RICO London scales down the scope and depth from the original game and creates a fun First Person Shooter arcade experience. Players who enjoyed the first game or the slow motion sequences in the Max Payne franchise should find satisfaction in the room clearing action. Like Time Crisis in the arcades, RICO London is enjoyable in short bursts. At its’ best, the game flows with the kinetic energy of dashing from room to room. Unfortunately, its’ best does not always shine through.
Developer Ground Shatter’s original RICO employed a larger development team compared to RICO London’s two designers, four programmers, and five artists. The smaller scale and scope of London equates to the 9 to 11 person development team. This smaller team and scope creates a game that feels more of a spinoff than a sequel. RICO London is an FPS arcade game at its’ core. Players going in with this understanding and expectation will find something to enjoy. However, players wanting an evolution of RICO will have to wait for a true sequel.
RICO London’s fluid gunplay and satisfying slow motion create an enjoyable loop. Players breach room after room clearing enemies. Ammo and health are limited on both difficulties. As such, players frequently swap between weapons from downed enemies. The finite resource of ammo results in a tradeoff of sticking with an effective weapon low on ammo or picking up a new weapon with more ammo. A player carries items like throwing knives/axes and grenades. However, the large blast radius of grenades create the most destruction.C4 door charges are also available an effective on doors with enemies close by. Unfortunately, enemies are often scattered throughout a room. The only way to know if enemies are close is from unsuccessful previous runs through a level. Players earn medals through a score mechanic and medals purchase weapons, consumables or health between levels. Revive stims are available as well, but their usefulness is strategic. Downed players revive themselves, but continue to take damage while using the stim. A player trying to revive themselves during a fire fight can easily have their health reduced to zero while the stim is applied. Upon death players start over at the beginning of the stage.
Co-op is available in RICO London and the additional fire power is helpful during difficult encounters. Playing co-op creates an satisfying flow of planning and executing each room. Players slowly clearing rooms increase the likelihood of maintaining health. While other players may burst into rooms sliding and quickly clearing to maintain the score multiplier. Either approach creates momentum to the gameplay. However this momentum is lost during the bullet sponge boss encounters.
Story / Plot
RICO London is an FPS arcade shooter, plain and simple. Yes, there’s a story, but it is thinner than the first game. The action, not the plot drive the game forward. The main character is the advisor from the opening of the original game. She’s making a bust of gun runners in a warehouse/hotel/office/casino. But do not think too hard about the logical structure of the building. It is a loose rationale for fighting a variety of room environments.
Graphics and music
RICO‘s flat, cell shaded graphic style works for the FPS arcade style gameplay. Rooms are simple and assets are reused, but the player’s focus is on the enemies. The original game included highlighted and outlined consumable pick-ups. This is not the case in RICO London. Consequently, I went through a room in the final stage over a dozen times before seeing a much needed health pack. However, the addition of graphical call outs for headshots and kills provides the necessary visual feedback to know when to move on to another target and conserves ammo. The limited looping soundtrack does provide energy and tension to the room encounters. The chime to denote a cleared room becomes a welcome inhale during a tense firefight.
RICO London lacks the depth of the original RICO game. There are no lasting upgrades to weapons. A map is not available. The branching paths are not present. While all of these make sense within the narrative of the game, they also contribute to London feeling smaller and less of an advancement. A few bugs and glitches appeared during gameplay, but should be patched as time goes on. The game locked up once in the early levels. And during one run of the final boss room, some enemy models were invisible with only their guns showing up. The final boss room itself, presents a significant difficulty spike compared with the rest of the game. I was able to get to the final room after methodically clearing rooms in about 3 hours, but it took over another 2 hours of attempts to defeat the dozens of enemies in the final room. Yes, it creates a distinct challenge at the end of the game, but it feels unbalanced with the rest of the game’s experience.
FPS Arcade Spinoff, Not Sequel
RICO London is limited in scope compared to the original game, but the moment to moment slow motion room clearing still retains a simple arcade charm. Unfortunately, the $35 price tag for a run that is over in 2-4 hours may more than some players are willing to spend. The smaller, run based nature of the game encourages multiple playthroughs, but lacks the variety experienced during the original.