Categorizing a game in a certain genre by using similar mechanics that are expected and sought after while creating a unique story or innovative gameplay is totally acceptable. The issues start to surface once that genre becomes oversaturated with titles that are attempting to stand out, the only true difference being the wrapping paper it comes in. When narrowing down the topic to First Person Shooters (FPS), we find ourselves faced with the genre that holds the title for champion of oversaturation. No matter how awe-inspiring the story is, or how different the gameplay feels, there is only so much one can do to stand out in this market. At the end of the day, you are still shooting at enemies in a first-person view. That being said, games like Borderlands, Fallout, and FarCry are able to break away from being labeled as another FPS clone due to the quality of the game and the elements they integrated from other genres.
Running with Rifles by Modulaatio Games took the bold challenge of attempting to be a title one will remember by doing things completely opposite. Instead of being an FPS that adds elements from different genres, they decided to take a basic FPS concept, a war game, and transfer it into a top-down, Real Time Strategy (RTS) setting. While staying true to all the classic FPS war games before it, Running with Rifles tried to take the mechanics commonly seen in its home genre and travel to unexplored lands. In many ways the game succeeded, providing countless hours of battlefield mayhem, but equal forces of the opposing nature caused it to wind up stranded in the middle of blood-stained desert sand, the waters of salvation barely out of reach.
In Running with Rifles, you are a soldier fighting for one of three factions: the BrownPants, GreenBelts, or GrayCollars. As for why these factions are fighting, that is something left floating aimlessly in the air. This simple question became a concern of mine during an online match, 20 minutes into a large-scale confrontation over control of a hospital. The game never tells the tales of these opposing nations, but one must have some motivation as to why a war of this magnitude would break out. One of my fellow allies in that online match told me it was due to the type of tree nuts that each country preferred. This at least helped my mind put the brutal slaughtering into context.
On the start menu, you have an option to play a single player campaign mode. I instantly expected a light-hearted story with political elements to it, something to give me a reason to play through this game mode. At the start of the mission, a dialog box showed up at the top left corner of the screen, giving me orders on which section of the map to capture first, and off I went. Aside from updates on which sections I should defend or attack, and the occasional side missions, the only story interaction I had was random conversations with my fellow soldiers. These conversations would range from “OMG BOMB” to “fall back.” Man, it sure was lonely out on that battlefield after my allies died from a grenade to the face.
With the definition of Campaign being a series of events or missions, Running with Rifles was able to sidestep adding a story. Regardless, from this mode I found some enjoyment out of learning the maps, getting a handle on the flow of the game, while destroying enemy AI that was placed into my crosshairs. Without a story to hold my attention, my mind constantly drifted to the online mode, the only thought on my mind being “Man, this would be fun against/with other players.”
Running with rifles is a top-down RTS game that plays like most First Person Shooter (FPS) titles. Your mission is pretty straightforward; gain control of the entire map by capturing “sectors,” or maintain control of the main base for a pre-determined amount of time. The main mission depends on the map you find yourself in. The way you move your soldier is by using the classic WASD control. Aiming and firing is done with the mouse, which I had no complaints with. The various other controls caused my fingers to venture into unnatural positions, forcing me to reconfigure the key-mappings. Once that was figured out, I quickly familiarized myself to playing a FPS style game in a top-down format. I appreciated the range of sight that I had of my surroundings, and the overall style of gameplay seemed to flow seamlessly with this genre. I feel like a first person perspective makes sense when playing this type of game, since the only viewpoint available to a real life soldier is what they can see with their own two eyes. I am lucky enough to be experiencing a war scenario in the comfort of my own home, and my enjoyment from this game was generated from the gameplay itself, not the realism it provoked.
Gaining control of the entire map is a daunting task. The constant stream of bullets racing past you, bombs exploding in every direction, and the cannon fire from armored tanks don’t make your job any easier. In order to succeed in achieving victory, solid teamwork and coordination is essential. Completing optional side-quests are welcomed assets that can be used to tip the flow of battle into your favor. These side-quests include seeking missions where you spot vehicles and structures that will be seen by your allies once you succeed, destroying various structures that will grant your army advantages, rescue missions that will increase your unit count for a brief amount of time, and retrieving assets like briefcases, that will improve your armory. Adding this feature into the game provides multiple strategic opportunities, while having the bonus effect of breaking up the repetitive ‘defend and attack’ tactics that the game is structured around.
Even with the addition of side-quests, the appeal of the game started to dwindle away, shining a light on the main issue this game runs across. The main reason why FPS titles fair so well is due to the immersive effect they offer due to their realistic feel. Like I said previously, I enjoy the approach they took with this title, love the style of gameplay, and most importantly, I respect them for taking a risk and venturing into new territory. I feel like the game is great, and could see myself enjoying quick matches with my friends on occasion. I just failed in finding the desire to spend countless hours playing during a single session. There are many ways to provide an immersive experience for RTS titles, but Running with Rifles failed to do so for me.
Online mode 3/5
RWR was built for online play. The online modes allow you to work with other players to conquer a map against the AI, or team up with other players to take down another army with player-controlled units. Either way, there is something magical about adding that social mechanic to any game. Plus, there is always elation that comes from killing a player-controlled unit that you’re unable to feel when competing against computers. Running with Rifles did a great job at allowing you to communicate with your allies, which made the experience enjoyable. You can either type a message to your allies, or to both your allies and your enemies but clicking either of the two buttons you assigned to the task. Your messages appeared on the top left side of the screen. I liked that placement since it is easy to ignore the conversations if you only wanted to focus on the game.
The major issue I had with the online mode was the inconsistant time-frame for each match. I am a huge fan of DOTA 2 and other MOBAs, which proves that I’m familiar with online matches that can take an hour to complete. When a fan of a MOBA’s goes on record saying that the matches can drag out, you know there is a problem. The first match I entered only lasted 10 minutes, because we rushed their base and it was a smaller map. The second game that I played lasted close to two hours before I logged out. At the time of me throwing in the towel, there has been no progress in terms of someone controlling the entire map. I was told by people playing the match that some games can last over 4 hours, at times double that depending on the situation.
In the game’s defense, when you queue for an online match, you jump into whatever battle is taking place on that server, and the game is designed to allow the player to leave the battlefield by signing out whenever they so choose. Being the type of person that enjoys playing a game or match from start to finish, this system played mind games with me. I got lucky and was able to start a match from the start of the battle. Two hours in, I wanted to feel the sweet taste of victory or be shattered in the face of defeat. I attempted to will myself further, but tiredness and boredom got the better of me. I know some people may love playing a single match for four plus hours, but I’m not one of them. Since I know there are people out there crazy enough to relish in this type of set-up, I will remain neutral in my judgement.
Running with Rifles surprised me in many ways, attempting to prove that FPS games can cross over into other genres properly. There is a lot of potential into this line of thinking, and I’m curious to see if other developers attempt to expand on this line of thinking. I feel RWR did a lot of things right, and I am positive that a lot of people will find countless hours of enjoyment playing this game online. Since there are a lot of others like me out there that don’t have the time to invest hours into one single match, and others that enjoy having some type of story mode incorporated into their games, this is a title that will only appeal to a select group of gamers. I feel like I would still enjoy playing this game whenever I have time to kill and want to get my war fix, regardless of my opinions towards the title. For that reason, I will give Running with Rifles 3 grenades to the face out of 5. If you would like to check this game out for yourself, you can find it here.