Immortal Redneck feels like it could have been made 15 years ago. For many games that could be considered a negative thing, but for this one it’s hard to think of a better way to praise it. It feels like it comes from a simpler time, when shooters were about shooting.
The premise is silly: you play as a redneck who crashes his desert buggy, presumably dies in the process, and finds himself resurrected as a mummy. It’s up to you to blast everything in sight because... um, reasons. To be fair, this one really isn’t about the plot and makes no bones about it. The game’s probably best described as an FPS roguelike, but even that isn’t entirely accurate: many who don’t generally like roguelike games can still find a lot to love here because it doesn’t feel like one.
Your task is to enter a pyramid and make your way to the top by finding the staircase on each floor and taking out the two bosses on the way. Manage this and there are two more pyramids to conquer before you can be deemed truly immortal. Each time you enter the pyramid you start in a central room with doors leading off in different directions. Every time you enter a new room its doors are locked and a bunch of enemies spawn: the doors won’t open again until you kill them all and the room has been cleared. The general aim, then, is to work your way through the pyramid, clearing out rooms and filling in your map as you go.
The game uses procedural generation, but only to an extent. Every time you enter the pyramid the layout is completely different: the map and rooms have changed entirely, and the stairs to the next floor aren’t where they were last time. To all intents and purposes, it’s a new adventure. The more you play, however, the more you come across the same areas and it eventually becomes clear that what you actually have here is a game where the map is procedurally generated, but the rooms aren’t. Instead, it’s taking a bunch of preset rooms and shuffling their location each time like big jigsaw pieces.
It’s the perfect combination, really, because it gives you that random element you usually get from procedurally generated games to keep things fresh, but combines it with well-designed, developer-created rooms to make sure the quality remains high (rather than being a bunch of random rooms with arbitrary pillars and enemies dumped in there). This mix of familiarity and the unknown makes it a treat to enter the same pyramid each time you die, because although you’ll still have to figure out which way to go you at least get the feeling you’re making some sort of progress because you can develop strategies for rooms you’ve visited before.
Don’t go thinking you won’t die, incidentally. You will. A lot. The whole driving force behind Immortal Redneck is that you begin the game woefully underpowered and have to gradually increase your abilities with each new playthrough. Every time you play you’ll collect coins from fallen enemies: when you die you’ll spawn in a central hub area where you can spend these coins on upgrading a skill tree. You can’t hoard these coins and grind the game to save them for something more impressive early on, either: Immortal Redneck is too smart for that. Each time you enter the pyramid you have to give up all your remaining coins as an offering to the gods, meaning you have to spend as much on upgrades as possible before entering or it’ll all go to waste.
As well as the stuff you’d expect from the skill tree – better health, more ammo, more powerful shots – you can also unlock the ‘favour’ of different gods, letting you choose which one to possess each time you’re resurrected. When you reach this point the game opens up even further, because now you effectively have up to nine different character classes to suit your playing style. Do you go with Seth, a defensive character who uses elemental weapons like a taser sword and tesla coil which means enemies take damage any time they hit you? Do you choose Apis, the God of Strength who’s armed with four weapons instead of the usual three but has limited movement? Or maybe Amunet, who offers more of a stealthy approach and can drop decoys to draw enemies’ attention away from you?
Of course, all this detail would be wasted if the game itself was lousy, and that’s where the main positive comes into play: at its core, it’s just great fun. Everything about this game is designed to make you feel like a bad-ass. Movement is smooth and fast, and it really doesn’t take much practice before you’re skilfully sprinting around, blasting your way through countless snake mutants, baby dinosaurs, crossbow-firing jackals and hopping sarcophagi.
Jumping is a treat too, which is something that’s rare in FPS games. Your character automatically grabs ledges and pulls himself up if you jump into them, meaning there’s far less chance of you tumbling to your doom because you couldn’t figure out where your feet are. It’s so well done that some rooms are huge vertical towers consisting of nothing but small ledges and despite this they’re still a breeze to climb.
Although you’re essentially in a maze, the game is also keen to make sure you don’t get lost or frustrated. Rooms don’t appear on the map until you’ve visited them and doors are clearly marked on it, making it easy to figure out where you haven’t been yet. If you’re in a particularly complex room and can’t find that last enemy you need to kill to clear it and unlock the doors, before long the game shows you their silhouette through the walls, making it easier to track them down instead of making you wander around aimlessly and endlessly.
Then there are the scrolls, which can be found in chests or dropped randomly by enemies. There are 100 of these, and each adds a modifier to your current game (the effect ends when you die and start over). Some of these are positive – infinite ammo for the floor you’re on, temporary invincibility when you take a hit – while others are negative, slowing you down or removing your ability to stand still. The best ones, though, are the weird and wonderful ones that either force you to change the way you play the game – the Vampire scroll means health pick-ups no longer work but you instead get health back every time you kill an enemy – or just do something silly, like the one that random turns enemies into clucking chickens.
All this combines to make a game that, while clearly packed with ideas, never feels overwhelming. As mentioned at the start of the review, it feels like something released 15 years ago, and that’s a compliment: Immortal Redneck could quite easy slot in alongside the likes of Quake, Unreal and particularly Serious Sam as another fast-paced FPS that ditches moody gravitas in favour of emptying rounds into hordes of bad guys with a big grin on your face.
The whole package just comes together so well, and while it’s designed to make you die regularly it never feels cheap. Deaths are always your fault and the fact you’re always improving your stats means that elusive ‘one more go’ factor so many games fail to achieve is very much present in this one: you’re sure you can do it this time. Okay, maybe this time. Right, definitely this time.
It isn’t perfect, though. It’s understandable that some visual compromises have had to be made to get the game running on Switch, and while the game runs at 60 frames-per-second on other formats it’s locked at 30fps here. More importantly, there’s a blurring effect that kicks in when you move around and stops when you’re standing still. It’s noticeable though easy enough to ignore when playing on the TV, but when playing in handheld mode (where the resolution drops further) it can be quite distracting at times. It’s not quite as severe as the blur effect in the Switch version of DOOM but it’s still worth mentioning.
Another stinker (though this depends more on personal taste) is the dialogue. While it’s a great thing that the gameplay feels like it comes from a bygone era, it’s sadly not so wonderful that the same can be said about the writing. Your redneck hero is essentially a rural Duke Nukem, regularly spouting unfunny one-liners and swearing more times than is necessary.
We aren’t prudes here at Nintendo Life (as our positive review of South Park: The Fractured But Whole shows), but there’s a difference between swearing creatively and trying too hard by forcing it into every sentence. It’s a shame because there are plenty of lines in there and many of them are contextual – when you turn an enemy into a chicken he’ll say the, “What’s the matter McFly? Chicken?” line from Back To The Future – but the fact there are more F’s in here than in a truant’s report card means you may be inclined to turn off the voice acting in the settings and never hear them.
Its visual and audio niggles aside, Immortal Redneck is an absolute blast. By combining well-crafted room design with randomly generated maps and then giving the player the ability to smoothly run, leap and blast through them with all the grace of a shotgun-wielding swan while constantly upgrading their abilities, it offers a massively satisfying experience that’s likely to remain permanently installed on your Switch long after you’ve deleted other games to make space.