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Video Game / Receiver

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Receiver was created for the 7-day FPS challenge to explore gun handling mechanics, randomized levels, and unordered storytelling. Armed only with a Colt 1911 A1 and an audiocassette player, you must uncover the secrets of the Mindkill in a building complex infested with automated turrets and hovering shock drones.
Official product description

In Receiver, you have a gun.

Let's clarify for a moment. In Receiver, you actually have a gun. If it has a safety, you can toggle it. If it has an external hammer, you can cock or un-cock it. If it has a slide, you can pull, lock, and release it. If it has a magazine, you can remove it, and if it has a cylinder, you can swing it out — and you will, because it doesn't have a telepathic link to tell you how many bullets are in it, and reloading is strictly by hand with individual loose bullets.

You, and your gun, have to navigate a procedurally-generated urban maze full of stationary turrets and flying kill drones to find 11 cassette tapes and learn what's really going on. Good luck.

Note: The RC6 update in September 2012 added, first, a flashlight (notably neither Ten Second nor Infinite — the batteries run dead after at most a few hours use, depending on how much charge it had when you find it), and second, two new guns accompanying the original Colt 1911 A1: a Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver and a Glock 17 pistol modified with an FSS-G fire-selector.

Note 2: A tutorial on manipulating the guns in Receiver may be found on the analysis page.

Note 3: The full version of the game was released on Steam on April 29th, 2013 here; those who purchased it from the developers through their Humble Store link can get a Steam key from that site.

Note 4: A sequel was announced on December 13, 2019. See the trailer here.

Tropes present in this game:

  • All-or-Nothing Reloads: Averted by the nature of the game — because each step in the reload 'animation' is a separate action, it is just as easy to stop at any point and return the gun to the firing state as it is to finish loading.
  • Attack Drone: One of the two enemy types is a flying drone that charges at you if it spots you.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Full-auto fire on the Glock would be excellent... if you were facing off against personnel, and not turrets and UCAVs that were impervious to small-arms fire, save for a few weak points. You also don't get any extended magazines that would make full-auto fire slightly more sustainable. Even the intended use (suppressing fire on a Cypher drone that's running right at you) doesn't guarantee results, thanks to how jittery the Cypher is, and how its tilt can keep its weak points out of reach.
  • A Winner Is You: The ending, aside from piecing together the puzzle, are the cult's brochures.
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: The setting.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted for both the player and the enemies - the machinegun turrets only carry about fifteen rounds each. That said, trying to run them out of bullets is extremely risky, as they have a chance to instantly fire, and even one bullet will kill you.
  • Cessation of Existence: The Mindkill causes this for any human not capable of Receiving.
  • Chaos Architecture: The building complex that the game takes place in makes little physical sense. Aside from the lack of guard rails and general No OSHA Compliance, you'll find things like hallways that lead to nowhere and windows that look directly into solid walls, unnecessarily tall staircases that go nowhere, and random shapes that don't have any obvious purpose (other than as cover).
    • The layout of rooms is generally nonsensical, with something like an obviously residential apartment section often sandwiched in between several maintenance areas.
    • Exaggerated with Workshop tileset mods, which frequently take a different architectural style to the base game rooms and as a result increase the general sense of discordance. You can move from a pair of giant walls with open-air staircases to an industrial warehouse, or even go from an enclosed hallway directly to an open canyon spanned by wooden bridges.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: There are no check points and no save points. You play from the start every time.
  • Closed Circle: The game takes place in one (massive) building complex.
  • The Conspiracy: The cult believes that some sort of entity - extraterrestrial, human, government, corporate, or otherwise - is manipulating all electronic signals to suppress humanity's true state of being, some sort of Nirvana-like enlightenment, and will destroy countless humans to ensure no one can achieve their awake state, which the entity (referred to as "the Threat" in the cult's parlance) either knows or believes is a massive threat to whatever their machinations are.
  • Cool Guns: A Colt M1911, a modified Glock 17, and a Smith & Wesson Model 10. Workshop mods are also available to add more: popular additions include a double-barrel and a Remindton 870 pump-action shotgun, Gewher 98 rifle, Webley-Fosberry and Smith & Wesson 500 revolvers, and a Nerf Maverick.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Cults aren't known for their rationality. The cult the PC had joined threw around buzzwords like "mindtech" on their recruitment brochure, which amounted to psychic gobbledygook and Luddite rambling, and they blame everything on a vaguely named "Threat" that will kill all but a few chosen - also based on actual, real life cults. The thing is, their apocalyptic event actually happens...
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: If after an encounter you press R, the "reload" key in most shooters, on reflex, you'll just end up ejecting the bullet from the chamber if you happen to have a semi-auto handgun, adding 'pick up the bullet' to the list of actions to do to reload.
  • Deadly Dodging: Because of the particular way in which the machinegun turrets are implemented, it's possible for the fire from one turret to hit and disable a second if you line them up ... and if the second turret doesn't kill you first.
  • Deconstruction Game: Ever thought that since you played a lot of First Person Shooters, you could handle a gun well? As it turns out, guns can be deceptively complicated pieces of machinery. All the things that can go wrong here (failing to properly check the chamber when you reload, shooting yourself as a bullet ricochets off a wall, etc.) can and probably will happen to you the first time you play. Guns require both judicious training and skill to properly use, and even then factors like manually loading a magazine into your gun can still trip you up.
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: You can't run if you're aiming your weapon.
  • Double-Meaning Title: In the world of the game, a "Receiver" is a person (like the player character) who can hear the messages of the people who made the tapes and resist the psychic manipulation of all electronic signals in their world, but the word can also mean the functional part of a firearm.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: Due to the nature of the game, it's entirely possible to have this happen to YOU. You don't have a magic link to your gun that tells you how much ammo you have in your magazine. If you don't keep track of your bullets, it's your fault if you cause a flying taser bot to close in on you by shooting it and your magazine/cylinder is suddenly empty. There's also the fact that you possibly didn't cock the hammer, or left the safety on, or didn't check to see if there was even a round in the chamber at all.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The player character is the only one in the building to have survived the Mindkill. The tape alludes to other cult cells and Receivers, but you'll never meet them in-game.
  • Featureless Protagonist/First-Person Ghost: You don't actually have a character model. Whatever you're holding (the gun or the magazine) just floats in the air in front of you, and items you pick up just slide along the ground to you. You can, however, still accidentally shoot yourself.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: The tapes aren't voiced by their actual authors but by another Receiver who could hear their words especially clearly.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You:
    "Your crude world is not the true reality. Your physical body here is the shadow cast by your transcendent mind. We call this higher plane 'Reality A', and your world of shadows 'Reality B'. If you are receiving this message in a fictional context, you are at an even deeper level - one that we cannot reach."
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The eleven tapes.
  • Gun Porn: Of the "elaborate-detail" kind. For example, in the video announcing the RC6 content update, the narrator says: "You can also spin the cylinder [of the S&W Model 10] using the mousewheel. There's no real practical reason to do this, but it seemed incomplete to include a revolver without the ability to do that."
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: Subverted with the Justified Tutorial: the narrator goes over the controls by summarizing an imaginary manual, treating the keyboard and mouse controls as figures in a diagram (e.g. "the weapon can be discharged with the trigger labeled LMB in the manual" and "engage the safety in figure V for your protection": the Left Mouse Button pulls the trigger and the V key toggles the safety).
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: You can shoot yourself by pointing the gun straight down or running (which also makes it point straight down) and pushing the trigger.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: The Threat uses a Mindtech called 'The Dreaming' to interact with your reality. They can't go through themselves but they can send drones.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Slightly downplayed. While you are a One-Hit-Point Wonder, it still takes a while to collapse from a bullet wound.
  • Justified Tutorial: One of the tapes is a guide to operating the gun. The game's unique control scheme necessitates it.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The tape that demonstrates how to operate a firearm properly has the default keyboard and mouse letters (LMB, Z, etc) marked as figures in a diagram. See He Knows About Timed Hits.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Not only is the map randomly generated and enemies randomly placed, you start with a random number of bullets and spare magazines. If you start with just one bullet ... well, you'd better be careful, haven't you?
    • The time between a turret detecting you and a turret opening fire varies. Some will allow you to get to cover, while others will unload death on you immediately.
    • Surviving a head-on attack by a Cypher depends wholly on if you manage to hit any of its vital parts (hard to do when it's tilted) and if it manages to miss your hitbox... or slam into a convenient guard rail.
  • Musical Spoiler: The electronic soundtrack changes as you approach enemies ... and tapes.
  • No OSHA Compliance: In many, many parts of the building, there are no railings to protect you from a fatal fall.
  • One Bullet Clips: Averted, as previously described.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: You. Even a ricochet or falling off seven foot stairs can kill you dead.
  • One-Woman Wail: The game's Variable Mix includes Indian chanting when you're listening to a tape. Given the game's religious bent and allusions to Hinduism and Buddhism, this fits.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: The rooms are (mostly) the same, but their relative arrangement varies, as does the starting position of enemies, tapes, and ammo.
  • Resources Management Gameplay: This comes up in two different ways:
    • First, from the perspective of supplies: the only resources are bullets and magazines. Bullets are rare. Magazines are even rarer.
    • Second, you can carry as many bullets outside of magazines as you want, and leave your spare magazines loaded with however many bullets you prefer. If you have time to switch mags, generally you'll also have enough time to add more rounds into a mag, as you'll either be hiding out of sight of a Turret or Hoverbot between shots, or trying to take out a hoverbot coming right at you, and they tend to reach your position before you even have time to switch mags. Some players prefer keeping just one spare mag just in case.
  • Revolvers Are for Amateurs: The revolver holds fewer bullets and is slower to reload than the semiautomatics, but the control scheme is noticeably simpler.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Played with: the revolver is a basic .38 special, but it's easier to operate and load, whereas taking stock of your magazines and reloading said magazines is a must for other guns. In addition, it's incredibly simple to keep track of your shots by dumping out what's in your cylinder and grabbing the remaining ammo - the game automatically picks up the unspent cartridges.
  • Robot Soldier: Both enemy types in the game are simple autonomous machines. The Threat is unable to fully manifest across realities, so to deal with the Receivers who survived the Mindkill they send the Killdrones to finish the job.
  • Shock and Awe: The UCAVs are Cypher UAVs with a stungun slapped on them. They cause instant death.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: The Steam Workshop includes a couple of shotguns, for which this is Downplayed. While they're not restricted to within melee range and are fairly realistic, the pattern of the shot is unpredictable at longer ranges, in a game where accuracy is important for hitting certain parts of the enemies.
  • Sentry Gun: One of the two enemy types is an automatic turret that constantly turns its camera looking for threats.
  • Some Dexterity Required:
    • The major selling point of the game is the complexity of the controls involved with manipulating your firearm. For example, to reload the magazine of either of the two semiautomatic pistols, rather than simply pressing "R", you tap E (ejecting the magazine), ~ (holstering the gun, to free your other hand), Z repeatedly (once for each loose bullet being insterted), ~ again (to draw the gun), and Z (to insert the magazine) ... and, if the slide is locked open because you fired the last bullet, T (or R) to release the slide and chamber a bullet.
    • Along the same lines, to run in Receiver requires tapping the "Forward" key repeatedly, with your speed depending on how quickly you button-mash — in part because running around all the time is a very good way to get yourself killed, so the developers wished to discourage it.
  • Stylistic Suck: Several of the ending slides are material produced by the cult, which are obviously low-budget and rife with spelling, grammar, and formatting errors.
  • Subsystem Damage: You can shoot off various parts of the Hoverbots and turrets to neutralize them without having to destroy them. Taking out the Hoverbot's tazer or the turret's ammo supply will make it unable to attack. Taking out the optical sensor on either enemy will blind them and render them harmless.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: A common trope in most of Wolfire Games' work, and no different here. It's very, very easy to end up dead, whether from the enemies, falling and breaking a leg, or accidentally shooting yourself, for example, and the game expects the player to play the game much like they would in real life.
  • Unfriendly Fire: When bullets are fired, who is shooting them is entirely independent of what they damage. Fixed turret drones can actually damage other drones with their bullets, but using this as a tactic is not remotely recommended (it usually just gets you killed). And if you're careless enough with running, you can accidentally shoot yourself and die.
  • Variable Mix: The music will ramp up if you are in the proximity of an enemy or a tape. If you pay attention, the music can clue you in to the location of a Killdrone, before you can see or hear it yourself. In addition, the closer you are to collecting all the tapes, the louder the chanting in the background will get while a tape is playing. Even the death sting syncs correctly to the beat of the current track.