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READY OR NOT: EARLY RELEASE PREVIEW

The New Zealand studio VOID Interactive has been making its special forces police simulator for almost five years – the announcement of the spiritual successor to the SWAT series took place in May 2017. Development would have continued behind closed doors and beyond (except for the alpha version for those who pre-ordered the special edition), but circumstances forced the authors to hurry up – on December 18 last year, the shooter appeared on Steam Early Access.

Two typical signs of a failed project: delayed development and a hasty release of what turned out – can we safely expect failure? It wasn’t there – on the contrary, Ready or Not has become one of the most popular games on Steam and has been at the top of the charts for three weeks. What is the reason for such a resounding success of a rather niche product?

Open up the police!
I, as a longtime fan of SWAT 4, have been following Ready or Not since the first news about it appeared – I really liked the announcement trailer. This video hinted that the authors of RoN are able not to limit themselves to tactical gameplay, but to create the atmosphere necessary for a serious plot. Something similar could be seen in the same SWAT 4, where level designers, with the help of a responsible approach to the surroundings, managed to show the players that sometimes a whole story is hidden behind dry lines about another police operation. Remember those missions? A maniac’s lair, a nightclub, a cultist’s home are all great examples of how to create locations.

Preparation for the mission has been reduced to a minimum – there is no planning, inspection of the level scheme and selection of a starting point yet.
Such attention to detail is understandable – given that the genre involves the repeated passage of the same levels, it is foolish to save on their design. We should have expected the same approach to level design from Ready or Not, and these expectations were generally justified. The current version has six locations plus a small level-hub in the form of a headquarters, where you can pick up equipment, practice shooting and choose a place for a future operation. The set as a whole is standard: a night snack at a gas station, a hotel, a port, a private house, a car dealership, a country villa. Two more levels are available in test mode – they are still in development.

If you look at the cards from the point of view of the surroundings, then it will be difficult to find fault with them even without discounts for the beta version. The locations turned out to be memorable and varied, and their size can pleasantly surprise you at the first acquaintance – despite the limited space, you definitely can’t call them cramped.

At some levels, NVD is indispensable.
In addition to the external side of the levels, their layout is also well thought out – a key moment for this genre. The arrangement of rooms, doors, stairs – everything should work to make it interesting for players to storm the object, and the design should also take into account the emphasis on repeating missions. The random system familiar from SWAT helps here – the location of opponents, locks and traps on the doors depends on the will of chance and is unique with each passage.

More fun together
The current version does not have a story campaign (I would like to believe that it will appear in the future), and all levels are available for passing at once. Tasks for them can be different – only five modes, differing in goals and complexity. In Barricaded Suspects and Raid, you have to act against a gang of criminals who have seized a building, the Active Shooter mode, as the name implies, adds aggressiveness and a desire to kill everyone they meet to these bandits, and the most difficult ones, Bomb Threat and Hostage Rescue, should become a real test for the special forces group – in the first one you need to have time to defuse the bombs, and in the second you have to save the hostages.

This is especially noticeable when playing with bots: risking our own lives is out of our hands – death means mission failure, and it is very easy to die while clearing the next room here. So it turns out that when using AI partners, it is best to just give commands and observe the actions of the allies, occasionally taking a direct part in the cleanup. Good for learning the basics, but in general, playing with bots is pretty boring.

Those familiar with the SWAT series will remember that the basis of the gameplay of such games is the storming of rooms. RoN is no exception: each door needs its own approach. Kicking or ramming, breaking in silently or, conversely, with a preliminary throw of a grenade, wasting time peeping with a telescopic visor, or generally opening fire right through the door (bullets break through obstacles here) – in front of each room you have to choose the most suitable one from a variety of options.

The graphics leave conflicting impressions – beautiful models, chic work with lighting, but at the same time, the “plastic” skin of the characters and the absence of reflections.
Co-op makes any game more interesting, and in RoN this rule is doubly true: storming in the company of friends (and random partners too) is noticeably more interesting, so I can advise a single mode.

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