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Receiver 2's intricate gun simulation is fascinating, but I'm already tired of shooting turrets

(Image credit: Wolfire Games)

There are two things going on in Receiver 2, one of which I really dig. The cool part is the physical sensation, and mental exercise, of using a magnum. In most games that's clicking the mouse to fire and pressing R to reload. In Receiver, every step of the process is its own action and keypress: Tab to unholster my revolver, E to spin out the cylinder, Z to slot in bullets one-by-one, and R to snap the cylinder back in place. Receiver is the kind of simulation that I love to see exist on PC, a game obsessed with the minutiae that we normally abstract in favor of action. The action, here, is every step you take leading up to the moment you pull the trigger, not just the explosion that comes after.

Like Euro Truck Simulator, Receiver understands the satisfaction that awaits in exploring those details, whether that's using the mouse wheel to spin a revolver's cylinder to a live bullet or rolling down a truck window.

The other thing going on in Receiver 2 is, basically, everything beyond its guns: a desolate industrial building full of cassette tapes talking about the "Mindkill," which you explore in roguelike fashion, respawning each time you die to explore a remixed version of the same location. There are no characters to interact with, just turrets and drones that shoot you on sight and kill you in a single hit. Unfortunately, as much as I like Receiver 2's approach to its guns, I don't much enjoy anything I can do with them, and find the exploration somewhere between dull and unpleasant.

I'm hunting for five cassette tapes to rank up and complete a "level," but after a minute or two of walking around and finding nothing but the occasional bullet I start to run, and then I come around a corner and a turret shoots me, and I have to start over again. If I manage to get the drop on a turret I can shoot it, but these turrets are not entertaining to shoot. They have none of the satisfying or intricate reactivity of FPS bad guys. 

I understand that this is, kind of, Receiver's point. There could be human enemies in this game, but there aren't, because this emptiness is creepy. The turrets that fire bullets into my body are actually shooting a gun range stencil of a human being, which is the body I can see reflected in the windows of the empty building I explore. I am a receiver for those bullets, and for the ramblings of the cassette tapes talking about the Mindkill and Receiving and firearms. The voice on these tapes delivers its pitch with a true believer's earnestness that makes me feel like I'm being indoctrinated into a gun cult, or an anti-gun cult meant to scare me straight, I can't tell which.

If you really engage with Receiver 2 and buy into this setting, it's less a "shooter" and more a horror game, where your own physical interaction with your guns is a key part of the tension. It is not about empowerment. Fumbling a reload, wasting bullets, being too slow to clear your holster—these are all quick tickets to death and restarting a level, and if your goal is to finish the game, it will be scary and intense.

For me, dying a few times and being forced to wander another samey, lifeless environment in search of cassette tapes I didn't want to listen to was not scary, it was just tedious. And if you quit the game, it knocks you down a peg, forcing you to restart at an earlier level. This punishment will no doubt make some players commit to reaching the end of Receiver 2 in one go, but it just turned me off wanting to play at all.

Instead I'll look forward to the videos people make of Receiver 2's fastidious reloading and shooting. It may not be for me, but I respect any game that lets you accidentally shoot yourself by holstering a gun too quickly. Why would you leave the hammer cocked like that, you careless fool? You'll never survive this post-Mindkill world like that.

When he's not 50 hours into a JRPG or an opaque ASCII roguelike, Wes is probably playing the hottest games of three years ago. He oversees features, seeking out personal stories from PC gaming's niche communities. 50% pizza by volume.