Dark environment, slow, methodical gameplay and plenty of unknown elements out to kill you makes for an experience that could amount to horror. Ready or Not isn't a horror game, but it sure feels like one. Taking a fast corner or recklessly charging through a door could mean your death in an instant. The foes on the other end of your gun aren't monsters, no. They're humans themselves. In this tactical FPS, it tasks players with commanding a small SWAT team dispatched to handle various dangerous situations.
Getting Tactical in Ready or Not
Before diving into an explanation of Ready or Not's status as an Early Access title, it should be noted that this is a game that, due to its subject matter, is political in nature. Police brutality -- and conversely, police rights -- are hot issues in the United States, and Ready or Not has naturally gathered the attention of both sides. I'm not going to discuss the pros and cons of either side of the argument; rather, I'd like to mention some things I hope developer VOID Interactive takes into consideration moving forward.
The human mind is a fragile one, and youth are especially impressionable. There are talks and tangible plans to include a school shooter level. See where I'm going with this? Personally, I believe a game such as Ready or Not could tackle a myriad other different possibilities without the need for a school level. Moreover, children should not be included in a level like this. Nor do I believe they have a place in any other level in Ready or Not. I hope that, as VOID Interactive continues to develop Ready or Not into a more complete state, they take this into consideration. Likewise, I have the expectation that the developer's final product tackles any subject respectfully as possible.
Thus far, Ready or Not could use some work on how players interact with civilians. You are able to shoot any individual in Ready or Not without care. The penalty is losing points -- which to me are just an arbitrary metric -- but there doesn't seem to be any reason to stop players from doing this otherwise. Non-lethal methods of disabling a suspect range from tasers, beanbag guns, pepper spray, and more. It's far safer to just shoot and ask questions later. I would like to see it so that these methods are encouraged more than the lethal option, and I also hope to see harsher punishment for those who spray and pray.
With that out of the way, you are a member of a SWAT team in this game. You're either the commander of a squad of AI or part of a small team with co-op partners. I've tried both methods of play out for myself, so let's dive into the single-player first. In Ready or Not's current state, there are a handful of levels that offer up a semi-decent amount of content. You'll tackle situations in a gas station, hotel, car dealership, and more. You're also able to select game modes for several levels. For instance, you'll be able to respond to bomb threats, active shooters, or barricaded suspects all within the gas station if you so choose.
Whatever the case may be, you'll need to equip yourself for the job. Choices of weaponry range from the aforementioned non-lethal methods all the way to high-powered rifles such as the HK-416 and submachine guns like the classic MP5. In terms of customization, there's a nice offering of attachments to choose from. Several scopes, barrel attachments, and grips are are available and allow players to retrofit a weapon to maximize its efficiency. I had a lot of fun sending rounds down range and trying out which platform worked the best for me. Gunplay must have been a strong focus during development, because it feels just right, balancing recoil, power, and visuals, and audio of weapons to great effect.
When it comes down to it, you'll have to put those weapons to practical use. Because the gas station level in the current Early Access build has many different modes to choose from, I played this one the most often. Level design as a whole is thought out quite well, with each map having plenty of avenues and methods to enter and tactically respond to the situation. The gas station is no different, and for most situations I'd opt to go through a side route instead of the front door. Using tactical tools like a mirror device to check under doors allows the player to assess what is found on the other side. From there, you might choose to open the door quietly. If it's locked, you can use a shotgun blast to the handle, blow it up with C4, or use force through a hammer or your good ol' boot.
Different methods to distract or incapacitate suspects are available through devices like flashbangs. But after the initial entry, this is where all Hell breaks loose and the true horror factor of Ready or Not sets in. It's shockingly hard to tell if an individual -- civilian or not -- is a possible threat. Someone might take a small weapon out without you seeing it, or if they do have a weapon, suspects are fast and accurate. Someone might hobble away, acting wounded, then suddenly turn around and shoot at you. Gun shots are exceedingly loud too and never cease to get a jump out of me. Assailants will drop to a bullet as fast as you do, so there are many factors at play here. You have to determine who the threat is fast and also act swiftly, all the while taking into account collateral damage like civilians, who may run right in front of you while you're in a firefight with perpetrators.
As you can imagine from this description, tactics are at the forefront of this game, and I can't tell you how many times my overconfidence ended in a fast game over. But it's hard not to act fast, especially with the frankly terrifying active shooter levels. If you stall too long, civilians will die, but if you're too hasty and loud, you might hear gun shots ring out further inside the building. To say it's a frightening situation is an understatement, and I'm not one to freak out over games.
If you play solo, you'll have to rely on a set of often frustrating AI. You can dole out commands with a handy menu, but many times my partners would stay in place and lag behind while I trudged on behind. Collision with your teammates are a real issue if you try to barge through a door all at the same time, as well. The biggest issue is commanding your teammates to restrain suspects. If you start restraining a suspect yourself and decide to save time and have your teammate do it, they will, for whatever reason, get stuck in place afterward and never more again. I expect to see some work on this side of Ready or Not, because it can be quite frustrating to play by yourself.
Playing with friends is a much more enjoyable experience, as it should be. Formulating plans with your friends while dividing roles amongst each other builds a nice feeling of companionship. Not to mention, I trust them much more than the mid-tier AI that works only sometimes. It makes for an immersive experience when playing with friends. I was able to forget the world around me and for a bit, I really felt like a part of the team. And we had our priorities straight - only shoot suspects that are going to shoot back, and make sure all civilians make it out alive.
Ready or Not excels in its quick, often few second long gunfights. The other portion of it is tactical planning and methodical searching of buildings. Right now, I am impressed with how far it's come along and I'm definitely excited to try out new weapons and maps. It's just everything else that I'm hesitant about. As I said, the subject matter is questionable in this current political climate, and the developers have a daunting task of finding a balance between what is acceptable and what isn't. Nevertheless, if you are looking for rock solid tactical gameplay a la Insurgency: Sandstorm or even Ready or Not's contemporary, SWAT 4, then definitely keep your eyes on this one.
TechRaptor previewed Ready or Not on Steam with a copy purchased by the previewer. It is out on Steam's Early Access now.