Gene Rain is a rather interesting third-person cover-shooter game from Chinese developer Deeli Network. Take control of four characters as you head out into the post-apocalyptic world to try and put an end to a rather unique threat to the human race. The game offers exciting cover-based shooting segments, plentiful weapon customisations, and a rather unique talent of voice acting. However, there are moments in the game which I wished were done differently or maybe given a bit more polish. As such, let’s take a look at how Gene Wars stacks up against other cover-based shooters.
As far as the story goes for Gene Rain, I got a little confused as I played the game. What I understand is that in the mid 21st century, a scientist known as Bill Feynman has managed to successfully research the human gene by utilising the supercomputers of the future. As such, Bill became a core figure within the industry and erected his own institute, which is where he continued to perform research and developments into the genes and also AI. Unfortunately, the AI becomes sentient and began a war against the humans, a war which resulted in over 1.9bn deaths and the Earth was left in a post-apocalyptic state.
So, in 2060, Bill and his team had developed a breakthrough with their research and they had discovered how to ‘enhance’ the human gene sequence via an air-bourne toxin known as the Gene Rain. As such, in 2089 they erected a bunch of wind towers to distribute the toxin across the land. Things didn’t remain ‘peaceful’ though, as ten years later, unknown creatures had emerged upon the earth, drawn to the Gene Rain and the power it could wield. The first such ‘creature’ took the form of a young boy who had been spotted by the Death Squad on their mission to take down the towers. These became known as the Executors.
The above is what I can cobble together with the intro to the game and the various press releases as the history of the game isn’t very clear. However, our story begins here… fifteen years after the Gene Rain began, and five years after the Executors were first spotted, all of the ‘Death Squad’ were captured by said threat. Through the beauty of modern technology, they are forced to share their memories with the Executors from their expedition to take down the wind towers and put an end to the Gene Rain. Throughout the game, you are basically playing out the memories of three of the soldiers involved as you relive their memories and proceed with the mission.
We’ve lost control?!
One of the things I always look for in a third person shooter is the ability to maintain full control over my characters as well as adapt quickly and easily to any unusual button layouts the game throws at me. In the case of Gene Rain, I had quite a few issues. First of all, I only play games with the inverted y-axis as my brain is now hard-coded for it – as such, I was over the moon to see that the developers had included the option. That was until the first transition to a new character reverted it back to standard non-inverted mode. Yet when it changed again, it went back to being inverted. This I’m classing as a bug as one character and the Mecha suit which you get later, are the only times the invert changes to the default and won’t let you change it back. This has been reported to the developer.
Another unusual control option is the run mechanic. You push in L3 to run. I know what you’re saying “that’s the norm”, however, in Gene Rain, you have to keep it pushed in as you run which makes manoeuvring whilst jogging along a little difficult. What I ended up doing was using the PS4 ‘accessibility options’ and I remapped the L3 button to the L1 instead – it made it a lot easier to run and aim at the same time. Other than that, the controls are pretty normal as you take cover, aim, change weapons with the D-pad and roll with the Circle button. You even reload with the R1 button which I think is the same as in Gears of War…
Now onto what you’ll be doing about 90% of the time – the actual combat of the game. For a small indie title, I was expecting the game to possibly not work or have subpar combat within it, I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Gene Rain‘s combat is actually quite fun. You have various guns, which I’ll get too in a minute, grenades, melee, a special attack and access to a Mecha suit later on in the game. The enemies all have a rather fun exaggerated rag-doll effect which launches them around the screen when you blow them up with grenades, and the guns all come with gradual recoil based on what enhancements you have present.
There were three issues I had with the combat. The first issue is the auto-aim or aim-assist. This can be enabled or disabled in the menu and I tried it at both settings. With it turned off then you have to ensure you’re good at aiming – which is obvious. With it turned on the game doesn’t actually assist you’re aiming correctly. Let’s say you’re looking at an enemy who has gone into cover and then you hold L2 as the character stands up, 8/10 times the aim assist will lock onto that character for you, but sometimes it will aim at another enemy if it thinks their closer or more relevant for you. As such, it gets a little annoying.
The second issue is in regards to explosions. Usually, if you’re hidden behind cover and you get hit by a grenade or an explosion, you’ll take damage but you’ll remain hidden so you can try and regain your energy. In Gene Rain, if an explosion happens which catches you whilst your in cover, your character will stand tall and proud as he offers free target practice to the enemies. I’m not quite sure why you stand up and just let everyone get a free shot in – maybe he’s so damaged he is distorted and wants to end it all? Either way, a tap of the Cross button and you get back in cover – it’s just a bit strange.
My third issue is just an observation. I was having trouble at a certain point in the game where you had to kill these teleporting enemies. I checked the options and I had accidentally put the game on ‘hard’ mode. I switched it to ‘Easy’ and I noticed no difference. I put it on ‘normal’ and there was no difference. When I say “there was no difference” I mean I still died and I didn’t notice any shift in me being stronger or the enemies being weaker. As such, I’m not sure if you need to reload the game, if it isn’t working, or if the difference between the difficulty levels is so small that I couldn’t spot it.
Speaking of the guns, you have three ‘always present’ guns and some grenades, with the ability to spawn in one of four special weapons. the ones you always have are a ‘burst automatic rifle’, the ‘Light of Dawn’, and a ‘standard source submachine gun’. Don’t be fooled by their names though – these guns aren’t your usual ‘burst automatic’ or ‘submachine gun’. They fire colour coordinated bullets which light up the sky as you fill the enemies with lead! The ‘Light of Dawn’ is basically a mini super-powerful electromagnetic pulse weapon which can even kill enemies who are hidden behind cover. Very futuristic!
Each of these weapons can be upgraded as you progress throughout the story as well. You collect ‘cores’ off enemies you defeat and you can use them to upgrade the barrel, scope, grip, magazine, cartridge, and a unique aspect. They don’t offer massive upgrades, but it’s enough to help you progress easier in later fights. You can also spend the cores on one of the four ‘special’ weapons. These are basically one-time use guns which you must purchase and then collect in-game at various spawning points. Once you’ve used a special weapons bullets or you swap weapons, you lose it until you buy it again. It’s a novel way of giving you more guns to use without actually giving you control over what loadout you have – as such, I would have rather had it where you can unlock new weapons and pick which guns you want to use.
I guess the issue with that is that some of the special weapons are super powerful, so if you could keep them all the time then it may make the game a bit too easy?
Meet the Death Squad!
I’ve not even talked about the Death Squad yet! The squad is made up of three characters which you’ll control through the game and one who merely acts as the ‘story’ in segment scenes. The characters you’ll be fighting as are; Alex, who is a half robot who has the special ability of summoning a floating turret, Salman, a robot who has more health and can create a shield around himself, and Li Ying, a human female who can enhance her reactions and speed up her movements for short periods. Each character tried to have their own personality and agenda, but it falls flat most of the time due to the messiness of the storyline. Although, each character does play a little different with their unique skill and general agileness.
Speaking of the characters, the one thing I loved about them is their voices. There is such a varied scale of voice talent on display in Gene Rain. Some characters are clearly voiced by actors who don’t really grasp the English language – as such, they literally read the poorly translated dialogue word for word with an incorrect emphasis on certain parts, which leads to a few unintentionally comedic moments. Then you have some of the others who clearly do know English and have taken it upon themselves to read the script yet restructure what they are saying so that it’s grammatically correct. You also have moments of the music overpowering the voices, some recordings sounding like they were on the train whilst recording them, and I even heard some Chinese being spoken instead of English at one point!
Personally, I loved the voice acting – it was unintentionally funny, the voice actors gave it their best shot, and it wasn’t terrible, just not grammatically correct in most instances. That being said, the script and subtitles are also plagued with inconsistencies and an incorrect translation as well. I understand they have pushed themselves to speak English so that more people will play the game (as there is a group of people who won’t touch non-translated games); however, I feel having a Chinese dialogue with a correctly translated script as subtitles may have actually been better for the game. Like I said – I didn’t hate it but it could have been better/different.
The games biggest issues?
I think the biggest problem that Gene Rain has lies in its storytelling and the overall gameplay mechanics. The story is given to us via the cutscenes and in-game dialogue which your characters have with each other. Like I said initially, the backstory to the game isn’t really presented within the game and there weren’t many references to it whilst playing the game. This issue was also present in 18 Floors which I reviewed previously – we get a backstory and a premise on the storefronts but it isn’t represented in-game at all. However, the story of what was going on whilst replaying the memories – that was explained and easy enough to keep up with, sometimes.
My second point, about the gameplay mechanics, the game has taken a lot of inspiration from Gears of War (there are even a Gears of War and God of War trophy within the game!). As such, they have emulated the original GoW game which was basically an area which you take cover in, shoot the enemies, win, move on, take cover, shoot the enemies, win, move on…. etc… That’s what we have here. There isn’t much substance in terms of plot and character development outside of cover shooter segment after cover shooter segment. As a fan of those games, I had no issues with it, but I know some people will want more than an 8-10 hour cover shooter with about 30-60 minutes of doing something other than cover shooting.
Once you complete the game you’ll unlock a new mode known as ‘Defensive War’. This is basically a horde mode where you get to play as either of the three protagonists as you fend off against multiple waves of enemies which increase in difficulty and numbers as you progress. I actually had fun in this mode as it has a neat spin on it where you only have one ammo refill crate and it only spawns every so often (there is a timer which counts to 100 but it’s not in seconds). As such, you must face off against the wave without using all your bullets, or by punching the enemies, until you can refill and call the next wave. It was entertaining and I’ve done it a few times now.
Graphically, Gene Rain looks really, really good. I was playing it on the PS4 Pro and the textures look really well done and most of them are high quality, as you fire the coloured bullets you’ll see reflections of the light on the ground and the surrounding areas, the overall lighting is great, the particle effects work really well, and the quality of the character models is very good. I didn’t experience any graphical glitches or issues as I played the game, but the cutscenes do appear to be a much lower resolution as they seem to be pre-rendered and not real-time. Which is a shame as the actual in-game quality is pretty good.
On a side note – PSVR support is being added into the game in the next few months (around October) as well. I’ll take another look at the game once this has happened as the game may actually play better once your in VR, who knows?
Audio wise, you’ll either love or hate the voices if I’m being totally honest. I’ve got a video down below where you can hear some of the characters talking to each other. The music is also a bit hit and miss. In most places, it’s decent enough and it builds up the action and really fits in well with what’s going on, but at other times it feels out of place. Take the Defence War mode for example – the music in there is a 5-10 second loop of the same short tune over and over again. It reminded me of old NES games where they would loop the same short segment and call it a day. There were a few instances where the music was louder than all the voices, other times the voice starts off quiet then instantly gets really loud, and there were also some instances where the combat sound effects didn’t kick in. It’s nothing game-breaking, but it was an impact on the experience.
I don’t hate Gene Rain, despite its many flaws, because it was fun playing it. I wasn’t expecting AAA quality in the gameplay, graphics and the sound department as it was the studios first attempt at their own game rather than being contracted to help out other studios with their games. What we got was a game which could do with a once over on the translation to make the narrative make a little more sense via the subtitles, the controls should really be customisable and tweaked so they are a little more responsive, but the graphics look great whilst playing the combat sections. Sure, some parts of the game are a little tedious and you’ll die a lot – such as the part with the teleporting enemies – but it never annoyed me so I had to turn it off, it made me more determined to finish the game. If you go into the game knowing you’re getting a pretty game with some clunky control aspects, then you’ll most likely appreciate it and enjoy it more.
Five minutes of Combat:
Gene Rain is a good attempt at a third person shooter from Chinese developers, Deeli Network. The game looks great for an indie title, with some high-quality textures, detailed character models, dynamic lighting, and a great use of particle effects. However, what lets the game down is its clunky controls, poorly translated and executed narrative, and the sub-par voice acting. I overcame the control issues by manually remapping my pad on the PS4, the script could be forgiven as it’s not their native language, and the voice acting was ambitious due to the fact all the actors are clearly Chinese. However, the story wasn’t explained clearly and it’s easy to forget what’s going on as you enter the next cover-based combat area.
If you ignore the story and play the game as an indie cover-based shooter with little depth and a decent amount of combat sections with the ability to play as three characters and upgrade your weapons, then it’s not that bad. I was surprised at how much fun I had and I still drop in and out of the horde mode between playing other games.
- Graphically, the game looks great with decent textures, good lighting effects, and high quality character models
- Never a dull moment as you move from cover-based shooting section to cover-based shooting section
- The voice acting is "so bad, it's good". Props to the VAs for trying, but it ended up more comical than serious
- Decent array of weaponry and upgrades
- Varied environments and a decent variety of enemies
- The controls are a bit clunky and mapped inefficiently. I'd recommend remapping your controller via the PS4s 'accessibility' option
- The subtitles dialogue doesn't always match up with what's being said, it's also poorly translated into broken english in parts
- The cutscenes are an obvious drop in quality over the in-game graphics
- The music is decent, but there are times where it's a short loop and there are also issues with the volume of both the music and voice acting
- The story falls apart and isn't portrayed well within the game. There is little backstory, and exposition along the way is brushed over without any explanation as to what you are doing or why