'Ruiner' Hands-On: Punishing Anime-Inspired Cyberpunk Game Feels Polished As Gunmetal

ruiner
Ruiner. (c) Devolver Digital

My time with Ruiner was a brilliant start to Pax East 2017.

Every aspect of this upcoming action title from Devolver Digital is redolent with cyberpunk overtones, from the anime-inspired feel of cyber metropolis Rengkok to the gritty, urgent plot line starring a dangerous antihero and his passel of off-the-grid friends.

In the Ruiner demo I played, the protagonist — “a wired sociopath” — is given a mission to assassinate “THE BOSS,” an important corporate figure. The screen repeatedly, jarringly flashes “KILL THE BOSS” with an image of what I assumed to be the boss. At first I attributed to some ill-advised intent to keep players with the attention span of a goldfish focused on the level goal. Later in the level, someone else starts to get spliced in until finally, they break through with a message: you’ve been hacked, and your brother’s been kidnapped.

The combat is astonishingly fluid, fast and fun. I died umpty-billion times as I struggled to nail down the timing of my combos and abilities. The game’s pace is not forgiving, but that just makes it more fun, and it’s not like it’s uber -complicated, either. Ruiner ’s combat is just tricky and finnicky enough that getting it right feels like a real accomplishment, while not so fussy that replaying the same segments to achieve perfection (or at least survival) becomes unbearable or overly repetitive.

I especially like that when you pick up a new weapon, you drop the old one. One gun, one pipe, one cyborg, one mission. It’s focused, it’s intense, and it means you don’t interrupt the fast-paced combat by juggling guns like some kind of cyberpunk clown. And in places, Ruiner is downright cinematic. I was particularly struck by the dynamic intro screens for characters like the Boss’s chief of security, which felt straight out of some ‘70s crime show.

The warehouse I ran through on “my” mission to kill the Boss was deeply cyberpunk, with plenty of holograms and android henchmen and violence to go around. When I got to explore the area of Rengok, it was just as cyberpunk in a different way: the seamy underbelly of a slick city, neon lights and dregs of society mixed in with greasy food shops and clubgoers dead to anything but the next best party.

Ruiner ’s cool is coded in its DNA. Cyberpunk done right can’t help but feel retro-futuristic, timeless as some parallel dimension, and Ruiner has hit the nail on the head. The atmosphere of Ruiner could not be more on point and matches its aesthetic perfectly. When even gameplay mechanics speak to theme, you know you’ve hit on a winner.

Ruiner launches later this year. Will this game be on your watch list? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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