I… I don’t even know where to start.
This might be a boring and overdone comparison, but do you know that bit in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Bowman gets pulled into the vortex, and he sees all of these horrific visions? The really spooky music is playing in the background, and all you can do is react with fear and confusion as you rock in your seat along with Bowman? That’s Gene Rain, and I honestly can’t describe it in any other way.
This is the latest release from Chinese studio Deeli Network, and I genuinely cannot gather any information about their history or past achievements. Instead, let’s talk about the publisher, E-Home Entertainment, who are also Chinese. While they’ve been publishing indie titles like I Am The Hero, Distrust and Goliath, they’ve also been handling publishing within China also, promoting many Ubisoft titles on the Xbox One along with some other AAA titles. Stellar stuff.
You play as… Umm… Emily, or is it uhh… the guy who’s escorting her to… A-Anyway, they get kidnapped by an err… child who looks about 40, but is actually linked to Emily via her heart, and he wants information from her, but if she dies, then he dies, so he dives into her memories for… I umm… The Gene Rain? Except the Gene Rain is actually why the kid is like– I don’t know, alright!? I don’t bloody know!
The narrative of Gene Rain is impenetrable, even though you learn nothing and gain nothing from it. I have never seen any other video game talk so much nonsensically dense drivel in all my life, and it’s even more impressive that absolutely nothing was remembered from the endless dialogue. There’s a reason for that though, and it’s because this game is hilariously bad.
I don’t think any other game this year has come out in such a state of rushed disrepair and confusion, crafted by a team that either have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, or they’re more cynical than me. Gene Rain is such a humorous failure on almost every level, that for the first time in quite a while, there’s really not a good place to start.
One thing you’ll notice for about seven femtoseconds is that the game actually looks quite good at some points. There’s a weird motion blur to it all, but there’s some creative shots and realistic models being used… now, if you didn’t notice that the game was running at about six frames a second, then shame on you. Anyway, as it stands, while the game might look nice in screenshots, bear in mind that those are only screenshots, and in-game? Hoo mama, get ready.
On an audio/visual level, Gene Rain is exceptionally gross and unfathomably bad once gameplay comes into the mix. Trying to follow the insane narrative along with the set pieces is impossible, as it seems that Deeli Network largely threw around random assets they could scavenge, placing them around with no rhyme or reason. Because of this, the game constantly looks like it’s shifting heavily between various different centuries, and I don’t think it’s because of the story.
Throughout your three to four hour adventure, you’ll be playing as three different people with different special abilities, and no, I have no idea what their names are. There’s Small Armour Dude, who can summon a small drone that does nothing. There’s also Big Armour Dude, who has an impenetrable shield that only gets drained via getting hit, and finally, there’s Woman With Massive Thigh Gap, who can slow down time, possibly due to the amount of energy drinks it sounds like her voice actress has taken.
Gameplay is just third-person combat, and in the loosest definition possible, it “works”. Works in the same way that a recent Bethesda-developed title would “work”, but it looks like there was a lot of corners cut. There’s virtually next to no frames of animation of the characters movement, guns and combat feels empty and lacking, and a lot of the the enemies don’t seem to put in as much of a fight as you’d like, leading to boring engagements.
In truth, this gameplay might be enough to turn people off the game completely, because it’s such a generic shooting gallery with no flavour to it. You just hide behind a wall and peek your head out every once in a while, and it never ever changes. Even the boss fights don’t have any life to them, as missing sound files or pathetic A.I will lead you to playing the game in a comatose state.
The game boasts some dogshit hit detection. You can aim above an enemy hiding above cover and still drain his health, but he can do the same to you. There’s certain enemies like “Death claw” and “Current” who are equipped with weapons that aren’t just hitscan explosives, but they can hit you behind any sort of cover that isn’t the middle of a massive wall.
You also have some form of a poise meter, which is baffling to me. Take enough damage, and your already stiff character will be locked in place while the enemy gets a few more free hits on you. It’s pathetically cheap, and it does lead to one or two rather unpleasant combat situations, where not even the humorous nature of everything else can cheer you up, like the voice acting.
Part of me felt hesitant to make a comment on this, due to the fact that this is the first game from Deeli Network, and it’s entirely possible that they had no Western resources to fix this. However, when you’re going to sell this game to Western audiences, then the least you could do is either spell-check or double-check what the word is going to mean in English.
What I’m trying to say is that the entire game, from tutorials to voice lines to menus to enemy names, all read and sound like someone either using Siri translate, or an instruction manual for a bootleg console. The voice acting in particular is something that needs to be heard to be believed, as nobody ever says their lines right, or as the subtitles say they are. One highlight was when Small Armour Dude vented his frustration by saying “I hate cow-rid-ohs now!”, which caused me to take a 10 minute laughing break.
The sound design problems don’t stop there though. Every single sound that isn’t the music is tied into one “effects option”, which means that you’ll barely hear the voices in the first place, due to some exceptionally annoying gun sounds! It’s also a theory, because I don’t have the tools to check, but I believe the audio is in mono, meaning that trying to figure out where the gunshots are coming from is a challenge easier said than done in these dark-ass corridors of cover shooting.
Going back to the story, the only reason it’s so hard to follow is because it’s only mentioned in cutscenes. Anything the characters say in-game is mostly to do with the enemies they’re facing, and never the over-arching goal or why they’re there in the first place. Even with that excuse, I still can’t figure out what on Earth any of the characters are ever talking about, and just to make sure, I completed this game FIVE. GODDAMN. TIMES.
That’s right. I completed this game five times to try and figure out what on Earth was going on, and I still cannot tell you even phase one of the villains plan, whoever the bloody villain is. They keep mentioning a man named Bill Feynman, who I think you see once or twice in cutscenes, and then Woman with Large Thigh Gap suddenly dies, offering nothing to the game but two awful missions. It’s so weirdly unintelligible.
As stated previously, it feels like a lot of corners were cut during development of this game, to the point where even the story is affected. Nothing happens, nothing begins, conflicts, ideas, people, plot elements, they all get left in the dust at some point until an unexplained goal finally gets achieved, and it’s all over. I’m dead serious, the game just ends with some weird rip off of Metal Gear Solid, and then a sequel hook pops up.
In every sense, definition and context of the word, Gene Rain is awful. In every sense, definition and context of the term, Gene Rain is undeniably one of the worst games to be released this year. In every sense, definition and context of the word, Gene Rain‘s core structure is indecipherable, which is why this review might seem more scattershot than usual. It is also because of Gene Rain’s insane design that I recommend that you buy it.
No, I’m serious. This is some Ride to Hell: Retribution levels of awful here, and the only reason why I’d put Gene Rain over Ride to Hell is because there’s kind of a decent idea hiding within the story of this game. They only need to devote full attention and knowledge of craft into the game to succeed, and for the love of God, hire some actual voice actors who know English.
In the end, Gene Rain’s unbelievably horrendous nature is worth at least some morbid curiosity. Hiding beneath some bog-standard third-person combat is some hilarious voice acting, unintentionally humorous translation errors, and a story that’s absolute madness. If Gene Rain ever goes on sale, I highly recommend you devote 4 hours of your life to it, because you will return a changed human.
You’ll never look at cow-rid-ohs the same way again.
This review of Gene Rain is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
While I personally am against myself giving Gene Rain this score, There's no defending the dreadful nature of this game. However, if you're a fan of so-bad-its-good video games, in all their rarities, then I cannot recommend this game enough.
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