For a budget game, Microsoft's ReCore made a heck of an impression at E3. While hype for it didn't quite reach Zelda levels, the ReCore booth constantly had a full line of people eager to try the game for themselves; in fact, Microsoft ended up cutting demos short so they could churn people through the dozen or so available kiosks at a more rapid clip.
It's not hard to understand the enthusiasm that built up. ReCore looks great, and it plays equally well. It's the kind of unpretentious, fast-paced, run-and-gun 3D action game that you rarely see these days. No cover shooting, no quick-time events, very little in the way of "RPG elements"; just a lot of dashing, evading, and spur-of-the-moment combat strategy, punctuated by simple environmental puzzle-solving.
That combat strategy takes a form that may feel quite familiar to many players. The enemies that heroine Joule encounters as she explores the ruins scattered about the surface of the planet Far Eden come in four different color variations, which correspond to the four different weapon modes Joule commands. Each of these weapon modes has its own specific effects (yellow, for example, can inflict paralysis), but the real value of swapping colors has to do with hitting enemy weaknesses: A rogue robot is vulnerable to an energy beam whose color it shares.
ReCore's creators have made a conscious effort to present players with a simplified combat interface, up to and including the addition of a ’90s-style auto-aiming feature to allow players to focus their effort on evasion and maneuvering in battle. To that end, they've mapped Joule's weapon-toggle ability to the Xbox One's D-pad: She has access to four different beams, and switching from one to the other is as simple as pressing that beam's direction on the D-pad.
If this sounds familiar, that's probably because ReCore lifts this mechanism directly from Metroid Prime. There, as here, Samus Aran eventually gained access to four different beam weapon types, each corresponding to a different color and a different direction on the D-pad, and each necessary to destroy enemies of that same color. This isn't an act of shameless theft, however; ReCore producer Mark Pacini served as lead designer on the original Metroid Prime. In other words, he has a legitimate claim to this mechanic, because he almost certainly had a major part in creating it in the first place. If ReCore "concepter" Keiji Inafune can borrow from his own body of work for the game (e.g. by naming its world New Eden, which has shades of Lost Planet's E.D.N. III and Mega Man Legends' space fortress Eden), by all means Pacini should be able to enjoy the same luxury.
Really, truth be told, ReCore seems to pull off this weapon-switching concept with far more style and grace than Metroid Prime did. Combat was always that game's greatest weakness, with the mandatory shootouts that appeared in ever-growing numbers toward the end of the feeling more like obligatory slogs than exciting opportunities. Metroid Prime emphasized exploration more than conflict, both in terms of its interface and environments, and the beam-swapping just added one additional layer of hassle to a facet of the game that detracted and distracted from its central strength.
ReCore, however, has been designed from the ground-up for nimble combat. The game's shooting sequences move at a rapid clip and can prove to be quite intense and sometimes challenging, but unlike in Metroid Prime the interface feels purpose-built for that style of action. The weapon-toggle element doesn't make ReCore overly complicated but rather adds just the right touch of involvement to keep players on their toes. It still incorporates some Metroid Prime-inspired exploration (one of Joule's robot companions is capable of collapsing into a ball and roaming to inaccessible areas by riding rails, exactly like Metroid Prime's Spider Ball power); in the E3 demo, however, that exploration felt far more straightforward and direct than in Metroid Prime. Game design demands compromise, and ReCore's compromise appears to be the elevation of combat at the expense of discovery.
Of course, there's no way to know if this tradeoff will pan out for the game until it launches in a couple of months. Like nearly everyone who took the time to sample ReCore's E3 demo, though, I have a good feeling about it. Even amidst a crowded field of promising September releases, ReCore stands out as the one I'm quite possibly looking forward to the most.