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Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Big Star Games
Release Date: May 18, 2017


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PC Review - 'Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days'

by Cody Medellin on July 7, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days is a top-down tactical-action strategy game based on Reservoir Dogs movie, featuring the film’s classic ragtag “heroes” blasting their way through enemies.

Back in October of 2006, Eidos Interactive and Volatile Games made Reservoir Dogs, a game based on Quentin Tarantino's breakout film that sought to answer some of the questions viewers may have had about what some of the characters did when they were off-screen. The idea was a good one, but the answers ended up being a series of rather pedestrian chase sequences with gunfights that weren't exciting and vehicle sequences that failed to excite. Coming out at the start of the then-new console cycle with the PS3 and Xbox 360, the game's appearance on the old PS2 and Xbox platforms didn't do it any favors. Eleven years after that attempt, we see indie studio Big Star Games trying to take on the license once more with Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days.

They got the name, but they didn't get the ability to retread the film's story or the chance to digitally re-create the actor likenesses. There are cut scenes with dialogue ripped from the film, but they don't fit the context of what's going on. The characters you meet and play with have no significance beyond the fact that their names match up with those from the film, and they look nothing like their celluloid counterparts. Not even the music tries to match the style of the film. It feels very much like a licensed game from the early video game days, when very little was expected beyond name recognition.

Bloody Days is also missing something that was paramount to the film: a story. The only thing you do is go from one spot to another, robbing them of goods and killing cops that you encounter. The cut scenes play out as bookends for each location, but they don't tie everything together into a narrative. It feels like a throwback to older arcade titles, which is fine in its own way.

The gameplay is similar to Hotline Miami, a twin-stick shooter where your goal is effective ammo management instead of a spray-and-pray strategy expected from the genre. You rarely start with guns of your own, but you acquire them from the environment or from the cops and guards you kill. Ammo is scarce for each weapon, and running out means you'll have to rely on your fists to kill cops if you can't find a baton to do that first. Even though you have no qualms about killing, you'll be penalized for harming civilians. Aside from murder, you will rob stores and hold up people to get some cash.

For the most part, the mechanic works fine. Shooting isn't precise, and the camera sometimes hides the people you can kill, but it still works out well in the end. The game also maintains a high level of difficulty, as you will die from a few hits despite having an energy meter to signify your health. If the game were a solo affair in that you can pick the criminal for each stage and go from there, then it would be pretty good. However, you're always forced to take on a partner, and this is where everything falls apart.

To their credit, the developers have added an interesting mechanic so one player controls both characters and there's no need for an actual second player. When taking control of the designated lead for the mission, a timer counts upward to let you know how many seconds you're accumulating. Should you die, you can rewind to send your lead character back to the start. This switches control to your partner, while your first character repeats the pattern you just ran through. You can hit a button to regain control of the leader or let time run out to accomplish the same thing, but you will be forced to restart the checkpoint if you let the leader die while controlling that second character or letting that second character die while you're controlling him.

These kinds of tactics make sense in a strategy game, and Bloody Days exemplifies why this sort of thing doesn't work in an action game. For the most part, you can pass most levels by ignoring your partner and trying to finish each section with your leader. The game accommodates this, as having the leader reach the designated safe zone most of the time allows you to move on to the next section without incident, making it a viable tactic while ignoring the hook.

Actually using your partner is a convenient way to cover up any mistakes you made, like missing cops who would have killed you, but the whole thing causes you to make more mistakes instead. You can kill a guy earlier, so the leader, unaware of the change, fires into that same spot and wastes ammo. Another example of this butterfly effect is if your second character takes a gun that your leader needed. If you kill the other enemies, you see the leader flail around without a weapon and pretend to shoot at stuff. If you don't kill the other foes after taking the gun, you send your leader into a death trap. The stages are too small to use tactics effectively, so this ends up being frustrating instead of fun.

The flawed time-rewind mechanic is accompanied by some other design decisions and issues that drag down the game. The levels vary by locale, but you're never really doing more than engaging in firefights and grabbing cash. You'll find more than one occasion where your enemies wait around until you shoot them first. The stages can be obnoxiously long, with too many scenes showing cops who constantly call in reinforcements. There are different stats for each member of your crew, but everyone plays and moves so similarly that the stats don't matter. There's also the fact that you need to spend money to unlock a stage, a mechanic that feels like too much padding for a game that already clocks in at a decent length.

Aside from the game's lack of thematic tie-in with the movie, the presentation is decent. The cartoon-like aesthetic meshes well with the depicted violence. The bold colors have a knack of making the blood pools stand out more, while the animations and character designs are fine enough that you wish the license weren't used, so you can enjoy the visuals without distraction. The sound effects are fine, and the music is good but quirky enough for the action.

Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days is a confused game. The license seems wasted, since the game fails to use its source material in a meaningful way. Ignore the license, and what you get is a top-down shooter that favors precision over bullet spray but adds a badly implemented time-rewind mechanic that squanders any potential it may have had. A few people can get some enjoyment out Bloody Days, but many will only need a quick glance to realize that this just isn't going to work out.

Score: 5.0/10

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