Devolver’s latest will take you down hard.
“Ruiner really nails the cyberpunk aesthetic, the cold inhumanity of technology, stylised oppression and brutal violence.”
So I said to the dude at Devolver show me your most violent games and he did exactly that. I sat down and smashed heads in with a steel pipe.
In Ruiner, your job is to kill the boss of Heaven. Heaven seems to be a steel-cold, clinical, neon industrial escape from the trash city of Rengkok below. And really there’s only one thing to do here: kill.
So I turn heads into lunch meat. And then I graduate to increasingly devastating firepower, although crucially the pipe remains shockingly effective long after the bullets have ran dry.
Ruiner’s hero is faceless, concealed inside a helmet that flashes single bite-size mission statements. Someone’s giving him orders but there’s someone else trying to hack into his perception, to subvert commands. While you keep killing the cyberpunk story begins to unroll; a missing brother, manipulation by The Man, a mysterious girl. But really during the early stages of the game the point is to just keep killing. I like a game that gets on with things.
The violence is chained together as you combo deceptively simple moves. Although the first level feels big, it’s really just about moving from one area to another, pausing to kill before moving on again. Confrontations consist of linking a dash, shield and brutal attack as pre-emptive strikes or risk being overwhelmed. The shield and dash use energy, so the combos can’t be infinite. But chain them together quickly and you can devastate multiple enemies before they’ve fired off a shot. Then you try to avoid more goons as you pick the rest off. Rinse and repeat.
“Confrontation is quick and almost clinically effective in its violence, triggering an adrenaline rush of relief and revulsion.”
It’s tough to begin with, but once you make the shift from single actions to timing combos together you’re an effective killing machine. You zip across the screen leaving clouds of blood drifting in the air. Confrontation is quick and almost clinically effective in its violence, triggering an adrenaline rush of relief and revulsion. I took them all down, they didn’t get back up again, and I’m a heartbeat away from collapsing. Overwhelming odds are shattered if you keep moving and make every action count.
There are comparisons to Hotline Miami, but only in the swift violence. Hotline is more tactical, giving you options when it comes to tackling enemies and approaching rooms differently. In Ruiner – in the first large level I’ve played, at least – there’s only ever one way to go, and the goons approach you, boxing you in. You’ll have to beat them down before moving on.
The first level ends with a mini-boss fight but with added pressure. A timer counts down to zero and death. The only way to keep alive is to execute enemies, adding vital seconds back to the clock. So you need to balance time as you whittle down the boss but also quickly crush his goons to keep the clock in a safe zone. Don’t get carried away pummeling the villain or you’ll aide your own death.
With the opening level finished, bathed in blood, you’re introduced to Rengkok, a kind of hub where you can interact with a bunch of darkly comic citizens. It’s like a snapshot of Mega City One or Geof Darrow’s Hard Boiled, used as a way of pushing you to the next level. If that’s all it does then it’s a welcome break from the ultraviolence, but maybe it’ll offer more as the game opens up.
Ruiner really nails the cyberpunk aesthetic; the cold inhumanity of technology, stylised oppression and brutal violence all set to a heavy electro soundtrack. The action is quick and unforgiving and you can kill or be killed in a heartbeat. Every weapon picked up is bittersweet – it will tear apart but only for a limited time – so you need to tactically drop back and calculate your next victim before the last body even hits the floor. It’s encourages you to play with confidence, ruthless efficiency and to not hesitate. Because to hesitate is to die.
Ruiner is out for PC this spring.