First Impressions - Ready or Not

May 16, 2022
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You can kick doors in this one, too

I want to start this article off with an apology: I’m sorry for not talking about Ready or Not sooner. Technically, it’s only been about six months since it launched into Steam Early Access, but that’s six months too long to not talk about what is essentially my dream game. I spent way too many hours as a tween playing SWAT 4, half of my reviews on Jump Dash Roll are of hyper realistic/depressing shooters, and Rainbow Six Siege has always been and will always be my favourite game to play while drunk. And so when Ready or Not finally launched into alpha as the perfect combination of all those titles, I should’ve been ready (hah, get it, it’s a pun!) to write about it. But now that I am…well, let’s just get this out of the way, it’s bloody fantastic.

If you aren’t familiar with Ready or Not, well, I do have to blame you for once. Its 2017 trailer sent shockwaves through the gaming industry, because unlike the Call of Duty and Battlefield titles of the time, it showcased how the game would be all about the very depressing realities of modern combat and crime. That’s something that caused developer VOID Interactive to lose its publisher because…well, the game is apparently going to have a level set in a school at some point (don’t worry, I’ll talk about this later). But even if it didn’t, the game has been making headlines because it’s the spiritual successor to SWAT 4, or as I like to call it, “one of the pinnacles of the golden age of FPS games that’s been all but forgotten about”.

Okay, but has anyone ever asked what to do if they’re not ready?

This is all to say that (again, for the two of you who’ve been living under a rock for a few years), Ready or Not is a hyperrealistic FPS game wherein you don the combat boots of a Special Weapons and Tactics Officer somewhere in the American Southwest. Each one of the game’s ten-odd levels, many more of which will presumably be added in the future, starts a lot like a round of Door Kickers: You’re tasked with making entry into a small-ish building with a team of either 4 AI or some friends. Then, once you’re in, you need to methodically clear rooms full of crooks that can take you down in a single shot, ensure a minimal amount of civilians bite the bullet, shout (via an in-game key, please don’t shout in real life while playing the game) “POLICE, HANDS UP” before you shoot anyone, and you also need to secure all the weapons/surrendered baddies/drugs you find as evidence to complete an operation. 

Life pro tip, always make sure you have bullets before breaching into a room

And this all feels amazing. The gunplay and movement in Ready or Not are second to none. Every bullet you fire, flashbang you throw and battering ram you use has the perfect amount of heft. Movement feels heavy, too, but it’s surprisingly fluid and really makes you feel like you’re a SWAT officer kicking down doors. The AI (both friends and foes) are also surprisingly intuitive, with the two groups presenting an adequate challenge/amount of assistance and are incredibly keen to listen to your commands.  And, just to get this out of the way, the game looks fantastic, sounds great, and there’s an astronomical amount of weapons/breaching tools to use despite the fact that the game is still in Early Access.

But the real appeal of Ready or Not comes from the thing that I said we would talk about. While I’ve commended Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) for taking a unique stance on civilian casualties before, Ready or Not escalates that to a whole other level. For better, and very often worse, you can shoot anyone you find in a mission in this title, including the bystanders who are just trying to exist. This isn’t done for the sake of being edgy, though (looking your way, Martha is Dead); it means that you need to consider the tactical consequences of every shot you fire. In most games, it’s all well and good to strap an LMG and riot shield to your heavy armour, but in this one, doing so means there’s a good chance you’ll end up blowing through a wall and incapacitating someone who just wants to stay alive. 

I feel like I’m breaking one of the rules of gun safety right now

Equally important to this, too, is that Ready or Not’s levels are…well…dark. Like in the oft-mentioned SWAT 4, there’s some seriously depressing themes in this title. Hostage rescue missions are fun-fueled adventures in Rainbow Six Siege, but every time there are innocents in Ready or Not, it’s not exactly a sunshine and rainbows affair. At times, that’s somewhat troubling given real world events, but that’s kind of the point. SWAT teams have a hard job, the world is a bad place, and Ready or Not forces you to see those things while also engaging in weirdly fun gameplay. 

Which means that Ready or Not is already one of the best FPS games on the market. It’s got a solid core, with its fantastic shooting and great technical aspects, but it also has an outer layer that pushes the medium in a direction that I’ve always believed it should go. There’s still some room for improvement, namely with a somewhat limited selection of maps and no underlying story to engage with, but that ultimately doesn’t really matter in a game that’s this good. If you’re okay with seeing some things that are mildly disturbing but not edgy (again, step forward Martha is Dead), and enjoy SWAT 4 or Door Kickers 2, there’s no reason you shouldn’t own Ready or Not already. If you’re not, though, that’s fine; we can’t all enjoy super-stressful gaming sessions that involve a not insignificant amount of getting wallbanged… erm, getting shot through walls. 

Ready or Not is currently in Early Access. Check back on Jump Dash Roll for the full review whenever it releases!

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Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.