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Ready or Not review: a brilliant tactical shooter let down by poor AI and edginess

SWAT 4 is dead but Ready or Not is here to steal its boots

There’s a void in the games industry where tactical shooters used to be, and Ready or Not is here to rappel straight down it (well, it’ll walk because you can’t rappel).

People have been fiending for this kind of game for a while now. Ubisoft used to dose us up with Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon – both games had their take on the tactical shooter space, but now Rainbow Six is an online PvP shooter about blowing up walls and Ghost Recon is GTA in camo pants. It was only a matter of time before someone else slapped on some night vision goggles and kicked the door in (you can do these).

Played solo, Ready or Not feels like classic Rainbow Six. You’re a squad leader ordering your squad to stack up on doors, breach, flash, clear, arrest suspects, or clear a room with shock and awe. Occasionally you pull the trigger yourself, but hanging back and barking orders is the majority of what you’ll be doing.

Stacking up on doors is a huge part of any good tactical shooter, and Ready or Not is not exception. 

Stacking up on doors is a huge part of any good tactical shooter, and Ready or Not is not exception. 

There’s an emphasis on arresting suspects in Ready or Not (unlike in the real cops, am I right?). Catch them off guard (easier said than done, but I’ll get to that) and you can order them to drop their weapon. You must follow the rules of engagement, so you’re chastised if you shoot when someone isn’t a threat. Once you’re close, you can slap the handcuffs on, or you can order someone else to.

You have to keep an eye on suspects who have surrendered, too, because they’ll occasionally go for their weapon as you close in and then it’s goodnight for you because if someone’s up close, you can’t shoot back – your character model raises their weapon upwards whenever you’re too close to anything solid, preventing you from retaliating. Like a moron. There’s weapon safety and then there’s this, which is frustrating in a game where you’re often the man at the back of a snake made of men, all funelling through the same door.

There’s a lot of nuance around doors and rooms, as there should be in a game like this. If you’re sure there’s an armed enemy on the other side because you ran a camera under the door, you could – I don’t encourage it, but you could – just empty your mag into the door and let bullet penetration do its job. Hopefully you’re not using FMJ rounds because they might go straight through the dude and into the hostages.

You can also peek doors and open them slowly, kick them in, blow them up with plastic explosives (which looks incredible), or blast them open with a breaching shotgun. Then there are the choices of which doors to enter from, and whether you should split your team, or whether you want to stack up on the left, right, or a mixture of both. Make the wrong decisions and you and your team are only a bullet away from death.

The harsh difficulty is part of what makes for a tactical shooter. It wouldn’t be tense if it played like COD and made you godlike. The problem is, Ready or Not isn’t just difficult – it’s unfair. Enemies are alerted way too easily and they feel omnipotent once they’ve heard you. I’ve played on co-op with friends and watched as enemies tracked my pals through the wall, perfectly aiming at their heads as they walked silently on the other side of it. Stealth should be a huge part of a game like this, but it feels like an afterthought. Why would I bother using silencers when every terrorist is a mystic? At first, it feels like you’re facing advanced AI that works as a team, flanks, and keeps corners covered, but you quickly realize that they’re just cheating.

Add to this the fact that difficulty doesn’t scale with the player count, and Ready or Not is even more frustrating if you’re trying to play it with just one or two friends. It’s doable, but it stomps you over and over.

There are plenty of customization options where you trade mobility for protection in Ready or Not. 

There are plenty of customization options where you trade mobility for protection in Ready or Not. 

It’s a shame because almost everything else is stellar. The audio design is eerily accurate, from the crack of a bullet to the sound of a phone buzzing on a dead body. It looks incredible, from deserted streets lit up by police sirens to the neon lights of a nightclub. Level design is excellent, too – there are always multiple options available, and there are so many sightlines your squad needs to watch if you don’t want to catch a bullet. And you’ll still catch a bullet.

The choice of levels is varied and puts you in plenty of situations with real-life parallels. However, it does feel like the developers are trying a bit too hard to be edgy, as if they wrote “Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian” on a whiteboard, scribbled out the word “No” and put “Yes”.

Ready or Not features levels where you break apart a child exploitation ring, assault a streamer’s house whilst they’re livestreaming, get called to an active shooter situation on a college campus, and pick through the aftermath of a shooting at a gay nightclub. There’s trying hard and then there’s this.

If that doesn’t bother you and you don’t mind being shot in the head by men with X-ray vision, Ready or Not is the best tactical shooter since SWAT 4.

Score: 7/10

  • Gameplay: 7/10
  • Visuals: 8/10
  • Audio: 8/10