Reviewed on PC
In RICO you play as a cop, enlisted into a secretive task force to get jobs done quickly with little to no questions asked so you can take down the crime lords running the city. You’ve been selected because you’re the kind of cop that wears clichés for trousers, one who does not play by the rules but gets results, nonetheless. Thankfully, in this new job as part of RICO, it’s now in your job description to wear those comfy cliché trousers and not to stop and ask questions. It’s a win-win.
Should you accept a case to take down a crime lord, you’ll be given 24 hours to get the job done. In that time, you’ve got to work your way through his various grunts and lieutenants, completing objectives and earning merits to buy equipment from a random assortment after each mission. Thankfully, the mission structure is an interconnecting web with only a defined start and end point, so you’re free to either chase directly after the boss or grind up merits by going after everyone else to get the weapons you want.
The choice that’s given by the randomly generated mission structure is a welcome one, letting you pick and choose where you want to go and how hard you want it to be, rather than being forced down just one path. Unfortunately, even with the paired procedural level generation, the locations for missions quickly become repetitive as there’s only a few styles available. Because of this, whilst every level feels different thanks to the ever-changing layout, they still ultimately feel the same and repetitive over time, which tends to leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Thankfully, its not the level design which is meant to hook you into playing RICO. Instead, that’s the stylish cel-shading and bombastic combat that makes it feel like you’re playing a schlocky 80s cop B-movie. And, quite frankly, it’s brilliant. The combat of RICO is nothing more than pure dumb fun, letting you slide through doors, killing anyone you come into contact with as though your legs are made out of lasers. For anyone you don’t touch with your death legs upon entering the room, you’ll be able to wipe them out easily, as you’re also given a generous window of slow motion as soon as you knock a door down.
RICO comes into its own in slow motion. Every gun in your arsenal immediately sounds punchier when the world slows down, which makes each shot more visceral and powerful, letting you feel more like a badass as you clear each room. This all comes on top of the fact that slow motion is inherently cool already. Since this slow motion happens each time you open a door, it makes every new fight feel increasingly more epic as you dramatically explode into each new room. Even after the slow-mo runs out, the gameplay doesn’t become stale, as the firefights change to being intense and action-packed. This brings a whole new dimension to the combat as you clear up who is left in a room.
Even whilst the intensity of the normal speed combat can be enjoyed, it feels like RICO was not meant to be played this way. Instead, it feels like you should be cleaning a room almost entirely in slow motion. This is because everything feels far weaker in comparison when out of slow motion – many of the guns lose all of their punch, leaving them incredibly unsatisfying and boring to use. Others even seem to break entirely, as their firing rhythm practically ceases to exist.
Thankfully, the only time you should have to deal with this odd feeling speed in combat is when dealing with reinforcements, which keep you moving through the level. However, when they do appear, they can be a major pain to deal with. Not only will they start firing as soon as they have a line of sight on you to chip away at your health, as you would expect, but they will do this from the shadows that encompass every room you’re not in, thanks to the weird lighting engine which will sometimes leave you not knowing what’s even shooting you. Thankfully, these encounters will only happen once or twice a mission compared to the 20+ slow-mo breaches you’ll end up doing on some of the larger levels, but they still manage to put a downer on things.
Even whilst RICO is incredibly enjoyable to play, it is let down by the lack of any music in the levels. As soon as you are out of any of the menus there’s nothing to accompany you aside from the sounds of gunfire and screaming as the melee units completely forget the meaning of stealth. Whilst this does give the missions a more tactical and realistic feel, it betrays the B-movie shlock that is built up so perfectly elsewhere.
The lack of music is not a huge detracting factor in its own right if you’re just playing through the game. However, should you ever put your own music alongside the action then you’ll quickly realise the trick that RICO is missing out on. In RICO’s trailers, for instance, there’s hip-hop tracks playing that perfectly set up the tone for the game. As any good trailer should do, the music also perfectly syncs up with the action to have the protagonist popping heads to the beat of the song, which looks really badass in the door-breaching-slow-mo. When you get into the game, however, there’s no charm or rhythm of the combat, leaving it feeling flat.
RICO is a charming game little game which is good fun to play if you can overlook some of its flaws. The slow motion combat and the weighted feel of the shooting makes the game shine, and will keep you playing even through repetitive levels and the lack of sound. If you loved the slow motion from Max Payne and thought SWAT needed to be just a little bit more silly, then you’ll certainly enjoy your time with RICO, so pick it up on Steam.