Review: Reload

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Packing enough guns to give Wayne LaPierre a bulletproof boner, Reload is a rail/target practice shooter dating back to a 2010 release on Wii. Even though there also was a PC version back then, the Mastiff published game has only just now pulled the trigger on an updated Steam release. So how does a five-year-old video game once primarily designed to capitalize on the Wii Remote craze hold up after all these years? Surprisingly well, actually.

Of course, the game is a bit rusty around the edges, but has aged with relative grace. While none of the visual elements will blow you away, with the specs maxed out and the resolution up high the graphics are at least adequate, far from the eyesore it would be easy to expect after nearly half a decade. The environments are drab and lacking in excitement, but at least the guns show respectable detail and have believable reload animations. Satisfying audio kickback also helps to replicate the impact and raw sense of power felt when shooting a real gun.

Local hotseat multiplayer for two to four gun-toters is included, but this game primarily is a solo experience. Reload‘s single-player career mode guides you through a 21-mission progression of firearm training, beginning with pistols and continuing on through assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, and heavy artillery. Pistol drills involve quick close-quarters firing as well as mastering the double-tap technique to drop targets with two shots in rapid succession. Assault rifle training puts targets at a farther distance and challenges you to shoot from prone, crouched and standing positions while compensating for the increasing sight sway that occurs as the perspective shifts. One you get a boomstick in your hands, the missions switch over to blasting apart pop-up cardboard criminals and terrorists without letting civilian targets become collateral damage to the shotgun spray. Headshotting pumpkinhead scarecrows and clearing fields of unexploded ordnance from long range is the name of the game in sniper training. Then, once you advance to heavy weapons, you get to let out your inner Rambo by blowing up terrorist hideouts with a grenade launcher and manning a mounted vehicle turret in on-rails military incursions.

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The gameplay is a mix of simple on-rails and stationary target shooting, harking back to the days of high score light gun shooters like Duck Hunt and Point Blank, only slanted towards gun culture realism over whimsy as the equipment is recreated from real brands like Remington and Wiley X, and the missions are inspired by shooting drills used by law enforcement and military. If your gaming knowledge doesn’t go back to either of those older titles, a modern point of comparison would be the timed weapons training levels that appear at the beginning of nearly all of the post-Modern Warfare Call of Duty games, except in this game there is no manual movement. (But obviously there is more substance here than a solitary tutorial stage.)

The objective, of course, is to hit targets with speed and accuracy, triggering consecutive hit combos and rapid-fire chain bonuses to build a score, with tiered scoring medals–Iron, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum–handed out as awards for performance. Precision is key, because points per hit are determined based on where you hit a target. Naturally, headshots and bull’s-eyes generate the most points, but the smaller target windows equate to a higher margin of error, and thus an increased likelihood of missing altogether. Until your skills improve and you master effective use of the breathing mechanic (holding the space bar steadies the targeting reticle, but the breath meter is limited), it’s sometimes better to be fast and string together quick body shots.

Despite the game’s title, reloading is a bad thing. Every precious second wasted popping in another clip means less points for your round completion time bonus (extra points are accrued based on remaining time at the end of a wave). Reloading a lot also likely means your accuracy isn’t so good, and in some levels there are bonuses to be earned for conserving ammo.

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Having a quick trigger finger becomes more and more valuable as the training advances. Eventually targets begin to move rather than stand still in neat rows, cover points are introduced to shrink the shot windows, civilians mix in tightly with hostile targets and erase large chunks off your high score if shot, and enemy pop-up targets armed with paintball guns appear with countdown timers over their heads. Even if you’re on a high score roll, taking a certain number of paintball splats or shooting too many friendlies results in an immediate game over.

By completing a successful career, individual stages become unlocked for endless free play, including a number of fun bonus missions like skeet shooting, Simon Says and Memory games, and backyard hillbilly target practice with fruits, vegetables, and bottles. These offer a welcomed change of pace from the mock terrorist raids, shoot houses, and simulated hostage rescues. I only wish the scoreboard system was implemented a bit better. An online leaderboard tracks your cumulative career score, but it’s a shame that each individual level doesn’t have its own score table.

Rail and light gun-style shooters like this are a dying breed nowadays, so it’s always nice to see some developers out there are still brave enough to fight for the genre’s survival. Needless to say at this point, if you can’t stand games that restrict full freedom of movement and aren’t on the cutting edge of graphics technology, turn away now. It may be based in a military boot camp setting, but playing Reload is less like a realistic simulation and more like the video game equivalent of setting up foam targets, bottles, or other miscellaneous objects in the backyard to shoot at with a pellet gun. (When I was growing up G.I. Joes and other action figures were the most common BB gun casualties.) Reload is purely a high score arcade target shooter, and a damn fun one at that.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Fast paced arcade rail shooting for the win!
+ Targeting is smooth and responsive
+ Fun mix of military drills, shoot houses, and backyard target practice
+ Did I mention it’s only five bucks?

Cons:
– No leaderboards for individual stages
– Graphics aren’t terrible but definitely look a bit old and crusty

Game Info:
Platform: Steam
Publisher: Mastiff Games
Developer: Top3Line
Release Date: 2/13/2015
Genre: Rail/Target Arcade Shooter
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-4
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!