Any time a third-person cover based shooter comes out, it is immediately and rightfully compared to the Gears of War series. As one of Microsoft’s premier franchises, it holds a soft spot in many gamer’s hearts. That vibe was what many of us felt when the trailer for Gene Rain circled our timelines. Dramatic lighting, intense action and a compelling plot seemed to set the stage for a great action shooter. Sadly, the final package does little to confirm these suspicions, as Gene Rain falls victim to missed opportunities.
After watching the trailer again, you get the sense that there’s a revolution on the horizon from humans against machines; like the Terminator movie series. The actual storyline behind Gene Rain is so convoluted and poorly explained that I doubt anyone will become invested or even care about the motivations of our three protagonists. You play the campaign as three different characters, each on their own side of the conflict. You’ve got Li Ying, a human female whose special ability is a slowdown bullet-time effect. Alex is part human/part robot and utilizes a hovering turret, handy for clearing out enemies while you take cover. Lastly, there’s Salman, a robot who can surround himself with a reflective shield for a short period. Except for Li Ying, you will always be accompanied by an AI controlled partner who helps you in combat, but is usually only useful for diverting gunfire away.
At it’s core, the gameplay in Gene Rain tries to mimic Gears of War. You can snap into cover and move alongside it, hop over barriers, melee punch and shoot from an over-the-shoulder perspective. When your stamina meter is full you can deploy your special move and at one point in the game you control a powerful mech. While that all sounds great, the implementation is mostly poor. Snapping into cover works well enough, but when you peek out to shoot enemies, you completely unsnap from cover. Meaning many many times I forgot to re-snap into cover and left myself out in the open to absorb bullets. Melee attacks are wildly inconsistent and downright frustrating at times. Occasionally you will punch or kick an enemy and watch him explode in satisfaction; but most of the time your character won’t do anything, and you’ll be left standing in front of the enemy completely exposed. This proves most frustrating when enemies rush you while in cover, the cause of multiple retries. The one bright spot for me was the shooting, it works well, has a nice reticule and I never had issues with aiming. Lastly, the player movement feels jerky and lacks fluidity.
Another positive aspect of Gene Rain is the good variety of enemy types. Throughout the 3-4 hour campaign you will face off against: zombies, scorpions, spiders, robotic soldiers/ninjas a few mech types and more. Developer Deeli Network Technology seems pleased that there are 9 different guns available and some even upgradeable; but I just stuck with upgrading my original loadout. Speaking of upgrades, Gene Rain allows the player to upgrade their skills with upgrade points (earned during key campaign moments) and weapons with cores they find. Every robotic soldier has a core, when you kill them, shoot their corpse to reveal the core and collect it. This is crucial to upgrading your weapons and especially important if you are trying to earn all the achievements in one playthrough.
Graphically, Gene Rain has it’s share of visually striking moments that are impressive for an independent budget game. While the trailer might lead you to believe every area is like this, the reality is you will be fighting in mostly typical open outdoor areas. There is voiced dialogue in the cutscenes and during the game, but it is very poorly done. The subtitles often don’t match the speech and usually have extra spaces between contraction words. In addition, the actors themselves don’t seem to put much effort into their lines. I would honestly rather have Chinese voice acting with subtitles. Since I am the proud new owner of an Xbox One X, I didn’t notice any lengthy loading times and thankfully the game is Xbox One X enhanced.
As far as achievements (or trophies on PlayStation) go, Gene Rain is a pretty easy completion if you know what you’re doing (can be easily done in 4-5 hours). There are 31 total achievements for 1000 gamerscore, many of which will be earned through playing naturally. Some require a bit of grinding like stomping 30 enemies with the mech or killing 50 enemies with melee. The great news is that the game has an excellent internal tracker for achievement hunters; meaning you can restart areas and won’t lose your cumulated amounts of whatever it is you’re grinding. Thanks to a checkpoint restart glitch, unlocking 4 specialist weapons achievement only requires you to have enough money for one weapon; as you can purchase, reload a save and youre money returns (you lose the gun but the game still tracks it as a purchase). There is also a wave-based horde mode that is tied to 2 achievements, and you will likely never play it again after earning them.
Lastly, it’s important to note that there is no multiplayer of any kind in Gene Rain. No online, no splitscreen; which is sad because this game seems tailor made for co-op. The MSRP is $24.99 USD, which seems pretty high for a game with such a short campaign and no multiplayer.
Gene Rain is the typical game that looks great in the trailer but leaves you feeling dissatisfied and somewhat cheated after playing it. Some of the faults like poor voice acting or subtitles typos can be forgiven, but broken melee combat and the slightly high price make it tough to recommend. If you are an achievement hunter, or someone who loves to play cringy games, then my advice is to wait for a sale. Somewhere between $10-$12 (or less) would be my price threshold. If the developer decides to patch any of the issues or add content, I will post an update below and adjust the score appropriately.
A press copy of Gene Rain was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.