Ruiner (Xbox One Review)
In hindsight, I should have probably started Ruiner on easy mode. This brutal, fast-paced twin sticker shooter will have you on the brink of having an anxiety attack before you even complete the first few levels. Reikon Games has delivered us a gritty, dark, neon-infused cyberpunk hell that is crammed full of style and character, plenty of glorifying weapons and unique abilities. It’s a shame it’s so bloody hard though.
Ruiner sets the scene with You — an unnamed individual with no identity, scrubbed away by a hacker that manipulates you for his own gain and folly. It’s not soon after this that our enigmatic hero is freed from this hackers clutches, by ironically, another hacker. This young female hacker, known as Her, disclosing information on our lost memory and informing us that our own brother has been kidnapped by an organisation called HEAVEN to farm for body parts. With this revelation, we set off to free our captive sibling and be given the nickname Puppy by our liberator; which is fitting as you’ll be her bitch for the rest of the game.
Unlike Ruiner’s naming convention, its gameplay is rather creative for a top-down shooter. Ruiner implements a slow-mo mechanic that slows gameplay in accordance to how many enemies you’ve killed in sequence, on a new weapon pickup, or when starting a new fight. These events will be happening often enough too, as you solely rely on dropped weapons to see you through each combat encounter, with plenty of variety to keep even the most dissatisfied gamer happy. From fire-fueled shotguns to ultra-stylish plasma cannons and railguns, weapons are Ruiner’s bread and butter, presenting a multitude of ways to blast enemies that you can come back to over and over again and never get tired of it; luring in fans through its bloody, heart pounding battles.
Probably the most strikingly noticeable asset that Ruiner has going is its atmospheric setting and design. The City of Rengkok is a visceral image of neglect and makeshift necessity, with machinery and buildings being built out of whatever the inhabitants can make use of, and that extends to the inhabitants themselves. True to cyberpunk design, the humans of Ruiner are a meld of meat and machine, with their machine parts having a rough and forceful look and robotic limbs that look uncomfortable and painful to wield. This gives off a sense of compulsion for these mechanical upgrades, allowing them to live and survive and thrive in the City of Rengkok.
The scenery within Ruiner is interesting but repetitive, with most interiors being a menagerie of pipes, circuits and industrial machinery. Levels often feel like they repeat themselves as there’s no real identifying landmarks or noticeable changes in level layout, other than a slight colour change of lighting in specific areas. While the lighting does help define the dark atmosphere Ruiner is trying to emulate, it fails to really distinguish the areas that our brain hacked psychopath needs to negotiate.
In true RPG style, Ruiner has a comprehensible upgrade system that can see players outfitted with different playstyles as they seek to rescue their brother. Simple things like dashing, shields and weapon upgrades are all in fact optional; abilities which displayed within the tutorial level make you think are absolutely necessary, are in fact not. Our gun-running psychopath can equip himself with grenades to stun opponents, a portable gun manufacturer that can spawn weaponry in an instant or even a health regeneration modifiers that slowly regains your health. However, you won’t be able to make use of all abilities on your initial playthrough. I found myself at odds with how to combat difficult scenarios because I had went for an incredible defensive build opposed to a more offensive one. Luckily, Ruiner lets you respecify your character’s skill tree on a whim as many times as need be. Just as well, as Ruiner can become a mercilessly difficult beast to conquer without the right know-how and setup.
With Ruiner’s difficulty being prominently showcased from the early levels of the game,with a single enemy being able to whittle you down to death in no time,you’d best be adept at twin-stick shooters before you pick this up, especially on consoles. Most twin-stick shooters need rapid responses and accuracy to the actions that are transpiring around them, whether it be to dodge or fire back at an enemy. With Ruiner, that’s a little more difficult due to a lack of sensitivity adjustment and poor camera work. Sensitivity is a personal preference which most of the time can be difficult to comment on. However, the speed of enemy A.I., the amount the dodge, teleport and the sheer amount of them, you need to be able to turn quickly. With Ruiner having a slow turning speed and absolutely no way to adjust the sensitivity levels (on console), I found myself being constantly outmatched by the opposition, resulting in me changing the difficulty to easy so they couldn’t dodge as much; poor show, I know. Mix this with a camera that obscures enemy encounters from behind makes Ruiner a a ferociously hard game, only due to its poor sensitivity and camera angles.
Ruiner is a dark love letter to the cyberpunk genre asserted through its world and visuals alone. With its arcade style combat and engrossing gunplay — being able to shred enemies apart with a bottomless pit of weapons — Ruiner strikes itself as a top class twin-stick shooter. With some awkward camera angles and poor sensitivity being its sole downfall that creates an unfair difficulty gap, some players may not be able to get over this mechanical boundary and simply be stuck at their wit’s end. I strongly recommend picking up Ruiner if you have the chance, but be sure you have some experience in twin-stick shooters before you try out this cyberpunk nightmare.