Reload – Review

Title   Reload
Developer  Top3Line
Publisher  Mastiff
Platform  PC, Wii, iOS
Genre  Shooting simulator
Release Date  February 13th, 2015
Official Site

Steam’s Greenlight service is certainly an intriguing beast when you consider what it is supposed to represent. We’ve heard of plenty of horror stories of games getting through this and the Early Access program, and this combination opening the doorway for some truly awful games to enter the public domain. Adding the odd stinker or con artist has certainly made Valve tighten up its procedures on what is allowed to progress to the stages where the public can start funding some endeavours. What’s interesting is when titles manage to get through this process that seem so drab and boring that it makes you wonder why anyone would support such an enterprise. That being said, everyone has to start somewhere and it’s not that Reload is a bad game by any means – it’s just so dated.

Reload’s central theme is that of ‘realistic weapons and tactics training’ and, owing to that, there is no story to speak of. Each level is just a series of different gun ranges and scenarios for the player to interact with and experience with whatever the chosen gun is for that level.The whole thing is on-rails, so there is no independent movement to speak of at all. You can find yourself in variety of situations that require you to target stationary or moving targets, with various stipulations or rules in place which force you to adapt as the levels change. Each level is made up of a number of rounds, most commonly five, before it ends and you move onto the next. There are twenty-one levels in total, with some bonus levels that you unlock as you go through the career.

Gameplay pretty much revolves tightly around the central theme that I’ve already mentioned and doesn’t deviate from that at all. It starts as stationary targets in a standard-looking shooting range and soon moves outside with moving targets. Before long, you’re being forced into crouch and prone positions, targeting ‘pop-up’ baddies in various hostage training situations and also trying your hand at skeet shooting. Reload has the full array of ‘shooting ranges’ that you’ve heard about or may have knowledge of, and so even if the actual theme itself is pretty drab and lacking any real meaning, at least it’s done its homework and included a smattering of challenges. Some of the challenges are timed, whereas some last the length of the ‘on-rails’ section before your character essentially ‘walks back’ the length of the run for another pass, so again, there is some variety here too.

It’s a shame the shooting is pretty average throughout  the whole experience – for a game that boasts ‘realistic weapons’ players will be left wanting something much better. Insurgency, Battlefield, and ARMA all boast incredible attention to detail when it comes to realism with firearms. Even if Battlefield expresses some artistic license, at least they’re getting the basics right. With Reload, I’m treated to a wide array of weapons including pistols, machine guns, shotguns and sniper rifles – it’s just a shame that they all fire in pretty much the same fashion. I can just click on a target with the pistol to guarantee a hit most times, without much requirement to pace yourself between shots.

The machine guns and shotguns just require controlled bursts or adjusting your timing to allow for some slight recoil. Finally, sniper rifles are perhaps the biggest embarrassment, because I don’t need to aim down the sights to hit targets, practically making the concept of the weapon being a rifle, quite redundant. The biggest challenge presented with all the weapons is unfortunately deciding when to reload in order to not miss the targets and, on the matter of reloading, mapping it to anything other than ‘R’ on the keyboard seems like heresy (although mapping it to the right mouse button seems to make sense as it’s the first-person equivalent of mapping the fire button to F9).

At the end of each level you’re presented with a score based on your accuracy, target hits, and any combos or bonus targets you’ve managed to take down. It seems that, regardless of your score, you’ll progress to the next level, which is usually different from the last in terms of targets and weapons used. On occasions you may unlock different awards or medals for headshots, high scores or ammo saved but it really doesn’t matter one way or another if you do. Irritatingly, hitting some of the bonus targets can be made difficult if you’re too good at the game. If you attack and kill all other targets before the bonus one has chance to appear, the game assumes you’re done with this section and refuses to let you shoot at it, despite pausing at the screen with enough time to shoot it twice over. It’s incredibly frustrating to be punished for having faster reactions than the game can manage.

Graphics and audio are also nothing to write home about. Visually the designs are basic and are repeated quite often throughout the twenty-one levels, with the only variance coming in weapons, although these designs are not anything incredible either. The developers have tried to replicate real-world weapons but they’ve come off looking very generic and uninspiring and never once did I feel like I was handling a particular make or model of a gun. Furthermore, the audio for the weapons is fairly boring, with only some unknown metal/rock music to fill the void between gun shots. Occasionally a voice shouts reload when my gun is empty, which in terms of helpfulness is on par with shouting ‘bang’ when I fire the gun.

There isn’t really any reason to stick around with Reload once it’s done with. It took me around half an hour to do eight of the levels so you could probably do the whole game, with bonus levels, in under ninety minutes if you wanted to. The game does have a multiplayer function and there are online leaderboards to consider, but really I can’t imagine there is any point in tackling either. The multiplayer is a local ‘hot seat’ mode only for up to four players that is made largely redundant by every other local multiplayer currently available in gaming. Leaderboards are also redundant in all but the most popular of games and will likely remain mostly unchallenged for long periods of time. Unfortunately, ‘unchallenged’ is the perfect word to describe Reload from start to finish and the career mode barely qualifies as a reason for purchase, let alone the leaderboards and multiplayer.

  • A variety of locations
  • The game does work and I experienced no bugs during my time playing
  • Uninspiring gunplay
  • Poor graphics
  • Very poor audio
  • No reason to stick with it past the ninety minute mark.

At the time of writing you can purchase Reload on Steam for £4, which isn't a whole lot of money. On that basis you may consider that this is a purchase that is worth the money. The trouble is that games are discounted all the time and right now, for the same price, I can also pick up F.E.A.R and F.E.A.R 2, or Mount and Blade or The Binding of Isaac, and that's just from looking at the first page of Steam and picking four games that I'm aware of. There are over three thousand games currently under that £4 price tag, and while some of them will be on par with or worse than this title, there is plenty of evidence to suggest there will be a whole lot that are much, much better. Reload is a game that works and functions fine - it just has no place or purpose in today's market. Some people will buy it and I hope that funds the developers to go on and create new things because, at the end of the day, people have supported and encouraged this development, so they're obviously a trustworthy and respectable group by the fact there is an end product. It's just a shame it's not very good.

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