Posted 2 years ago By EastonAssass1n - Luke Brown
Top-down twin-stick shooters are hit or miss for me. Often I find myself bored with the repetition and degree of difficulty. I can’t help it. Some genres just don’t gel with me. With the exception of the seminal classic Rambo: First Blood, Part II and a few other titles, top-town shooters just haven’t done it for me. When given the chance to review Gatling Gears, I was only mildly enthused. Today though, I’m happy I had the chance to play Vanguard Games’ first foray into indie gaming. I’m not ashamed to admit Gatling Gears took me by surprise with its vibrant visuals, solid controls, and engaging universe.
Once the title screen faded away, and the game began simply by the camera flying in a little closer to bring my mech into full view, I knew I was in for something different. Set in the same universe as Greed Corp, Gatling Gears puts you in the driver’s seat of a cutting edge mech. The game begins at the onset of a war with the Freemen, and after a few battles, hero Max Brawley decides he’s had enough war for a lifetime. Many years later though, the fight has found him once again, and Max is forced back into his mech to defend his homestead. Teamed with his granddaughter, Max travels all the way to the heart of the new empire to find the man responsible for dragging him out of his comfortable bed. The journey is split across five chapters (six if you count the prologue), with each chapter taking place within a new landscape. The story is told mostly through text dialogue between Max and his granddaughter, but there are dozens of little flourishes hidden around the various levels that add subtext to the story. It’s actually pretty amazing how Vanguard was able to get so much narrative from so little exposition.
As interesting as I found the story, the real star of Gatling Gears is the world itself. My experience with dual-analog shooting games has always left me wanting more from the presentation. Perhaps Vanguard heard my silent prayers because this game is a visual feast for your eyes. Gatling Gears’ world is beautiful and alive, and travelling from one end of the country to the other gives the art team plenty of options to go crazy with design. As attention diverting as all the eye candy was in Geometry Wars and its sequel, those are just fast-moving shapes. In Gatling Gears, every weapon of war is a beautiful steampunk creation that combines both form and function. While a lot of attention was clearly paid to the steampunk war machines that you’ll spend a great deal of your time looking at, it’s clear that nearly as much time was given to mountains, plains, and cityscapes you traverse. Colors absolutely pop off the screen, and the way in which the world slowly loses that vibrancy, yet never becomes dull, as you make your way to the capital city is even more amazing.
The depth of field was easily the most astonishing part of the package. You spend so much time focused on your mech in the foreground, you often take for granted that there’s so much more space on the screen than what’s immediately surrounding you. Flying fortresses and gliders roam the skies above, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce on your unsuspecting mech. The game’s mountain ranges provide the perfect excuse for mortars and mechanized catapults to volley salvo after salvo upon you from below. All the while, you’ll be tangling with tanks and ground troopers flaying your flanks. It’s easy to get lost in the hailstorm of missiles and explosions happening around you all the time, but the carnage on screen is like a ballet of destruction. Just when you think you’ve gotten a grasp on your surroundings, the world crumbles at your feet, adding yet another layer of depth to the visuals. I’m incredibly impressed that Vanguard was able to do so much with this title since it’s only an Arcade game. More developers should take notice of just how much is possible with such a small package.
Even though there are certain rules to how a two-stick shooter must control, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some variation. The left analog stick controls your movement, and the right controls your gatling guns. You also have a cannon and grenade launcher at your disposal, which you aim with the right stick, but fire with the left and right triggers respectively. All of the weapons have three upgrades, and there’s also a one-time use bomb, which eliminates every enemy on the screen at once. On the normal difficulty, you get two lives to try to complete each chapter. Instead of leaving you with only those two lives for the entire game, all your health and lives regenerate after you complete a chapter of the story. It’s incredibly helpful, and is actually one of the things that kept me playing. I’m all for games providing players with some sort of challenge, but I get easily frustrated if I keep losing lives and have to repeat the same part of the game over and over again. Vanguard makes a small sacrifice for the hardcore to give people like me a bit more leeway. It was appreciated.
Gatling Gears awards you with experience points at the end of each level according to how highly you scored. You can bump your multiplier by collecting gears that enemies leave behind after their deaths, but every hit you take decreases your multiplier while dying resets it to zero. It gets quite challenging to keep your multiplier in double digits during many of the later levels, and particularly during boss fights. The experience points are used to unlock new paint schemes and features for your mech, but from what I could tell they’re all cosmetic and don’t add any gameplay benefits.
In addition to playing the story solo, there are also a few challenge maps that will really test your skills. They all play out like Horde mode, with you fending off wave after wave of attackers in defense of some objective. You can also play the game co-operatively online or offline (thank you, Vanguard). All of your upgrades carry over through subsequent playthroughs, though not into the challenge maps. Playing with a friend is fun, and competing for gears and score only adds to the hectic nature of the game. There are competitive leaderboards to place on, and you can replay any completed chapter at any point. None of my friends have the game yet, but when they do, I expect to be battling for top position on the scoreboards with them nightly.
Gatling Gears took me back to a time when I was sitting alone in my room playing Rambo: First Blood, Part II on my Sega Master System. I’d never played a game like Rambo before, and I felt like Gatling Gears was speaking to a part of my brain that hasn’t been accessed in a long time. I just could not stop playing it, and it’s rare for me to become this addicted to a game like this. It’s a simple enough concept, but the execution is top-notch. There are few games that hook me as fast as Gatling Gears did, and I have a feeling the same will hold true for you.
+ More accessible than the typical twin-stick shooter
+ Plenty of modes keep the replay value high
- Experience point unlocks are fairly unintersting
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Release Date : 2011/05/04
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : Vanguard Games
Category : Adventure
ESRB : E10+
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
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8.7 / 10