As a child, I often wondered what Sir Killalot, from Robot Wars, did during the week. If his day job was as dull as I found Robot Squad Simulator X to be, I can see why he relished ruining the dreams of pubescent nerds every Sunday. I did not enjoy my time with this title and, although not a big fan of simulators in general, I would find it hard to recommend this to those that are.
Developed by Bit Golem and published by Ultimate Games, Robot Squad Simulator X allows you control of four machines from an elite unit of specialized remote robots that are used in missions deemed too dangerous for humans. Through twenty-two levels, you will drive, fly, swim, shoot, grab, weld, defuse, and more. What benefits this simulator is that I found the gameplay easy to get to grips with. The controls are solid, robot models are detailed, camera angles were fine, and mission locations are varied and grow in ambition the further you progress through the campaign. I even liked the soundtrack.
What I did not like is a much longer list. This is an ugly game. Given the genre, that could be forgiven but this is 2020. Robot Squad Simulator X looks like an Xbox 360/PS3 era title. Some visuals made me laugh, some made me roll my eyes, some made me squint so I had half a chance at recognising what it was I was looking at. I was deeply unimpressed and the same can be said for the narrative. Yes, I should not expect a strong story in a simulator, but the structure still needs to make sense. The game starts with back-to-back tutorials before you find yourself searching for a bomb in a park, all while avoiding sniper fire. Then you find yourself in another tutorial. Next up, you are stationed down a mine searching for gold, only to be rewarded with another tutorial. You yo-yo like this throughout the entire game and it ruins any chance for momentum.
The missions are random, and you are never given any real context as to why you are there, so even within the parameters of a simulator, it is hard to invest in what is going on. I wasn’t expecting this to rival the antics of Nakatoma Plaza but during one mission I was in control of a drone searching for a crashed helicopter and a message appeared on screen with “it doesn’t look like an accident at all! The package is missing. Inspect the car trace and try to find out what happened.” Prior to beginning the level, all I was told was to find a helicopter. When a game makes it clear that narrative is not the focus and then tries to add narrative beats along the way, it does not come across well. To make matters worse, this was the seventh mission and six missions later, having travelled the world with my own private slice of Skynet, I was back on this mountain to continue said mission. And guess what followed? The sheer number of tutorials becomes insulting because the game never let’s go of your hands anyway.
I have a large gripe with the sounds used in this game. It makes playing this a real test of endurance. Fire is used a lot, but although fire can be seen in the distance, you will hear it as if your shoulder has caught alight. Worse than that are the sounds used for fire. It swings violently between thirty pans of sizzling bacon to what sounds like one bloke kicking a load of snakes in the face. And the early sniper mission in the park I briefly mentioned, well, I was in two minds to let the bomb go off. The place was drowning in a cacophony of feral children every one of them branding faulty whistles.
I was disappointed to find that having finished the game, I came away totally uneducated in the real-life application of these remarkable machines. If simulators are to take the focus away from narratives, then it could make up for it with pertinent information about the specific subject it has chosen to display. This game could have had facts and true stories littered throughout. You could have had real articles or pictures of machines to collect. Just something to make the repetitive nature of the levels more engaging. You earn money for completing missions, which you spend on upgrading your machines, but it is simply a case of clicking on the word speed or endurance and it is upgraded. This aspect, with many others, felt lazy.
To me, everything is basic, bare boned, and boring. You can finish this game in under four hours, and it will not live long in the memory. Robot Squad Simulator X is available on Xbox One, having previously been released on PC and Nintendo Switch via the name Robot Squad Simulator. It will cost around ten pounds, but I cannot recommend it.