FPS Review

Kingpin: Reloaded – Review

Kingpin: Reloaded started life as Kingpin: Life of Crime, which released on the PC in 1999 and caused quite a controversy due to its adult content, graphic scenes of violence, and foul language as standard. Sadly, a planned sequel and console release never happened, and the game was locked in the annals of FPS history, until 3 years ago when 3D Realms announced this very remaster. With a fresh coat of paint and a new lease on life we have to ask: is this still the Kingpin or has the boss been taken out on the lake?

Kingpin: Reloaded - Garage


Kingpin is a tale of revenge. The story begins with the player being left to die at the hands of Nikki Blanco, one of the Kingpin’s top men. Unfortunately, they didn’t finish the job, and you’re not too pleased about having to claw your way back from Skidrow to give Nikki and the Kingpin their receipts.

Kingpin: Reloaded, whilst attempting to tell a gritty and dark tale, doesn’t quite have the nuance of titles like Max Payne or Grand Theft Auto where it counts. The game often comes off as hamfisted, with over-the-top caricatures of prohibition-era sounding “tough guys” dropping swears like they are going out of fashion.

The game was originally released in 1999, when the genre was still quite new to having more in-depth stories. To set the scene, this was a time in gaming when the release of Half-Life a year prior had only just dabbled in this.

The story here is very average, though it is a step up from classic FPS titles like Quake or Doom. There are NPCs you can talk to and expand a little bit of the world building which helps a little. While it’s not memorable, it helps add to the overall image of Kingpin.

Doing Time

Kingpin: Life of Crime, and by extension Reloaded, was a traditional First Person Shooter from the 90s, lovingly dubbed by genre fans as a Boomer Shooter. Where Kingpin set itself apart from titles like Quake 2 and Half-Life was it had immersive simulation aspects to it, such as optional side quests, multiple ways to tackle some objectives, and hireable henchmen, alongside hub worlds instead of levels and linear paths.

The NPCs aren’t just there for worldbuilding either. They provide you quests to bring them an item, and they offer codes to safes or weapons. Some can be enlisted to join you should enough cash pass into their hands, and others just give you hints as to how to progress.

Kingpin: Reloaded - NPC

There are a few stealth sections, though they’re quite poorly implemented due to poor A.I and stealth only being viable in the few sections it’s forced on you. Towards the latter half of the short campaign, the game forgoes any immersive features and leans heavily on the run-and-gun gameplay the genre is known for, sadly stripping the game of its more unique ideas and taking a one way trip to genericville.

There is the Pawn-O-Matic store you can visit to purchase guns, ammo, and mods for your weapons. Frankly, it feels like an afterthought once you get the initial pistol, as from there everything else is found within the stages anyway. A handy option to have if you’re quite low on health or ammo though. I did find the menu quite cumbersome to navigate, having to have my cursor at exactly the right place.

Combat is fine, it has a bit of a kick to it when you get the shotgun, and headshots feel meaty enough, but the sponge-like nature of some of the enemies, and how quickly they can take you down, does make the final few sections of the game a massive chore to play. Possibly a curse of the Quake 2 engine, as evident by its namesake and the final sections of that title, which anyone who has played it would agree was a slog due to bullet sponge enemies and a sharp difficulty spike.

Kingpin: Reloaded - Junkyard

New Breed

Anyone who has played Kingpin: Life of Crime will know all of the above, and no doubt will wonder what Reloaded brings to the table. Don’t worry hombre I got you covered.

First off, Kingpin: Reloaded now runs on the Unity engine instead of the Quake 2 engine. It feels similar, but purists will notice certain kinks that weren’t present originally. You aren’t quite as slippery as you were in the original which makes the few platforming sections much easier, but it comes at the cost of reduced speed, which will have a knock on effect for those familiar with the original version of the game as the Quake 2 engine was a brutally fast engine that hasn’t quite been accurately recreated in the Unity Engine.

Kingpin: Reloaded - Crates

There have been tweaks to the combat. It’s not quite as crushingly difficult now, and some enemies take a little less damage to put down. Sadly, this again goes by the wayside in the end game, with some egregious enemies who eat ammo for fun. Rats don’t bite half as much, so you don’t have that constant worry either. Don’t mistake this game for a cakewalk though, as it can still make you its bitch if you take your finger off of the trigger for too long.

There is a conversation wheel that appears now when dealing with NPCs, allowing you to be nice or nasty depending on what the situation calls for. It’s a small but welcome addition, rather than having to remember which key corresponds to which reaction.

The final major addition is the ability to switch from the new “Enhanced” graphics to “Classic” at the press of a key, good for those who don’t gel with the new art style, but also comes at quite a price which I’ll go into later in this review.

Kingpin: Reloaded - Dark Hallway

Crime Doesn’t Pay

Whilst the combat and quality of life features are good additions and make a somewhat archaic game more playable, the performance of Kingpin: Reloaded is a massive point of contention, and majorly detrimental to what was a beloved cult game many were waiting to see a remake/master of.

The frame rate throughout is wildly inconsistent. Even after a few patches the game is still borderline unplayable due to it dropping frames to as low as 10/15 FPS every time the gun is fired. Using the flamethrower just turns the game into Kingpin: PowerPoint, sadly this also affects the classic version so there isn’t any way around it.

The game also has some rather long load times and this is due to the game loading all the areas at once. The game does now communicate what exactly is being loaded on the screen, but you still have a nearly 2-minute load time even from an SSD.

Kingpin: Reloaded - Bar


Visually, Kingpin: Reloaded is frankly a mess of bloom and what feels like AI generated upscaled textures. Whilst it tries to lean on the gritty neon-soaked streets, it more than often looks like Blade Runner from Wish, with some lights so bright it performs laser eye surgery on the spot.

There is a weird “fog” that, whilst present in the original, seems off in this release. With the sharper textures and glare a lot of the atmosphere from the initial release is gone leaving the title feeling less like a loving handcrafted remaster and more like a quick afterthought.

The new UI is horrid, it’s much larger and more intrusive, whilst weirdly telling you less than the original one does such as what armor percentage you’re at.

As previously mentioned, you can press a key and play the game with “classic” visuals. Sadly, it’s not a like-for-like of the original, and is missing the lighting and look the original had. It instead offers an emulation of what the game would have likely looked like on lower specs, whilst still stinging players with poor performance.

Even the music is broken with this new re-release. Yes, it’s great they have managed to get the classic soundtrack featuring Cypress Hill, but you can barely hear it half the time unless you’re standing on top of the radio it’s blaring out of.


Kingpin: Reloaded could have been a great way to experience a cult title, but frankly it’s a poor, missed shot of a remaster in its current state. The excessive use of bloom and texture smoothing does a number on the aesthetic of the game, and at times hinders players.

The core experience of Kingpin: Life of Crime is still a fun and unique few hours and there is still fun to be had if you enjoy classic shooters.

The poor performance does this remaster no favors. Even with the option to play the “original” mode available, the changes made to the core systems of the game and performance issues persist. More patches are needed before I could even suggest playing this version over the original.


Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X

If you are looking for another Boomer Shooter, check out our review of Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition.

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