Reagan Gorbachev Review
Reagan Gorbachev was developed and published by Team2Bit and was released on Xbox One and Steam on February 24th 2016 at a price of £7.99/$9.99. A press review copy was provided for The Hidden Levels.
Reagan Gorbachev is a top-down action stealth game for one or two players (although this is local co-op only). Looking very much like it has taken its inspiration from Hotline Miami, Team2Bit have managed to infuse a variety of different play styles into something that is fun while it lasts but isn’t without its flaws.
What I enjoyed:
Old school vibe – From the 80s style graphics to the deliberately repetitive music, everything about Reagan Gorbachev screams retro. The story is fittingly absurd; you play as Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev who have been kidnapped by militant extremists. You have to sneak, slash, shoot and slay your way through anything and everything that gets in your way. There is very little in the way of tutorial which is refreshing and at the same time annoying. It would have been nice to know that certain features were available from the beginning of the game. I played through 50% of the game without realizing I could actually bring up an aim reticle by clicking in the right stick. Keeping with the old school feel there are also leaderboards included for each of the 32 levels which adds some longevity. There is also a rather bizarre quiz at the end of each level. You’ll be asked a simple question and have the choice of Reagan or Gorbachev as an answer. It’s a fun little distraction but doesn’t really add anything to the game (apart from some Gamerscore if you answer 20 correctly).
Co-op with a twist – As I mentioned earlier there is local co-op available for you if you wish to play with friends and family. The way the screen was set-up and split was a little disorientating for me though, even though I knew what side of the side I was on I still kept losing track of my character (although this is probably something that won’t affect too many people). The twist with co-op comes if you are playing the game solo. You can simply tap the LB button and swap from one character to another. This isn’t the first game to ever do such a thing but it does it well enough.
What I disliked:
Unbalanced behaviour – The A.I does have a tendency to be a little hit and miss when you make use of the ‘hot-swap- feature in this game. Sometimes your computer controlled partner will make impossible shots and decimate a whole swarm of enemies, other times they’ll allow a single enemy to walk right up to them and kill them before you have a chance to swap back to the character in need of aid. The enemies are also equally as inconsistent. They’ll often stroll right past you after you’ve killed everyone in their squad, or locate you like a homing pigeon after you’ve used a silenced weapon. It isn’t unbearable but it is definitely noticeable and can lead to a lot of frustration especially when you progress to some of the later levels.
The further you progress, the poorer the level design – Initially Reagan Gorbachev eases you into the game with some wonderfully designed levels that cleverly let you get familiar with some of the mechanics while also managing to not hold your hand like some of the more recent Xbox releases. It is unfortunate then for me the best levels are in the first half of the game. Later levels rely increasingly on some really cheap insta-death traps and some devilishly unfair turret placement to keep you replaying them. One part of the game reminded me somewhat of Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation. It occurs when you have to run towards the screen while being chased by enemies. You have to avoid obstacles, hack doors and kill any enemies in your way while controlling both players. For me it was definitely one of my least favourite parts of the game, and was only beaten by the horrendous final boss battle.
Get ready to get angry – I’m not adverse to playing a game that offers a challenge. I like to think that I am a calm and collected gamer with a very generous amount of patience and persistence, playing Reagan Gorbachev tested both of these to the absolute limit. For the vast majority of the time you play the deaths you receive are fair and understandable. Certain elements of the design in this game though will drive you insane at times. I lost count of the times I was shot by an enemy off-screen that I could not see yet was able to snipe me from miles away. One level towards the end of the campaign started you on an electrified floor that killed you if you didn’t instantly step off which to me feels like bad design. The turrets that are scattered throughout have no real rhyme or reason as to when they shoot at you, sometimes you’ll walk past it four or five times without any consequences. Other times you only have to be slightly near the turret and it’ll shred you even though you were nowhere near its line of sight. The boss fight verges on ridiculousness at times too. You have to kill multiple waves of enemies while avoiding tank, turret and helicopter fire while figuring out how to progress up the map. Once you progress up you have to repeat the above but with more accurate and powerful enemies before finally trying to figure out what to use to destroy the helicopter. There are no checkpoints in any level in this game so you will soon feel your blood boiling when you die for the 50th time. Doing this final battle in two player co-op may make this easier, but in the meantime be prepared to rage!!!
Reading what I have to say above has probably given you the impression that I didn’t care too much for this game. One of the reasons I am so frustrated by some of its failings is due to the fact that there are some really fun moments to be had here. Unfortunately the bad has definitely outweighed the good, so unless you are a massive fan of top-down shooting games I’d hold off for the time being.
Score: Wait for a sale
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