The concept of this game is amazing. The idea of an open world crime game set in video game land filled with parodies of almost any video game character you can imagine is very awesome and not to mention clever. Fortunately, the game mostly lives up to it's great concept even if it falls a bit short in some areas.
The game plays as you'd expect out of an open world crime game. However, the game attempts a much better variety of mission styles. So it doesn't try to be only standard A to B shooting. The game tries to mix it up by including missions that are arcade-like or based on old NES games. This philosophy is greatly beneficial to the game, the variety is incredible and every other mission mixes up the gameplay in some way, so you'll rarely get bored. The quality of the missions do vary however. Most missions are fun, challenging, and interesting, but a few tend to be a little shallow and funnled, not leaving a lot of room for experimentation. On the whole though, the missions in this game are all a bit short, which can be good or bad depending on your preferences (which I'll get too soon). The game offers a challenge and it gets really brutal at times. Don't get me wrong the game is not unbeatable, it's just some of the levels do not hold back on challenge, so there is a good amount of NES-style difficulty. Expect to get a bit frustrated at times if you're not used to that kind of thing. Overall the missions are fun. I found most of them to be interesting, unique, varied, and fun but to me the pacing of the whole game makes it feel like it's hopped up on caffiene. So it's a very speedy experience and missions end quite fast sometimes. Some people may like this, but for me I prefer longer, more fleshed out missions. It seems like this style of pacing is much more suited for casual play or on a handheld. So the pacing is not bad, it's just means the game is best played in short bursts and not for very extended periods IMO. The pacing means the story mode is not very long, but if you don't rush through, you can get a decent playtime out of it.
The game has a pacing problem narrative-wise as well. It seems like the game was supposed to have somewhat deep characters but that aspect seems to have been cut out before the game's release. So as a result, if you were looking for an engaging story you'll be disappointed. It's extremely fast paced, and has a lot of unrelated events and characters you see once or twice then never again, there's just no focus. But that doesn't mean it's horrible, since it manages to be entertain and the humor is mostly well done. The characters are also interesting (even though they aren't very deep) and there's always something new and amusing around the corner.
The parody aspect is extremely well done. Basically, the whole world of RCR is one big parody. The characters in it are cleverly de-branded counterparts of famous characters, and basically everything else is a reference to something in the 80's or 90's. The whole city you explore is chock full of parodies/pop-culture references and is fun to explore. However it's a little "look but don't touch". The city is just kind of....there. It's fun to look at, but it's not very interactive or utilized in the game as I thought it would be. It's also a bit small as well which is a bit disappointing, but understandable if there was not much dev time to spare or it couldn't be bigger due to the NES limitations. Possibly both. The sprites are small as well which is kind of jarring in contrast with all the amazing pixel art in the game. They're not very detailed, but there is a zoom mode if you want them to be bigger. Just keep in mind that it doesn't make the sprites more detailed, it just makes them larger.
The music in this game is composed by 3 different guys including the legendary "virt" (Jake Kaufman), and they each have their own style. The soundtrack in this game is very, very good. It sounds extremely authentic, so it's almost as if they were ripped out of an actual old NES game. The only problem I have with the music is that during cutscenes, it switches between songs in a weird way. Like one shot shows policemen talking and there's a song in the background, then when it changes to a different shot showing something else, it switches to a song that's completely unrelated to the previous song that was playing, so the cutscenes sound a bit weird at times. Also I know an in-game radio like in GTA is probably hard to code, but in this game you don't get a feeling that it's playing songs on other stations without you. So sometimes, it sounds like it starts playing the same song every time you switch to a certain station.
But overall, this game is a very fun and unique experience combining all the pop culture from the 80's and 90's into one game, so the sheer amount of references get's pretty impressive. Also the game has a lot of variety and and some genuinely good humor, so you'll rarely get bored. The game may have not truly lived up to it's great concept, but it was pretty damn close. So I think there is a lot of potential for this concept. With just a few tweaks, a sequel to this game could possibly be the best indie games ever.
EDIT: After some rethinking, I've decided to recommend this game. You have to keep in mind that I waited two years for this game and it didn't live up to the extreme expectations I had, so I set myself up for disappointment. So at first it was more of a personal review instead of an objective one. So I reconfigured it to be more objective and would recommend the game. The game still has some hefty flaws, but it's still a fun romp no doubt.
Posted: December 3rd, 2013