Kingpin: Reloaded Review – PC

The original Kingpin: Life of Crime, was released in 1999, months after the Columbine High School Massacre. The game reviewed well while also ruffling many feathers with its profanity-laced dialogue and its graphic depictions of violence. A quarter century later, Kingpin: Reloaded attempts to bring the acclaimed shooter to a new audience. In a time where mass shootings and violent video games are a regular occurrence, Congress and the Jack Thompsons of the world would barely bat an eye at Kingpin today. With few updates, missing modes, and no exploration of the context around the original release, I came away from Kingpin: Reloaded wondering why this needed to exist. What could have been a deep dive into the relationship between video games, violence, and societal impact is ultimately a game out of time, doomed to haunt Steam libraries.

Kingpin: Life of Crime is an okay game. It’s a classic shooter with a wide variety of guns, lots of action, and some challenging gun fights. The dialogue is dated and corny, but so are most things that came out of the 90s. When things work, the game can be enjoyable for small spurts. Kingpin: Reloaded is a half-baked attempt to modernize the game. The graphics have received some enhancements, mainly with some additional textures and a more readable UI. The ability to switch between the “classic” graphics and the “enhanced” graphics is a nice addition, but the differences start to wane, the more time you spend with the game. There were a few occasions where I was still in classic mode and did not realize it until glancing at my health/armor meter.

Players can hire NPC characters to follow them and help with gunfights. The muddy look of Kingpin does make it hard at times to tell who’s a hirable goon and who’s out to end your life. Once the guns are out, all bets are off. I spent most of my time fighting solo and saving my money for health packs and armor at shops. Controller support is added for those who’d rather fuss with the twin-sticks, over mouse and keyboard. The guns are your first-person shooter staples such as handguns, shotguns, and rocket launchers. I appreciated the inclusion of a Tommy Gun and a separate burst machine gun, for just a little more variety. Not appreciated, was the game’s tendency to skip frames as I tried to switch guns through the weapon wheel.

Once you’ve completed the campaign, there’s not much else to do here. No multiplayer included in this remaster is an odd choice and begs the question “Why play Reloaded when I can just play the original?” Sure, you have to jump through some hoops to get the multiplayer in the original release to work, but you at least have that option available, as opposed to having no options in Reloaded. You can hop back into the campaign and play through on another difficulty level, maybe finish up your achievements, but more than likely you’ll get through the campaign in one swoop and clean your hands of it.

With the likes of Atari 50 and The Making of Karateka, select developers have started to dabble in behind the scenes tales around game development. Kingpin: Reloaded not taking the time to explore its development or the controversy around its release feels like a missed opportunity. We’re far enough removed from the initial release that the context can be completely lost on someone new to Kingpin. Maybe the needed documentation wasn’t there. Maybe members of the original dev team didn’t want to relive the development cycle or the release. Maybe Slipgate Ironworks had a shoestring budget. This may all be the case, but when the polishing and remastering of the game feels so minimal, you can’t help but wonder what else could have been done to add some weight to Kingpin: Reloaded. Why not include audio tracks from current devs pondering the challenges of bringing Kingpin to a modern audience?

Kingpin: Life of Crime is a glimpse back into the world of violent video games at the end of the century. Kingpin: Reloaded is a rehashing of the original with few graphical and mechanical updates, missing modes crucial to the original experience, and no exploration of the original development cycle, controversial release, or the challenges of bringing the game to today’s audiences. Players, both old and new to Kingpin, would be better served playing the original and reading up on its release when they’re done.

Author: Nick Coffman
Nick is a Chicago Comedy writer whose first gaming memory is the "drowning imminent" music from Sonic 2. He was able to recover from that traumatic experience and now writes game reviews. He recently built his first PC and now uses it exclusively to play small indie titles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *