|System: PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Arc System Works||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: TBA 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
At every games industry trade show there is always one extremely pleasant surprise. A game nobody had ever heard of before the show, but is now looking forward to it more than any other triple-A multi-million dollar project in production. For instance, at PAX East that game was Slam Bolt Scrappers. At E3 2010, that game was undoubtedly Hard Corps: Uprising.
Uprising may not outwardly bear the Contra name though I'm not entirely sure why that's the case but this is Contra in every way that matters. Perhaps they chose not to brand it with the Contra label because of the inherent limitations that the series comes with.
The first bit of evidence for that is the drastically renewed art style. Everything is still in two dimensions, don't panic, but just about everything else has gone out the window. Rather than the pixels and sprites of earlier games in the series, Konami is going with a hand drawn anime-inspired aesthetic. This is doubtless due to the new developer working on the project, ARC System Works, who are best known for their prolific work on the Guilty Gear series as well as the more recent Blaz Blue.
Don't get scared when you read anime-inspired though. The spiky hair seems to be kept to a minimum, and there don't seem to be any women with cat ears. This work is very representative of ARC's past art styles. If you've ever played a Guilty Gear game you'll known exactly what to expect.
Though it may not look very much like its forebear, Uprising plays just like Contra in all the right ways. It's hectic, fast-paced and most importantly, there are some massive bosses to throw down against.
During my brief demo of the game I got to see first hand how ARC is handling the Contra formula. I was pleased to see that they really seem to have a fantastic grasp on how to design Contra games. This was most evident in the fact that the boss I fought was very complex. In the latter Contra games boss fights are rarely as simple as just shooting the bad guy. Extra layers of complexity are added to keep things interesting.
For instance, in the celebrated Contra 3: The Alien Wars one particular boss fight has you flying through the sky on missiles, jumping back and forth between them as they explode while dodging enemy salvos and still shooting enemies.
In Uprising, this design philosophy was fairly evident. In this boss battle, I fought a snake-like mechanical beast that dove into the sand below me and tunneled up through other sides of the stage. All the while it was launching projectiles as me, as I was being sucked down towards the middle of the level by a giant sink pit.
As gamers have grown older and more experience in playing video games, our senses have been honed, and our ability to focus on several tasks as once has been sharpened. Uprising pushes this to the limit, just as all great Contra games have done. They give you many different things to keep track of in order to succeed. The key to their success is in the perfect balance of these things. At all times it's just one step away from being too much to handle. Instead, it creates a mental stress that forces you to push yourself in order to win. Contra games don't test your reflexes, though they may outwardly appear to. Rather they test your brain's ability to communicate several different messages to your fingers in a fraction of a second.
But aside from the bosses, much of the usual Contra classics are here again as well. Weapons still seem to bear a strong resemblance to the over-the-top weaponry of yore. We saw rocket launchers, ammunition-spraying bullet hoses and all manner of death-inducing arms.
But it's not what's old about Uprising that will ultimately grab our attention, but what is new. Contra provides a fantastic template to work from, but ARC System Works is going to have to blaze their own trail if they want capture audiences attention with this latest title. I think they have the talent to do it, though. They have very rarely strayed from their comfort-zone with Blaz Blue and Guilty Gear, but this is the best possible way for them to break out of their shell, and could lead to a great new future for them. They're extremely learned in how to make beautiful 2D games, 2D shooters are a simple enough first step out of their genre, and most importantly the original Contra games will serve as an excellent teacher to coach them through this project.
Uprising doesn't have a firm release date just yet, but we're told that it should launch sometime during 2010.
CCC Freelance Writer