I have strangely fond memories of Kingpin: Life of Crime, a 1999, vaguely dieselpunk-y FPS that I played far, far too young. It was ultraviolent, ultra-sweary, and had a light smattering of RPG elements that made it feel very novel to me back when I played it. I was pretty excited, then, when 3D Realms announced a remaster called Kingpin: Reloaded in 2020.
After three years—including a long period where it felt like the project had dropped off the face of the Earth—that remaster finally released last Monday and, well, oh no. Buyers of the game on Steam have not responded well to the game, which currently sits at a 30% “Mostly Negative” score on the platform’s user review system. From the sounds of it, it’s another case of a remaster releasing before it’s fully baked, much like what happened with The Outer Worlds: Spacer’s Choice Edition earlier this year.
“Released in unfinished state,” reads a review from Steam user skeep, who complains of mouse difficulties and “stutters everywhere,” as well as bemoaning the lack of mod support. Another, from Mayron Luctus, calls the remaster “clunky” and “buggy” with blood that “looks like watered strawberry jam.” Luctus adds that users can get a better experience by buying the original game—also available on Steam and GOG—and modding it.
One user, Chadaclysm, just cuts straight to the point: “Is it too late to hand this over to Nightdive?”
So Kingpin: Reloaded seems to have come out the door in a bit of a state, which I can’t help but feel is becoming a bit of a familiar tale with all sorts of remakes and remasters these days (the GTA Trilogy Definitive Edition is still absolutely not the definitive version of those games, for instance). But to be fair to Kingpin: Reloaded studio Slipgate Ironworks, working on Kingpin: Reloaded seems to have been much harder than anyone might have anticipated.
Frederik Schreiber, CEO of both Slipgate and 3D Realms, took to Twitter on release day to note that the devs at the studio had to basically write “a new engine, sandwiched between Unity and the original game, in order to reverse engineer and interpret the entire original game,” because the source code for the original Kingpin has been lost.
After years of hard work, we’re finally releasing Kingpin: Reloaded today. It’s been quite a journey to get this thing done, and it’s been a passion project from the Lead Dev. Robert.The source code for KP had been lost, which meant that Robert, essentially wrote a new engine,… pic.twitter.com/F8vHv2LDuuDecember 5, 2023
So putting this thing together sounds like it was a real nightmare, which isn’t any excuse for selling people a game that feels unfinished, but does go some way to explaining why it’s in the state it’s in. Schreiber calls Kingpin: Reloaded a “passion project” for the studio, and Slipgate has already put out a list of known issues it intends to address, so with any luck this will become yet another game that gets properly finished some time after release. But it sure would be nice if that wasn’t something we had to hope for quite so frequently.