ReCore review: Can it possibly live up to the hype?

ReCore is the latest new IP from Microsoft Studios, crafted by Armature of Metroid Prime fame, and Keiji Inafune, known best for Megaman.

There's an incredible game developer pedigree that feeds into ReCore. It was penned by Joseph Staten, behind the original Halo trilogy, with designs from Keiji Inafune, known for his work at Capcom. Armature developed the game, pouring in their expertise from the wildly popular Metroid Prime series.

ReCore has enjoyed a considerable amount of hype and high expectations, tempered somewhat by the below average cost of entry. A question of quality hangs over games that ship below the usual retail price for a new, big publisher title, but I'm happy to report that ReCore's price point speaks to the game's value, rather than any lack of ambition.

Setting and Story

Far Eden

ReCore takes place in a futuristic universe where humanity has mastered space travel. The game's protagonist, the wonderfully designed Joule, is part of a team on their way to Far Eden, a planet being prepped for terraforming (the process of using machines to make a dead planet capable of sustaining life). A vicious Dust Devil virus plagues humanity back on Earth and procuring new worlds forms part of the game's desperate and tragic plot.

Unfortunately for Joule, she awakes from cryo-sleep to discover her team missing, and her robotic workforce gone. The varied Corebots and Corebytes have gone rogue, and for reasons unknown to Joule, seek her destruction at every opportunity.

I'm going to leave spoilers firmly out of this review because the mystery of ReCore is one of the greatest pillars of the game's delivery. ReCore's story unravels through cut-scenes, narrative voice-overs, and audio logs that have been scattered around the game's world. As intriguing as ReCore's story is, it's not the best part of its narrative.

Joule's relationship with her robotic companions is enthralling. Each Core has a unique personality, and the way Joule interacts with them speaks of a world where A.I. is commonplace. There's undoubtedly a Star Wars vibe embedded deep in ReCore. Her relationship with Mack, Seth and Duncan is unashamedly reminiscent of the likes of R2D2 and BB-8 — these robots communicate in a machine language that Joule can understand, but it isn't translated for you. Despite the Corebot's lack of human speech and facial expressions, they impart a tremendous amount of personality through their behavior and interactions with Joule. ReCore's characters are easily among the greatest we've seen this generation so far.

The teams at Comcept and Armature did a fantastic job in bringing these characters to life, instantly making me feel emotionally invested in their plight. I only wish we were given more scenes to show how they interact with Joule and each other, because they represent some of the game's greatest moments.

Visuals and Design

Lonely Planet

I want to get this out of the way first: ReCore doesn't come across like a big budget game. From the few in-game cut-scenes to the game's desolate environments, it's quite clear to me now why this isn't a fully priced title. The overworld, in its entirety, takes place in a barren, almost featureless desert. ReCore's environments lack variety in a way that reminded me of Mass Effect 1's planetary landings. Enormous expanses of barren terrain, albeit dotted with dungeons, roaming robots, with a smorgasbord of opportunities to uncover secrets.

ReCore's landscapes are at least conceptually impressive. Gigantic, abandoned terraforming platforms rend the ground, monolithic alien rock formations arc through the sky, and the game's incredible sound track adds a sobering, lonely atmosphere to the game's extra-terrestrial wastes. The problem isn't with the environment's design, per se, it's just the lack of variety, the sense of copy and paste, and the creeping feeling that ReCore was developed by a small team on a comparatively small budget.

Beyond the incredible character designs, and the detailed — and often harrowing — enemy robot models, ReCore's environment sports some pretty disappointing texturing at times. Either there are issues with the game's engine that prevent some items from fully loading in, or it's symptomatic of designing a massive overworld on a budget. ReCore is not The Witcher 3's detailed open world, complete with sweeping, dynamic weather systems or day and night cycles, but it instead an incredibly vertical playground, designed to play second fiddle to the game's rapturously fun gameplay.

ReCore has a menagerie of deadly bossbots desperate to murder Joule.

Sure, ReCore might be dull to look at, but at least from a gameplay standpoint, the areas are well designed. There are tons of ways to climb, swoop, soar, leap and platform your way to extreme heights, vacuuming up all the secrets and loot as you go. The pleasure of figuring out how to traverse the terrain, how to get up to that secret just out of reach makes me feel that the developers deserve praise for investing well in what matters most in ReCore: its gameplay.

Gameplay

Bot blasting, core hunting, Joule duelling

ReCore's gameplay sports some excellent concepts that fill the RPG gap in the Xbox One exclusive line-up, but the game isn't without flaws.

When it comes to pure combat, ReCore absolutely shines. ReCore is one of the most fun third-person shooters I've ever played. The synergy between Joule and her robotic companions permeates every layer of play. In combat, it's not enough to simply lock on and hold down the trigger. Joule has to constantly perform double jumps, aerial dashes and capitalize on stunned enemy states to survive. Towards the end of the game, combat becomes so utterly hectic, that refining your playstyle, and developing your Corebot's stats and equipment becomes even more crucial.

At the start of the game, I was preparing to write that ReCore was too patronizingly easy, but as you progress, that sense of ease washes away quickly. Overcoming ReCore's most complicated moments is an incredibly rewarding experience, as it tests your reflexes, and both your capacity to plan ahead and to react to the evolving state of play.

When you master ReCore's addictive combat, you will find it difficult to put down.

ReCore's enemies are color-coded. Using the directional pad, you can swap the effect and color of your weapon to match the core of the enemies you are battling. Red causes fire damage and causes targets to burn, blue causes lightning damage and stuns, and so on, dealing more damage to matching foes. As the game progresses, you will be faced with multiple types of enemies creating all manner of area hazards, creating highly demanding, but highly rewarding combat scenarios.

Every time an enemy loses a health segment, you gain a combo modifier. This can stack up extremely high, raising Joule's damage output. Timing charge shots — your companion bot's lethal attacks — to coincide with combo opportunities is what makes ReCore's combat so utterly fun. When you reach highest combo levels you'll be able to instantly rip the core out of an enemy, causing a slow motion instakill explosion, and it's pure satisfaction. When you master ReCore's addictive combat, you will find it difficult to put down.

ReCore is unreservedly an RPG. Enemies have levels, as does Joule's weapon, in addition to her Corebot companions. Not only that, but as you play you accrue all sorts of blueprints and loot items designed to help you develop your minion's capabilities. If you rush through the game without battling your way through the game's optional dungeons, without exploring the overworld, you will eventually hit a point where enemies become too strong for you to progress to the end of the story.

ReCore's dungeons are fun to explore, brimming with loot and opportunities to test your skills, but unlocking them can be very tedious.

ReCore has an open overworld, split into segments. Unlocking each section usually requires a story mission, which often comes with a new core robot complete with new tools needed to overcome new obstacles. ReCore has a Metroidvania vibe, which rewards players who backtrack to earlier areas to uncover secrets previously unavailable.

While exploring, you'll discover various types of dungeons. Traversal dungeons are platforming puzzles that come with additional rewards for speed and other side objectives, Arena dungeons force you to fight waves of enemies, and Adventure dungeons combine exploration, platforming, and battles into a more classic format. ReCore's dungeons are fun to explore, brimming with loot and opportunities to test your skills, but unlocking them can be, at times, very tedious.

ReCore's overworld is impressively vertical, with lots of exploration opportunities.

ReCore's overworld is impressively vertical, with lots of exploration opportunities.

Many of the game's dungeons require pick-ups to open, and those pick-ups can be scattered all over the place in an entirely random fashion. One optional dungeon I found required four Coreplugs to activate, but it was in the middle of a huge, huge desert. I spent an hour searching the vicinity, climbing cliffs and even digging holes with Mack, and still wasn't able to find the last plug required. Exploration fans will no doubt relish the challenge this presents, but until the information gets uploaded to the internet, if you're impatient, you might find yourself frustrated by the sense you're searching for robotic needles in a Sahara-sized haystack.

As much as I love Metroidvania gameplay, ReCore sports some odd design decisions that further hinder the format experience. You can only take two Corebots, and thus, two traversal tools with you at any one time. It makes for some frustrating exploration experiences. Far too often have I wandered for what feels like miles into the desert, only to discover I'm currently accompanied by the wrong Corebot for a particular puzzle, traversal or secret unlock.

You can teleport back to Joule's base at any time from the start menu to switch up your crew, but when you combine that with ReCore's long overworld load times and the fact you have to travel to a lot of these areas on foot, ReCore's exploration can be needlessly tedious. There's no story reason as far as I'm aware for Joule to be unable to take three Corebots, instead of two, with her at any one time, so this either feels like a glaring oversight or an unnecessary attempt to pad completion time by piling on travel.

They could have solved some of these issues by allowing you to make notes on the map perhaps, or at least suggesting to you which bots are needed for which areas, as there's no way to really know until you've spent 30 minutes fighting your way to get out there. Having to endure the additional load screens obnoxiously interrupts the flow of the game, and also forces you to leave robots behind that you might otherwise enjoy playing with in combat.

ReCore undoubtedly has an "old-school" vibe; there are shades of Megaman and Metroid throughout. It's wholly gameplay driven, moving narrative to the side in favor of pure 3D platforming, frenetic combat, RPG progression and exploration. Some of those old-school elements extend a little too far into the clunky territory, but for the most part I've found ReCore to be an incredibly rewarding experience that you can really sink your teeth into.

Conclusion

ReCore is the franchise Microsoft Studios needs

ReCore isn't a perfect game, but its setting, concept and characters are compelling enough in their own right. The core gameplay is sound, the combat is mesmerizingly addictive, and ReCore's aerial dashing, leaping, platforming gameplay is technically sound.

For all its flaws, I woke up this morning looking forward to playing more ReCore.

ReCore falls prey to heavy amounts of copy and paste, a couple of design quirks and technical issues, such as occasional frame rate dips and hefty load times, but Armature and Comcept are already working to fix some of these basic technical problems already.

Pros:

  • Aggressively addictive combat
  • Intense platforming puzzles
  • Rewarding RPG layer
  • Great value

Cons:

  • Variety is on the low end
  • Story content is lacking
  • Minor design decisions hinder the experience

ReCore should also be praised for its value. For less than the typical "full price" of a AAA title, you get 10-15 hours of enduring gameplay — and much more if you're a completionist. You get fun, addictive combat, a deep customization and progression system, and a game that works across Xbox One and PC with a single license.

Despite its imperfections, ReCore is exactly the type of game I want Microsoft Studios to take seriously. ReCore leans on some beloved gameplay conventions while injecting injected some of its own, gloriously unique and fulfilling elements. The RPG layer provides boatloads of additional gameplay and the setting, story and characters are just something I want to see more of.

I feel like ReCore's greatest concepts may only find their potential in a sequel with a bigger team and a bigger budget, but considering RYSE, Sunset Overdrive, Quantum Break, and the various other new second-party developed one-shot IP Microsoft Studios has published in recent years, I'm afraid that we may never see it.

See ReCore on the Microsoft Store (opens in new tab)

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

53 Comments
  • Do you get Xbox achievements if played on PC?
  • Yes. But you only get one set shared across the two versions. No doubling up.
  • I'm happy about that. Would hate to have to do things twice, I fI pick it up years later.
  • It would be nice if maybe the simplicity of the level design were an aesthetic choice in our current world of minimalist design, instead of a flaw in our over the top expectations of hyper realism in video games. O-o
  • The overworld isn't just minimalistic, it's lacking variety and full of copy pasta. That's my issue with it. There is plenty of interesting design in it, just... a little too much of the same perhaps.
  • It would be cool to see live on stage but not in this format... Like I said, 'it would be nice' ;p
  • I didn't know there was any hype for this game. I'll probably be picking it up with the free games for good sometime next year or for $20 or less in a month or two on Amazon. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Trailer has 1.7m views on YouTube, that's pretty considerable. Also exclusives always get glared at under a magnifying glass.
  • Don't buy on Amazon if you have any desire to play on PC and Xbox together. Digital only for that.
  • I have had this pre-ordered for quite some time and myself and a few xbox friends have all been very hyped for this. Plus, at $40 with $10 Microsoft rewards credit (if pre-ordered through Microsoft store) and a free copy of "Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts", this game seems like an easy purchase.
  • Do you get a code for banjo Kazooie, or does it just latch onto your account? I already have that game thru Rare Replay, so I don't need another copy lol. If I can give the code to a friend, that'd be awesome! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • They send you the code to your Xbox account.
  • You get 15 000 reward points ($15) if you are a Xbox rewards member. Makes it even better deal. Too bad it is not applicable on teh digital version.
  • I've got $45 sitting in my Microsoft account (thanks death of XBOX Fitness and Microsoft Rewards deals!) I'm tempted to pick this up...
  • 4* is incredible now, is it?
  • Nah, that's a bug, will fix
  • Looks good though hardly revolutionary. In my market it's still too expensive, that's a negative point.
  • Yesss! Picking this up at my local Microsoft Store tomorow morning :)
  • For me, the simple fact that it is a 3rd person action adventure already makes it an instant buy. I feel we are getting less choice in 3rd person action adventures of this style and quality - nearly every new AAA action adventure game is a FPS. It's just a breath of fresh air. Gonna dive into it fully once I can eke out some free time!
  • Agreed with you wholeheartedly. The Xbox needs games like this, more choice in RPGs and something that's not a blood 'n' guts FPS or driving game. Variety is the main area where Sony has a bit of a leg up on MS in consoles.
  • Totally agree. First person games leave out the identity of the character, and IMHO makes them boring and samey.
  • I wasnt expecting an amazing visual presentation AAA effects. The game was $40. Im just glad they concentrated on gameplay. I think alot of other studios and developers can learn from this. Sure graphics are awesome to have.  When i play games gameplay is the most important thing and if they nail that at the right price thats a win in my book 
  • Good job on the review. Looking forward to my digital copy unlocking tonight.
  • The story is what had my interest piqued with this game, but it sounds like maybe it takes a backseat.
  • Points for "piqued"!
  • It definitely takes a back seat, this is a very gameplay driven title.
  • Awesome review man! The game unlocks here in 5 minutes so I'm super excited to play it soon :D Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Looking forward to my pre-ordered CE to arrive tomorrow. The statue is dope!
  • Awesome review, Jez, as is normally the case! I'm super excited for Recore. Preordered it through Amazon Prime for just $23.99 and this review sounds like that's a steal. Can't wait.
  • Thank you.
  • "If you rush through the game without battling your way through the game's optional dungeons, without exploring the overworld, you will eventually hit a point where enemies become too strong for you to progress to the end of the story." Sounds like those aren't optional dungeons, then. No time to read the whole thing at the moment, but I'm rather unimpressed. It's supposedly made by a bunch of great developers, but if they can't hide its budget, then that's a knock on them, to me. I'm not a fan of how games (particularly CoD and Halo) keep throwing verticality out as a primary design scheme, so ReCore might not be for me with that approach (long stretches of desolation, then a bunch of vertical puzzles). Throw in a lack of story, and it makes it sounds like even more of a one-off I could find for $20 after Christmas. The combat sounds like a cool concept, arguably one that would lend itself to a deep, inventive multiplayer experience. Building an attack-type combat system would be fun to play with, especially against the not-artificial intelligence of online play. If they get a sequel, I hope they get a budget for that. Fighting people and fast-switching weapons to counter opponents would be awesome. Heck, even Scalebound's co-op play would be a good idea for ReCore, facing giant enemies in a well-coordinates group.
  • The dungeons are optional, in the sense there's an option in the order you do them in, but higher level areas require that you have harvested enough prismatic cores to enter them, which often means hitting those dungeons. You don't have to do them, there's prismatic cores out in the overworld too, I guess semi-optional is a thing. Your assessment is pretty spot on.
  • Well, that's better than the Skyrim route that scales to you, so someone can beat Alduin (the final boss) at a low leve (26, in my friend's case), as it's incredibly easy in general. Sucks this game didn't pan out as I'd hoped last year. Given how good second-party stuff has been for Microsoft (speaking specifically to Quantum Break and Sunset Overdrive, though I've heard decent things about Ryse and Dead Rising), I guess a lesser-quality result was bound to happen sometime. At least the $40 price should get people on-board to try it, but I'm going to keep my money for Forza in 2 weeks, and maybe snag NBA 2K or something as a second release. Not a whole lot has grabbed my attention for the XB1 this year.
  • Holy crap, wasn't this game going to be a bit cheaper? For Argentina, the price in the local currency converts to 73 US dollars. This is BS, Microsoft. Go shove it up your butt.
  • Who can I complain to??
  • Your local parliament.
  • Ese es el precio que ves en la tienda de MS? Yo vivo en Honduras y mi Xbox me muestra 40$
     
  • Te muestra el precio en dólares? Acá en Argentina los precios están en pesos argentinos, pero como verás, muy inflados en relacion al cambio con el dolar. Por otra parte, el Quantum Break está como 22 dolares. No se entiende la lógica que usan.
  • Seriously, the downvote is funny and all, but with these pricing schemes I'd rather keep buying games on Steam, where I see the price in USD and they cost what they say, converted to my currency.
  • I'm surpriseed to hear the tediousness of exploring for long times across deserts, only to realize you need to get the right bot and then do it all over again. Sounds like an unlogically way to make the game feel longer than it should have been. I'm ok with having to go back to the base to get the right bot needed, but why can't you go back to your last marked location? Or have some kind of mount or vehicle to get back there faster?
  • There are fast travel spots around but still, can be very tedious
  • illogical*
  • so many games coming out these next 2 months. will have to pick this up sometime later, forza horizon 3 this month.
  • Wow. 4/5 "Incredible" Your review is the first I've read today that gives the game more than 6/10 (GamesRadar, GameSpot, Destructoid)
  • "Incredible" might be the wrong word, but I felt like it deserved higher than 7/10, purely for price point if nothing else. Jim Sterling gave it 7/10, I recommend his review, alot of these other sites seem to have rushed it.
  • Yeah, I'm surprised because the body of the review makes it sound more like an average game, so around a 5-6, but then again if you were itching at the bit to play it again then the negatives didn't affect you as much as they might others. Kind of like Elite Dangerous for me, that game used to crash on me every single day, but as soon as it did i just loaded it back up again because it was heaps of fun to play and I could get over the inconvenience. I imagine I'll be fine with this game as i grew up on the original Metroid so traversing huge maps ad nauseum is a thing I do. I'll just be sure to keep notes about inaccessible area as I come to them.
  • That's the danger with reviews.  Everyone wants to be the first one out the gate, so they often don't put the time or thought into it.  Like film, I think it's best to play through a game (or mostly play through it) and then think on it.  A lot of films get unfairly slagged because of it and I've seen it happen to games too. Really appreciate your reviews.  If you had called Recore a dog, I would've gotten a refund on the preorder.  Always a good thing to have some critics out there to trust.   So far, it's fun.  Not without problems, but it was very inexpensive at launch and the negatives aren't too big.  Some will get fixed.  I REALLY LOVE how it gradually ramps things up so far.  Some games decide to get too difficult too quickly.
  • IGN gave it a 7.3.
  • buggy game with good concept/design > smooth game with bad game design once the patch is out to fix the bugs the game should be reviewed again
  • I'm in the very first dungeon and Mack has frozen in place since I grabbed the red gun. Here's hoping it gets sorted when I transition to a new area. Turns out I need Mack right now, time to exit and go back into the game. And fixed.
  • Played about an hour today after opening up the big Collector's Edition box. Game is actually good. Statue is awesome.
  • I enjoyed the game and am still having fun with it! Don't let a few poor reviews scare you away if you like platformers. Good game and a good value. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Please support developer. Color Escape+ discounted for next 6 days 30% OFF http://appraisin.com/article/19388/color-escape-discounted-for-next-6-da... via @AppRaisinHQ