Reviewed on PC, copy supplied by publisher.
Building on what made Hotline Miami great and then drenching it in cyberpunk goodness was always going to make for an memorable title, and RUINER definitely doesn’t disappoint in that respect. One of the most addictive and gripping games I’ve played this year, RUINER is an adrenaline filled sci-fi adventure that doesn’t pull any punches.
The dingy dystopian aesthetic of RUINER is probably what will grab your attention first, next up the banging soundtrack will thump into your skull and prepare you for the slaughter ahead, finally the gripping anime style plot will keep you yearning for more. Not merely a simplistic top-down shooter, this game is very much a triple threat, with plot, visuals and character building all keeping you hooked for the duration.
Playing as a sociopath with memory problems who is guided by a mysterious hacker, the plot takes you from the bottom slums of Rengkok city, all the way to Heaven (which is a skyscraper owned by your standard naughty sci-fi corporation). Along the way you encounter colourful characters, savage gangs and murderous AI, as well as a few plot twists and turns. The main driving factor is recovering your kidnapped brother, giving the pacing a nice tinge of desperation and revenge as you mow down hundreds of lackeys and criminals.
To turn humans into their basic components you have a range of weapons, with great melee and ranged options available. Each can be applied under different circumstances, and when applied correctly can cause absolute devastation – like mowing down poorly armored street thugs with a katana, or churning through AI armour with a shotgun. RUINER is extremely fast paced, and to make sure your limited health doesn’t get depleted requires you to make full use of dashes and evasive movements. Although you might have played a million games like this before, there’s a lot to learn to master this title, even if the mechanics feel familiar.
Cutting down enemies into pulp and viscera isn’t just mindless carnage, RUINER requires a lot of planning and lightning quick reactions in the heat of battle. Rather than just giving you a gun and letting you have at your enemies, there are a range of abilities at your disposal to help you take on the scumbags populating Rengkok.
From shields and regen abilities, to dashes and mind control, there’s a lot for you to take in. However, you can’t equip everything at once, so attributing your limited skill points for maximum efficiency takes a bit of juggling before and after sections. You can seamlessly undo upgrades, allowing full customisation of your unlocked perks to match your strategy. It’s not something I’ve seen done much before, and it really works to the game’s advantage.
Each faction you encounter will come at you differently, meaning you’ll need to plan for upcoming battles with your loadout. As with most games in this genre, there is a lot of trial and error involved, and due to the extreme difficulty of certain sections, error is going to be rearing its head a lot. In fact I’d go so far as to say RUINER is almost too hard, even on its easiest setting. Some of the bosses dish out such devestating damage that it can take either extreme luck or reflexes of a coked up cat to survive.
It would be great to say that figuring out the exact loadout needed to take advantage of a boss’ weakness does the trick, however it only alleviates some of the difficulty. For instance, one boss who has extreme speed requires you to use the slow motion ability so you can put shots on him, but even then he still dishes out so much damage it took me at least an hour to defeat him.
When you’re not cursing the brutally hard nature of the game, there are side missions and a little world for you to explore, which is relatively uncommon in shooters of this nature. Walking around the world and chatting to the natives, or simply watching them dance in their apocalyptic raves Zion style fleshes out the world, making it all the more memorable.
As you explore you’re bound to encounter more than one Easter egg, which is always a nice touch, and the dark humour to be found in this brutal world adds an extra endearing – if not occasionally disturbing – element.
For completionists, you are graded after each level, so there’s plenty of revisiting to be done if you want to nail the coveted S+ ranking after each encounter.
As with most Devolver Digital published titles, this is an indie game with more to it than meets the eye. Using time tested top-down shooter mechanics, developers Reikon have created something both familiar and innovative that will appeal to almost anyone with thumbs and an interest in sci-fi. Oh, and a stomach for blood and gore won’t go amiss either.
RUINER is out now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.