Kingpin: Reloaded took a bite out of crime and crime bit back.
Developer: Slipgate Ironworks
Publisher: 3D Realms, Interplay
Release Date: 12/5/2023
While this remaster’s heart is in the right place, the majority of the rest of it isn’t. I suggest waiting for more patches before seeing what the streets of Kingpin: Reloaded have to offer. Or just playing the original with a fan patch.
Reviewer played on PC. A review code was provided by the publisher.
Kingpin: Reloaded is now available on Steam.
Kingpin: Life of Crime was one of those games that I remember quite a bit from my younger years. Not because it was particularly amazing or anything, but that it was unique.
I remember the PC version on shelves at local stores and how I always wanted to get a copy for myself. I even purchased the strategy guide just so I could look at all of the pictures of the game and read a little bit about what to expect within the grimy, crime-riddled world hidden away inside that PC box.
When I finally was able to get a copy of the game, what I found was not only a game I had to play with the volume super low due to the most expletives I had probably heard in my life at that point, but also a game that was an interesting (yet unbalanced) experience.
I can unfortunately say the same thing about this remaster that has been released 24 years after the original. There are a few things that are improved here, but on the whole, it has a slew of new problems.
The story in Kingpin: Reloaded is a rather simple one: the main character, known as the Thug, has been viciously beaten and left in the trash by some goons who work for a man named Nikki Blanco. Our “hero” immediately vows to end the lives of not only the men who doled out the beating but Nikki’s life as well.
Everything that unfolds afterward does so in a straightforward way, with you trying to find a method to obtain some money, score some weapons, recruit some help, and take down everyone who stands in your way to exact your revenge.
Hey big man, let me hold a dollar
Weapons can be obtained easily enough, for a dollar the first person you meet will sell you a crowbar, and the pawn shop owner just around the corner will give you a pistol with one magazine if you can steal a coil from a local warehouse.
Opportunities like these will help you a lot in the opening hour or so with the game because you can start building your money and equipment up to be able to take on heavier threats.
Talking to characters and finding out what they know can give you hints about how you should approach your next objective, and the game gives you the option to talk to people in either a positive or negative way.
Some of the people you meet can be recruited for a wad of cash and they will help you fight until the bitter end during conflicts. This can be extremely helpful because combat in Kingpin: Reloaded can be pretty damn tough.
Enemies move like they are hopped up on the highest amount of amphetamines possible and if you don’t have the latest and greatest mods installed on some of your weapons from the local Pawn-O-Matic shop, these baddies will eat bullets like candy and keep coming back for more.
One of the differences I noticed in the remastered version is that enemies don’t seem to be quite as bullet-spongey as they were in the original. Which is honestly fine by me because before they were practically walking tanks.
The inventory system’s UI in Kingpin: Reloaded looks a fair bit better than in the original and now the game lets you know when you have a new message to look at in your notebook. I had an issue with this however because no matter how many times I read every note, the notification would never stop flashing.
Here comes the pain
There have been some issues with this remaster that have already been patched, but there are still plenty more that I ran into that haven’t been addressed as of the writing of this review.
Enemies will often get stuck on ladders and completely glitch out just shuttering in place while you pepper them with firepower. Your recruits will just randomly decide that they don’t want to work for you anymore and light you up with their fury for no reason.
At a certain point in the game, I completed an objective only to have it not activate and I couldn’t progress. So the only way to fix this was to start the entire game over again. Now this isn’t a very long game, but no one wants to have this sort of thing happen.
Thankfully some of the lighting issues that plagued the game’s initial release have been fixed, but characters still look like they have a blurry aura surrounding them and it just looks unappealing. Also, some textures are just AI upscales and they stick out like a sore thumb.
Loading screens when dropping into a level is incredibly long, even when using an SSD. Thankfully loading in between smaller sections of the levels is brisk, but the other loading screens were so long that I thought my game had crashed.
Stuttering framerates are yet another blemish on the face of this remaster and I’m not really sure what the cause could be. In one room I jumped while holding a shotgun and the frames absolutely TANKED.
To rub even more salt in the wound, the multiplayer mode is absent here too.
Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun
So, while there are some improvements with the issues of how much health an enemy has, the inventory system, and the game giving you a bit more of a clue on what to do next than the original, I can’t really say that this version is currently at a point where I could recommend it.
I know a lot of work has been poured into this game since the original source code had been lost and this remaster had to be reverse-engineered, but I think it should have been pushed back longer because owning the GOG version of the original and using the V9 fan patch makes this whole thing look redundant.