tapping the area of the screen that you want to position the artillery strike to hit once you have pressed O or tapped the artillery strike icon; tapping the area of the screen that you want to position the sentry turret once you have pressed X or tapped the sentry turret icon; using the movement of your finger to create a path for the ammo of the grenade launcher to follow once you have initially tapped the screen; tapping on coins to collect in-game currency that would otherwise be out of reach and tapping the X on the top right of messages to cancel the order of an artillery strike, sentry turret and cancelling a potential in-game purchase of an upgrade. The rear touch pad can be used instead of the touch screen for creating a path for the ammo of the grenade launcher to follow once you have initially tapped the rear touch pad with the option being customisable between the touch screen and the rear touch pad in the options menu. The left-handed control configuration available from the in-game options menu allows you to reverse the default controls of the left and right analogue sticks with the left analogue stick becoming the shoot button and the right analogue stick becoming the move button.

The graphics are colourful and vibrant with the environments, playable character, enemies and weapons looking as you would expect from a quality game of the twin stick shooter variety.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the main menu, options menu and in-game shop, although it lacks any ability for navigation via the left and right analogue sticks, directional pad and face buttons. The background of the menu screens are interactive in the sense that you can touch the screen to create a bullet hole, so you can feel free to have fun spelling out the initials of your name with a maximum of sixteen bullet holes until your heart is content. The menu interactivity does not end there though as the pictures attached to each of the unlocked mission dossiers can be swung around by tilting the Vita’s gyroscope.

The audio is pretty good with various explosions and loud, exciting weaponry, alongside military themed music and a voice-over featuring the talent of the voice-over artist Tom Clarke Hill whose voice you would have definitely heard, whether you are aware of his work or not. You would have heard him previously as Sergeant Cortez in Timesplitters 2 and Future Perfect; the original voice of Sergeant Rico Valasquez in KillZone and KillZone: Liberation as well as a plethora of games such as Driver: Parallel Lines and San Francisco; Operation Flashpoint; Overlord; Sniper Elite V2; Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed; The Witcher and Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior. Tom Clarke Hill provides an excellent amusing voice-over for the announcer in the game with a series of sharp one-liners from giving instructions for the player to move out and onto the next area; when enemies are descending upon you and when you have cleared a wave of enemies to the current status of your killing spree; the name of the weapon that your character has collected and letting the player know when they have posted a new high score for a level, while the military music helps to bring the theme of the game together.

The trophy list includes fifteen trophies with thirteen bronze trophies, one silver trophy and one gold trophy. The trophies are mostly quite easy and are earned naturally through playing the game, although you may have to play through the game more than once to reach the requirements of each trophy. There are quite a few easy bronze trophies as you will earn the Gun Aficionado bronze trophy after upgrading your assault rifle from level one to level two for 5,000 bucks of the in-game currency after completing the tutorial level, which you will also receive the Earn Your Stripes bronze trophy for completing; buying all of the weapons; using fifty medipacks to heal yourself; using thirty shields to protect yourself; using twenty invincibility power ups on yourself; upgrading a single weapon, killstreak or item to the max; blowing up 1,500 red barrels and blowing up 5,000 wooden crates. While blowing up 1,500 red barrels and 5,000 wooden crates may seem like daunting figures; they do respawn once you have destroyed them, so it is something that you will naturally progress towards in every level to the amount that you personally prefer. However, there are also a couple of difficult trophies that may take considerably more time including the bronze trophy for achieving an outstanding kill combo 100 times, which consists of a killing spree of seven quick kills and the silver trophy for reaching 10,000 kills in total. I would estimate depending upon skill that it would take between five to ten hours to 100% the trophy list.

The omission of any form of multiplayer and online leaderboards was strange as the game would suit wi-fi and online co-operative play and competitive play perfectly and the online leaderboards would have kept people playing the single player game longer to achieve a higher score to gain further traction on the leaderboards.

The replayability of Total Recoil is undeniable as the challenges add a significant layer to the fun gameplay of the story and survivor modes, while the in-game shop provides a customisable experience with the amount of weapons, killstreaks and equipment available for purchase, alongside their five upgrades. While the exclusion of multiplayer and online leaderboards from the game may be surprising; it does not detract from the game as much as you may think as it still remains an excellent and fun third person arcade shoot ’em up.

Overall, Total Recoil is a fun, fast and frenetic arcade twin stick third person shooter with two game modes, challenges, upgradeable weapons and forty-two missions for only £1.99 it is easy to recommend Total Recoil for an immediate purchase, especially considering that microtransactions are not required to fund your in-game currency.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Total Recoil
  • Publisher: Eiconic
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 86Mb

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About Simon Plumbe 893 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian.Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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