Remember the first Grand Theft Auto Games? That top-down excitement and open-world exploring were amazing for its time. Then Hotline Miami arrived back in 2012 and brought some heart-pounding indoor combat. Riskers is a modern take on a combination of those two classics, with a twist of a story portrayed through comic-style cutscenes.
Riskers has the bones of a good story; you are Rick, a bored trash collector itching for excitement and danger who finds a briefcase full of cash. This leads to a story of murder, theft, and revenge for your brother. Hop in cars and follow suspects, then choose stealth or a guns-blazing approach to clear out the indoor levels. A variety of side missions are available as well, from street races to GTA-style rampages, and fight clubs, but unfortunately, these have zero impact on the rest of the game.
Parts of the game are seriously lacking, but I want to say a few nice things before I get to the core of Risker’s problems. The game looks quite good for a top-down shooter. Not so much pretty, but mostly clear and concise levels. A city block as a snapshot looks nice enough, but it becomes so repetitive that you don’t know where you are in the city and you don’t care.
The music was fantastic, though this could be personal taste. A variety of pounding, heavy club music was present throughout the game, and changed the tone for the mission well, fitting the tailing and racing missions as well as the core of indoor shooting. When I was stuck on a level I might get annoyed by hearing the same track spool up for the 50th time, but that annoyance was more to the broken game mechanics than the music.
The variety of weapons in the game is nice enough, with a rare grenade launcher being the best and most unique weapon. Use your bat or throw a chair for silent kills and duel with your shotgun or machine guns for other kills. The fact that you die as easily as the enemies, with one or two shots, is both refreshing in a world of superhuman players in FPS games, but often insanely frustrating when combined with the broken AI.
The best word I could use to describe the AI is simple, in the worst ways. Most often you can walk right beside an enemy before bashing them with a bat and they will have no idea. If the enemy is offscreen, you can use the minimap and still have the range to shoot them, though they can’t shoot you. but if you get the attention of an enemy for just one millisecond, you might just be dead.
The “reflexes” of the enemies are so superhuman it makes the game just unfun at parts. If you miss with the bat and an enemy sees you, you are instantly dead. An enemy armed with a shotgun, traditionally a short-range weapon, can one-shot you the instant he comes into the screen.
This contrasts so sharply with how idiotic the enemies are. In one mission you get a buddy, Boris, fighting with you. he will shoot enemies and the enemies entirely ignore Boris and automatically head to exactly where your player is. So, you just maneuver Boris into the right spot and get the enemies to charge into the wall of Boris’s bullets, all dead without an enemy shot fired.
A patrolling enemy will step over three of his fallen buddies and then wonder aloud if he should start a business. Same with innocents in a club level; kill a partygoer in the middle of the dance floor and the rest keep on dancing. It might seem small especially given that big-budget games have trouble with stealth and AI, but Riskers’ fundamentally flawed AI breaks immersion terribly.
Even without Boris, using a combination of shooting an enemy offscreen and lining up just outside a doorway and mowing down a single-file line of enemies, just makes for dull gameplay. You are often forced to play that way too, as the aforementioned reflexes and the one-shot ability of the enemies rule out having a traditional mobile gunfight.
After playing through the story I was caught off guard with the game abruptly ending. The comic panel story was interesting, though very badly written in some parts, and the ending was kind of a letdown. This might also be because I killed the final boss with a stray bullet that went offscreen, but I didn’t get a good sense of finality from it.
Overall, Riskers creates an interesting concept of a rampaging top-down shooter game. It’s a mix of extreme ease and difficulty as you line enemies up and mow them down but must start the 15 minutes plus mission over when a rogue enemy fires one shot at you. A few times I died because my bullets went straight through an enemy, doing no damage, and then they one-shot me. But I did get some satisfaction from beating the levels and some of the driving missions were good, if a bit clunky. Riskers gets a decent bump as a game to recommend because of its price, but even so, players should know that some of its fundamentals are quite flawed.