Have You Played… Receiver?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

There are a lot of games with guns in them, and a lot which strive for some measure of simulation, but few that manage to wring the tension, nuance and sense of expression that Receiver [official site] does from its arsenal of carefully modeled handguns.

You are a receiver, one of a small group of humans immune from the brainwashing of some vaguely described controlling force that aims to subjugate society. On a small series of greybox rooftops at night, you hunt for the tapes that explain your predicament, the world, and what you’re expected to do about it. While you hunt, you’re faced with flying, electrifying bots and slow-rotating but rapid-firing gun turrets.

Your real struggle though is against your own hands. Each of the game’s handguns is controlled via Q, E, R, T, Z and V; one button to pop the magazine, one button to empty it of spent shells, one button to pop bullets inside, one button to pop it back inside your gun, one button to prime the chamber, one button to turn off the safety, one button to pull the trigger. Forget any one of them, or fumble their order while trying to reload, and you can quickly find yourself dead and starting over.

There are two things great about this: panic and poise. Panic in that moment when you’re being chased by a flying robot screeching through doorways on its way to electrocute you, and you just pressed the wrong button and dropped your only remaining bullet down a flight of stairs instead of putting it in your gun. Poise in that moment where you’ve spotted an enemy and you’re about to attack it, after having just loaded your gun and cocked it with a flourish. Panic when you open fire and realise you forgot to turn the safety off. Poise when you find your next tape and stare out over an urban nightscape while the cold, nebbish voice fills in more of this cyberpunk world.

Everything else I wrote about the game in 2014 remains true. It’s $5 from the developers.

12 Comments

  1. Durkonkell says:

    Whenever I think of this game, I always remember running around and around a pillar being chased by one of the flying killbots (close enough to be making that awful “I’m very close indeed to electrocuting you to death” sound) desperately trying to reload my revolver. Repeatedly mashing the button to eject the spent shells and JESUS FUCK WHY WON’T THEY COME OUT COME ON THERE’S STILL ONE LEFT IT DOESN’T MATTER. Z Z Z Z Z. New rounds in. Slam the cylinder closed. Hammer back. Spin around and pull the trigger.

    Click.

    Nothing happens. The hammer landed on the one spent shell that was stuck in there. It’s too late. The damn thing’s right on top of me. I pull the trigger again, and this time the gun goes off, hitting the drone RIGHT in the battery. It flies past my head and smashes itself to bits on the floor behind me.

    My heart’s pounding. Games don’t DO that to me any more. This one does.

    • Durkonkell says:

      (I still prefer the revolver because whenever I’m using a pistol I invariably drop the magazine on the floor rather than loading it.

      I sometimes do that in the game, too)

  2. Jericho says:

    What more can one say about Receiver?
    It feels like a demo or a proof of concept that was slapped together over a weekend, but also has just the right amount of polish that its actually really engaging to play. I never managed to stay alive long enough to find any more than 4 or 5 of the tapes, but it still kept me coming back for days. On one hand, I wish the game had a larger variety of “random” environments that it could use to piece together its rooftops, but on the other that would just make it even harder to recognize and remember all of the potential dangers, turret locations, and hidey holes where those damn flying bots could be hiding.
    The same could be said about the three available guns, but it pretty much covers all of its bases with what it already has. You’ve got two semiautomatic pistols that take some time to learn how to use and reload but can be used and loaded quickly once you get the hang of them, and you’ve got a single revolver that is much easier to learn how to use but takes much longer to reload even when you get the hang of it. Since you only fight drones and turrets at close to medium range there is not point in putting in shotguns or rifles, and automatic weapons larger than the Glock 18 pistol would just be overkill.
    The game does a WHOLE LOT with the little it has to work with, and I really respect that. It also doesn’t hurt that I love fiddling with mechanical gadgets and puzzles, so the “process” of trying to get the guns to work in this game is just something I naturally enjoy, robots or not!

    • Jinoru says:

      It was made as part of the 7 Day FPS challenge. So indeed it was thrown together in a very short frame of time. The guys who made it are really good at cool combat mechanics.

  3. LTK says:

    There are a few mods available as well that add more guns, but automatic weapons don’t feel nearly as good to fire than using a few precise pistol shots to take one of those killbots right out of the air. That’s what I think Receiver does best: even the smallest guns are machines to be operated, not just point-and-click tools. They have impact and consequence, and other games may model spent shell casings, impact holes, ricochet and whatever else but they don’t come close to the feeling that every shot fired is a decision.

    Anyway, you might want to check out the wolfire forum for mods, here’s one that adds a bunch of guns: link to forums.wolfire.com

    • jonfitt says:

      OOh, I’ll check that out. I enjoyed the game, but it left me wanting a little more content. Not that I felt it short changed me, it was great for $5. But I wanted Wolfire to turn the 7DFPS into a more fleshed out game.
      Texture the levels, add a few more environments and enemy types, and add your hands into view (the pistols magically float in space).

      • LTK says:

        The lack of textures is intentional, I believe. You hear one of the tapes say “You see your world in shades of black, but there is another reality bathed in radiant light.” I don’t know if they planned this but it’s a nice bit of narrative coherence.

  4. LennyLeonardo says:

    Not exactly an original thought, but I’d love to play a fully realised survival horror FPS with Receiver’s realistic gun fumbling adding to the tension.

  5. tonicer says:

    I dream about a time and place where consoles never happened and games like this are not just a rare and somewhat hidden gem but a common occurrence.

    I like to see new features in games not the same stuff repeated all the time.

    The average lifespan of most games nowadays is shorter than that of a mayfly.

    I personally don’t believe in dying games and i struggle against letting games i enjoy die.

    But nowadays when the DRM server is down permanently, it is almost impossible to play them properly or play them at all.

    Thanks video game consoles thank you very much for doing what you do best … dumb down games and create a community that acts like it’s members are severely mentally handicapped .

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Yeah, but if consoles never happened we’d all be languishing under the oppression of the Arcturan Machine-Mind, and wouldn’t have time to play the innovative games.

  6. Nixitur says:

    This article is missing the “Have You Played” tag.

    • Nixitur says:

      Well, that was fast. I’m pretty sure it was missing the tag just four minutes ago.