Gaming Editor Emma Kent rounds up the EGX Rezzed 2018 session on breaking into games journalism, and asks Eurogamer about diversity problems in the industryWritten by Emma Kent on 24th April 2018
Review: Immortal Redneck
Zak Hughes reviews Immortal Redneck - a first-person-dungeon-clearing shoot-em-up with enough charm and enjoyment to at least peak your interest
Growing up, my parents always taught me to never judge a book by its cover. In the literal sense, I don't think that's right - as so much can be correctly determined about a book's contents and style from the images slapped on the front. In my opinion, the proper saying should be: "Never judge a game by its title". The name Horizon: Zero Dawn conjures up the mental image of a generic sci-fi shooter, rather than giving justice to the game’s tremendously unique setting. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a wonderfully idiosyncratic game, yet has a title so meaningless and boring that I'd likely have scrolled right past it if put on a list in front of me without a second look.
Animal Crossing sounds like a Chinese Frogger rip-off, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is just plain silly. Indeed, hazarding a guess at the nature of any game based on its title is an impossible task. Imagine my confusion, then, when I come across an indie game by the name of Immortal Redneck. With a title like that, I had no idea what to expect - beyond the obvious potential for hillbillies of the eternal variety - but I was still surprised by what I found.
If you clicked on this review intrigued by the game’s interesting title, chances are that - like me before I played it - you haven't got a clue as to what kind of game Immortal Redneck is. Is it a 2D platformer? Point and click adventure? Obnoxiously shoddy ‘simulator’? Its none of those things. Immortal Redneck is a first-person-dungeon-clearing shoot-em-up set in the pyramids of ancient Egypt, wherein you play as Redneck - a.... redneck, with a dislike for mummies, a taste for fast-paced violence, and a thirst for revenge.
Redneck is no ordinary hillbilly, however, as he is given the curse of immortality by the gods, and thus, the promise given by the game's title is fulfilled. It's unashamedly dumb, with its tongue jammed so strongly into its cheek that it almost pushes through the skin, and the opening cutscene that says little more than "we wanted to make a game featuring a wise-cracking hillbilly set in ancient Egypt". Mindless fun and frantic action is the order of the day, then - and it does it well. It does it really well.
“Holy hell is Immortal Redneck fun to play
If you're making a game and not paying too much attention to stuff like nuanced storytelling, then first things first you'd better make sure your gameplay is damned good; and holy hell is Immortal Redneck fun to play. The controls are melted-butter-smooth, and at times it almost feels as if I'm playing a two-stick shooter with just how much precision and fluidity the game allows you to play with. Movement is fast and free-flowing, encouraging you to never stop as you blast through rooms full of enemies. The sharp controls and the way you can simply steamroll through entire floors - containing dozens of variably-sized rooms each - without ever pausing to take a breath reminds me of 2016's Doom, which for me is the highest level of praise.
The game's levels are set out like simplistic dungeons, as you fight through randomly-generated sets of rooms of enemies on each floor, searching for a set of stairs to take you to the next level of the pyramid - or a unique boss battle. Along the way, you'll pick up a wide variety of new weapons - both contemporary and mystical - and each with a distinct practical application. Shotguns for the bigger beasts, dynamite for swarms of the little ones - and an Uzi for everything in between. The weapons are punchy, and sending a giant frog monster spiralling away with a shotgun blast will always succeed in bringing a smile to my face.
Scrolls - found in chests and occasionally dropped by enemies - provide unique buffs or penalties to gameplay: a scroll might grant an increase to damage or movement speed, but it may also decrease the player's weapon accuracy. A scroll might even change a gameplay mechanic entirely, such as removing the beneficial effect on healing pickups in favour of health gain per enemy killed. Picking up a scroll can be a gamble, as while it may offer a nice bonus and make your killing experience easier, it may also force you to change your tactics entirely. Discovering all of the different scroll effects is a joy in of itself, as each and every one has a profound impact on how the game feels.
Unfortunately for Redneck, being immortal doesn't mean that he's indestructible, and dying just once removes all of your progress in the pyramid, sending you back outside with all of your accumulated weapons, power up/down scrolls, and pride lost - forcing you to start from scratch. Before restarting, though, you can make use of the level-up system - only available outside the pyramid upon your death - which allows you to spend gold (dropped from enemies) to unlock stat upgrades and new archetypes and loadouts.
Such unlocks include a tank-class that sacrifices movement speed for damage resistance, and comes equipped with a Gatling gun and temporary invulnerability; or a healing-class, who gains a buff to max health upon each new room discovered, and has the ability to convert all objects currently lying on the floor into health pickups. Death doesn't necessarily carry frustration as it normally would, but the potential for growth and improvement.
“Environments are relatively samey, and the randomly-generated rooms only come in a few dozen variants
That isn't to say that Immortal Redneck is free of frustrating elements, though. Environments are relatively samey, and the randomly-generated rooms only come in a few dozen variants, which becomes much more noticeable after long periods of play. Basic enemies, while varied in their attack styles, offer up little more than a "shoot them till they die" mechanic - which is fine at the start of a pyramid, but can get annoying as they become little more than bullet sponges as you progress.
The random nature of health and ammo pickups means that being able to continue onwards relies somewhat upon RNG, as the player can become stranded before a boss-room with little health and no ammo remaining, making progression near-impossible if you aren't lucky enough to get the ammo or health you need. Immortal Redneck isn't a survival game, but it feels like one sometimes with the sense of relief that seeing a health-granting steak or a box of ammo lying on the ground brings.
None of this stops Immortal Redneck pushing all the right buttons, though. It's mindless, it's frantic, it's relentless; at times it's challenging - but it's almost always rewarding. It's a game you stick on for twenty minutes at a time to clear a floor of enemies without really having to think too hard about just why you're really doing it. I've written before about the charm of pointless but well-designed fun, and Immortal Redneck has it in bucketloads.
For that reason, I just love it.