|System: PS3 (X360,PC - 2006, 2007)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Wanako Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 28, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
It's hard to believe that more than three years have passed since Assault Heroes debuted on Xbox LIVE Arcade, and even harder to believe that it's taken this long for Wanako Studios to bring the game to PSN (via Konami, because original publisher Sierra no longer exists). If you own both consoles, you should stick to the XBLA version: The new version costs twice as much ($9.99 vs. $5), and it's a straight port. If you have only a PS3, though, you absolutely must download this game, because even at $9.99 it's a great buy.
Assault Heroes is an old-school top-down combat shooter. As the sole surviving member of an elite unit, you control various military vehicles that cross land and sea in search of an underground lab that contains weapons secrets. Your right stick enables you to shoot in all directions, and you can scroll through and upgrade various weapons: a minigun, a flamethrower, missiles, grenades, and screen-clearing nukes. With the press of a button, you can jump out of your vehicle and fight on foot, which brings in more points but can cost you a life. When your vehicle sustains too much damage, you have to fight on foot briefly until it respawns, but when you die on foot, you lose a life.
The game certainly feels familiar, but it stands out in several ways. First is the difficulty. Whereas many arcade shooters are nearly impossible for a casual gamer to beat without resorting to infinite lives, Assault Heroes provides three reasonable settings that will challenge but rarely frustrate gamers of all skill levels (at least until the final scene; more on that in a bit). Whenever you clear an entire area (there are 17 total), you unlock the next one as a starting point for the next time you play, so even on the harder settings, you don't have to play the beginning stages over and over without ever seeing the later ones.
There are also checkpoints, which disappear when you quit but can help you through the tougher stages. You'll appreciate them in the game's later areas, where enemies seem to pour out of every available crevice. Also, health regenerates, so if you can clear a screen or so without dying, you can wait for it to recharge.
The hardcore need not fear, however. In addition to ramping up the difficulty, those seeking a challenge can try for the achievements or trophies. One of these involves clearing all of the special underground areas, which are especially hard because you can only fight on foot, and a single death sends you back above ground to finish the regular stage.
The boss battles are another highlight. They're not particularly unique (big monsters, mostly), but avoiding their big and highly damaging attacks can really get a player's blood flowing. Their patterns are complicated enough that you'll spend some time analyzing and learning them, but not random or punitive enough to make the fights seem unfair.
Assault Heroes features both local and online co-op, though there are no competitive modes. We found it a lot of fun to blast through the game with a friend, and it's a great way to beat some levels on higher difficulty settings. Unfortunately, we haven't had much luck finding matches online, so Internet gamers should arrange to play with friends instead of expecting the network to provide partners.
In terms of graphics, the game is no slouch, with a lot of variety and a fair amount of detail to both the underground and open-air environments. The cutscenes at the beginning of each section won't wow anyone, but they look decent, and they're too brief to interfere with the game anyway.