This four-player co-op shooter by XREAL Games is now available for Quest and PC VR platforms. It promises a rich action-packed campaign but instead delivers a repetitive experience that’s over way too quickly – read on for our review.
Gambit! follows a group of mercenaries for hire who end up way over their heads after screwing up a job for a powerful client. The game drops you into a brief tutorial that isn’t up to par with explaining everything you need to know, but thankfully the mechanics are fairly easy to pick up as you go along.
The campaign can be played single-player or co-op, with each player taking control of one of four mercenaries. Each mercenary comes with their own distinctive special armament which takes the form of either a chainsaw, bow, stake gun or defibrillator paddles. With enough kills, you can activate the special ability, which makes you temporarily invulnerable and equips you with your unique destructive weapon for a short time.
Once you’ve selected a character, you dive straight into the action, darting around a small map with handguns akimbo taking out waves of humanoid enemies alongside your motley crew. Gameplay follows a simple formula of clearing a stage of foes before moving on to the next, with some boss battles in between.
A wristwatch keeps track of your health and number of lives, as well as the special ability meter. A small amount of health can regenerate over time but to fully replenish the bar you will need to collect food – sometimes dropped by enemies – or buy additional health between stages using the points you earn.
When your health goes to zero, you are downed and lose a life. It’s then up to one of your teammates to revive you in a fashion similar to After The Fall. As with health, lives can be purchased between stages using points earned and if you run out, then it’s back to the last checkpoint.
Each stage contains hidden interactives like boxes, buttons, and valves, which unlock collectable items such as guns, attachments, and skins available to purchase. These hidden items and enemy item drops can also earn you cash, which you can use to buy content that you’ve unlocked.
A Mixed Bag
Gambit! does some things well in its promise to deliver a fast-paced, campaign-driven co-op shooter. Dual-wielding mechanics and an auto-reload feature allow for run-and-gun action that got my adrenaline pumping at times. There’s also a nice selection of standard weaponry and attachments to unlock, with the guns generally feeling good to handle and packing a punch.
Hidden items and other innovative gameplay elements also help to inject additional team-based fun beyond the core game. For example, hitting all of the hidden buttons on a stage releases a small blimp covered in targets that floats around whilst you and your compatriots desperately scramble to shoot it for a cash prize.
That said, for all of the elements that work well, there are also a fair amount that don’t. For example, the AI tended to be a bit hit-and-miss, with characters acting intelligently one moment by seeking cover and then standing stupidly in the path of oncoming fire the next.
One notable immersion-breaking feature comes when you reach your last life. The game lets you know this by flashing the words ‘LAST LIFE’ in the upper-middle section of your field of view constantly until you die or gain another one. It ends up being more distracting than it is useful.
There is also the questionable ability to use your special attack during boss fights, which feels a lot like cheating. During one battle, I activated my special attack, making me invulnerable as I chainsawed away at the boss and simply waited for their health to drop to zero.
Another issue is the dialogue between the foul-mouthed hired guns, which is designed to provide comic relief and set a light-hearted tone amidst the violence. While the banter had its moments, Gambit! felt like a needy kid trying way too hard to be cool, with the copious amount of swearing and juvenile humor coming across as forced and over the top.
If I were to hone in on one of the biggest issues during my time playing Gambit!, it would be the repetitiveness that sets in fairly quickly. This was partly due to the lack of enemy variety, with the game packing stages full of standard grunts that sometimes look different but essentially act the same.
There are also snipers that operate from a distance and kamikazes that get up close and personal trying to electrocute you like deranged Pikachus. But that’s essentially it for the different enemy types on offer (not including the boss battles). Encountering and killing these same units over and over again soon gets old, regardless of whether you’re playing single-player or co-op. More to this, there’s no option to change guns between stages, so even an enjoyable weapon loadout begins to feel stale after a while.
However, one of the biggest contributors to the repetition is the sole aim of clearing every enemy in each stage before moving on to the next. There’s only one exception to this, near the end of the game, where one player has the job of operating a series of levers while the team protects them. Having a goal that deviates from killing everything in sight was refreshing, but also served as a reminder of what the game lacks – varied objectives that make good use of the team-based gameplay.
Over Too Soon
The game is also a short ride – it took me just over two hours to zip through the single-player campaign. This doesn’t include finding all of the hidden goodies scattered throughout each stage. However, the promise of earning more weapons, attachments, and skins doesn’t seem like enough to encourage repeated playthroughs, especially given the issues mentioned above.
Gambit! includes deathmatch multiplayer options in addition to a Battle Royale-style PvP mode for four players called Municipal Mayhem. For those interested, these additional multiplayer features can give some extra life to the game beyond the main story. XREAL Games says more campaign content, such as the “Consumer Cleanup” zombie mode, is on the way and “close to release,” but it’s unclear how much depth and breadth this will add to what’s already available.
Gambit! can be played either seated or standing. The fast-paced gameplay has the potential to trigger motion sickness with frequent running, jumping, and strafing at speed. Gambit! gives players the option to disable auto-run and enable a vignette to increase comfort.
Gambit! Review – Final Verdict
A co-op adventure with a rag-tag bunch of misfits teaming up to wreak havoc sounds great in theory. Unfortunately, the idea is poorly executed with cheap dialogue, repetitive gameplay and a short campaign that feels unfinished. The overall result is a promising but mediocre shooter that’s both underwhelming and forgettable.
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