Wanna know why licensed movie games have such a bad reputation? It’s because of steaming piles of shit like R.I.P.D.: The Game. Pardon my French.
Based on the critically hammered summer flick of the same name starring Hollywood heavyweights Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges, R.I.P.D. — short for Rest in Peace Department – is the product of a continued relationship between Atlus and Old School Games. Earlier in the year, Atlus and Old School teamed up on the digitally downloadable God Mode, a mindlessly fun throwback game that distills the spirit of games like Serious Sam and Unreal Tournament and Painkiller into a co-op wave survival shooter set in sort of a warped version of Greek mythology. (I spent quite a bit of time with it and intended to give it a review, but other things came up and I had to prioritize.)
After a slow start, the game grew on me, to the point that a lacking online community was the only thing keeping me from playing it more often. With a team of other players locked and loaded, the game does provide spurts of run-and-gun enjoyment. By no means is God Mode anything better than average, but at least it feels like a composed game with a distinct personality that fondly recalls an era of gaming when the god mode cheat code was a big deal. Even though the format and core mechanics are practically identical, R.I.P.D. feels like a cheaply made wave survival mode other games would offer as a pre-order DLC bonus or throwaway unlockable reward for completing the campaign. Even that comparison gives this game a little too much credit. Viewed as standalone experiences, the horde modes in games like Gears of War and Halo, or even Resident Evil’s The Mercenaries survival side game, have greater polish and depth of content than this.
So yes, R.I.P.D. is a wave survival action game which can be played offline by a single person just fine, but is clearly meant to be a cooperative buddy shoot-em-up. Players suit up as their choice of Nick Walker (Reynolds) or Bobby Hayes (Bridges) and head into battle armed with their favorite two guns. If the game had an actual storyline I’d tell you about it, but the only form of exposition is delivered by an introductory sequence of what looks like still storyboard artwork stitched together into a cutscene, and another similar ending sequence after defeating the final boss baddie.
The one and only objective for each of the game’s seven maps is to clear all five waves and either arrest or execute the special glowing boss criminal that spawns in at the very end before time or lives run out. On the first and third waves of each stage a random challenge will kick off a bonus objective to do optional things like capture a couple zones on the map within a limited window of time or melee kill six enemies in a minute, but that is as complex and spontaneous as the game ever gets. The bank vault, library, subway station and meth lab locales confine the action to small maps with absolutely no sense of progression or environmental interaction. They’re so dull and static that the occasional exploding red barrel or passing subway car becomes a grand event. It’s not until you replay the maps enough to unlock an eighth and final boss stage that the level design shifts into a forward-moving mission as you would find in a standard third-person shooter. Why weren’t all of the stages designed like this?
Your enemies in this slog of a third-person shooter are the Deados, evil spirits that have returned to the land of the living as monsters instead of crossing over peacefully. In other words, they’re like zombies, only faster and more capable of moving and acting like humans. Too bad they aren’t as exciting to kill as the typical video game zombie. I would say there are only around five types of enemies recycled throughout the entire game, and beyond different skins for male and female Deados the only distinguishing characteristic between them all is the weapon they happen to be using. Some use bats and pipes, some prefer shotguns or sniper rifles, and some pelt you with machine gun fire from behind a car door which has been turned into a makeshift riot shield. Regardless of the weapon they’re carrying, the Deados all just run around like chickens with their heads cut off or stand dead still in place so you can easily pick them off.
The shotgun girls and their constant dodge rolling prove to be the most annoying, mainly because the imprecise aiming and horrid hit detection make shooting a moving target way harder than it ought to be. Everything needed to make a good shooter experience is missing in action here, which is weird because God Mode at least holds its own with solid play mechanics. However, in R.I.P.D. the controls are sluggish, the action lacks speed and intensity, animations for melee attacks, evasive rolls and weapon swapping are stiff, kickback from guns feels puny, and poor audio quality and mixing makes these puny firearms sound even weaker. Even the simple satisfaction of landing a one-shot-kill head shot has been diminished; head shots only count as critical hits and most Deados will absorb multiple bullets to the brain in succession before finally taking a dirt nap. Talk about lame.
Killstreak power-ups are about the only halfway interesting mechanic in the game. As the kills pile up a meter at the top of the screen slowly builds toward different tiers of special abilities. At the lowest level, you can drop a healing beacon, but if you let the meter charge without using any abilities you will eventually be able to shackle enemies in place with chains of holy might, place automated chaingun turrets, or call upon icy spikes to shoot up from the ground and skewer every enemy on the map. A nice touch would have been for each character to have a unique set of attributes and weapon sets, but sadly both characters play identically and share the same choice of killstreak powers.
Old School Games tries to spice things up for cooperative play with a betting system which incorporates an underlying friendly competition between partners to kill the most enemies or execute the most headshots for a salary reward at the end of the match. One bet even turns the two players against each other. When all five waves have been finished and the boss dealt with the game will switch into a 1-v-1 battle to the death, which sounds fun in theory but quickly turns tedious, as Tim and I quickly found out after first just trying to find each other on the map and then trading kills back and forth for what felt like a longer time than it took us to finish the actual map. Eventually Tim just let me kill him off so we could move on and end the misery. That bet was always the first to be voted off in subsequent matches.
Salary earned for killing off and arresting Deados can be put towards buying and upgrading weapons in between matches, but like every other aspect of the game choices are limited and underwhelming. Having a grenade launcher or a harpoon gun that sticks enemies with exploding arrows might sound cool, but in reality these weapons are far less effective than the standard pistol and shotgun combo available from the beginning. In terms of upgrades, each gun can be improved up to three times, with each upgrade tier broadly increasing performance in damage, accuracy, magazine capacity and reload speed. You can’t pick and choose individual components to upgrade or do any kind of modding to alter a gun’s appearance with different scopes, stocks and barrels. You know, options that good games have.
Is 2013 the year we end up with a movie and its tie-in video game that share the shame of winning a Razzie and the dishonor of being named worst game of the year? Quite possibly. I always try to be fair and constructive when reviewing games (especially the lousy ones), but across the board R.I.P.D. is shallow, ugly, uninspired, and poorly made, and has no business being sold as a standalone game, even for only $10. I’m honestly shocked that Atlus would publish a game like this. Every publisher is allowed a turd every now and then, but this is the type of licensed movie game garbage that I would expect from Activision’s budget department or the defunct THQ, not a proud niche publisher beloved for its steady supply of cult-classic JRPGS and hidden gems. R.I.P.D. doesn’t even manage to pull off being so bad it’s worth playing for a guilty pleasure laugh. It’s just bad. B.A.D.
Screw resting in peace, I hope this game rots in hell.
+ Co-op betting and killstreak powers are at least somewhat exciting
+ The player characters actually look like the actors (I’m just grasping at straws here, folks)
- Stiff, sluggish controls and abysmal hit detection cripple any potential for run-and-gun fun
- Little variation in enemy types, maps layouts, and objectives
- Not enough depth or content to be its own game
- Friends probably won’t be your friends any more if you ask them to play co-op
- Awful texture load-in
Platform: Reviewed on PS3 via PSN, also available on Steam and XBLA
Developer: Old School Games
Release Date: 7/17/2013
Genre: Third-person shooter
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-2 (online co-op)
Source: Review code provided by publisher