Revelling in the finer points of gun operation seems distasteful to me now in a way that it didn’t back in 2013, but I still bloody love Receiver. It’s about stalking across dystopian rooftops, deserted but for the turrets and drones intent on killing you. So far so videogames, but what sets Receiver apart is the way every weapon requires meticulous care. Press R in the hopes of reloading and, depending on the fiddliness of your weapon, you’ll probably just eject a bullet onto the ground. Not ideal when a single zap sends you right back to your randomly-determined beginning.
A weekend update has smoothed out some performance issues, added a smattering of prettifying post-processing effects, and done away with a bastard of a pipe I can still remember six years on. If you missed this the first time round, cor, give it a go. S’only £4.
Your job is to collect cassette tapes from a resistance member chronicling the vague collapse of civilisation into surveillance state, but don’t worry about that. I never managed to snaffle more than five or so. It’s a minimalist structure in step with minimalist level design, the bare bones of mass-printed apartments and largely-featureless rooftops. That sparsity brings focus to what matters – the over-loud beep of a turret that’s just spotted you, or the whirr of a drone spinning up to attack. The clicks of your gun, at each step of every tortuously-long reload.
Until you get real good at it, that is, and feel a mastery over shooty-sticks that no other game has matched. Graham wrote excellently about this, back in the day.
“If you want to reload one of Receiver’s three handguns, then you press E to remove the magazine, and then tilde (`) to holster the gun. You press Z multiple times to slip any spare bullets you’ve found into the magazine. Then you get your gun back out, press Z to insert the magazine back inside, and hit T to load the chamber. Before you can fire, you’ll also want to press V to turn the safety off or cycle between firing modes, and pull back the hammer with F.
“This greater fidelity of simulation is normally described as “realistic”, and it extends to the game’s violent machinery, each of which is simulated as individual components: motors, cameras, ammo packs. But realism is not why these systems are interesting. If anything, in the case of your guns, abstracting your actions to individual button press feels less realistic. It’s a reminder of all the little ways in which pressing a button is not at all like sliding a bullet into a magazine.”
You can read the full patch notes from developers Wolfire Games here, or have them summed up for you in a video that jars so egregiously with the game’s tone that I’m hesitant to even show it.