My allies and I creep through a terrorist-infested office block, eyes on each other's backs, every possible sightline covered. After a brief, clinically precise shoot-out down in the car park, from where we chose to enter the building, we haven't seen another enemy for some time. Enemy layouts are randomised in Takedown, so while you always know what to expect, you're never quite sure when to expect it.
I'm on point: nervous, eyes focused, trigger finger tensed: one bullet is all it takes in Serellen's hardcore shooter. I round a corner see them. Two tangos, lurking left of a doorway, just waiting for me and my team to spill out hurriedly onto the top floor. Thankfully, they haven't yet spotted me. But that's a bit odd, now I think about it, because I'm standing about 15 feet away, right in front them. Hello? Guys! Guys? You OK?
This is Takedown, a woefully undercooked hardcore shooter that undercuts its occasional, but very genuine moments of tension with AI failures or just generally shoddy design. Enemy behaviour offends most grievously and most often: the AI just seems unaware what's happening around it, ignoring silenced weapons peppering bullet holes into nearby walls. This means you become suspicious of its rare instances of cleverness. Did that terrorist really just flank us, sneak up behind us and kill three of the team? Or did he just fail to notice us when we walked by before belatedly springing into action?
Even when it works, this is an anaemic tactical shooter. There's no map, no planning phase, no complex manoeuvres or abilities. In conjunction with the randomised enemy placement, this shifts the emphasis onto lightning fast reflexes. It's tense, certainly. Hardcore, definitely. Tactical? Not particularly. It does require communication, especially when your team divides and enters from multiple insertion points, lest you end up blowing an ally's head off as they pop it round a doorway. The problem is that the actual game here is just a very deliberate, high-stakes duck shoot with occasional 'hit Space to rescue/ defuse' objective thrown in.
It rarely works as intended. Finding a popular server is Russian Roulette, in that roughly one in six either won't work or randomly disconnect you from the game. You have absolutely no criteria for deciding which server to join in any case, since at the time of writing the number of players present doesn't even display. Takedown has been released in an embarrassingly ramshackle state: a fact perfectly represented by my twice managing to get disconnected from a singleplayer game. How is that even possible? Getting disconnected from yourself is an existential crisis, not a gaming phenomenon. It was also something of a relief, since the singleplayer mode offered nothing more than the cooperative missions but with the assistance of some (functional, at best) AI squadmates.
The package is rounded out with a competitive multiplayer which – despite Takedown's many, many failings – still manages to be occasionally thrilling. Without UI crutches such as damage indicators and player names, gunfights with another team can be astonishingly tense. But that says more about the dearth of quality hardcore tactical shooters than it does about Takedown.
Takedown: Red Sabre was Kickstarted into life, and I can't help wondering if Serellen rushed out an unfinished project rather than risk the wrath of its community with an Early Access offering. If so, they made the wrong call.