|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Vanguard Entertainment|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: June 28, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Violence|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
There aren't a whole lot of twin-stick top-down shooters on the market today, so fans of old hits like Smash TV have to take what they can get. Gatling Gears, a new downloadable indie game by Vanguard and Electronic Arts, is here to give fans of the genre something to do other than replay Geometry Wars again.
Unlike Geometry Wars and other similar games, Gatling Gears doesn't have you play repetitive abstract stages over and over again. It actually has a story, which will make fans of the old NES top-down army shooters happy. You are Max Brawley, an old-timey fellow with an awesome moustache who defects from an evil empire, taking a two-legged walking Gatling gun robot with him. Long story short, it's up to you to save the day in the only way you know how: by blowing up everything in the immediate vicinity. Good plan!
The game starts off with a tutorial that takes you through the basics of the game. If you've ever played a twin-stick shooter before, you'll catch on rather quickly. The left stick controls your bipedal Gatling gun mech, while the right stick controls where your mech is aiming.
You also have three secondary weapons to use in the middle of battle by pressing a shoulder button. Rockets do more damage but are harder to aim and usually only hit big targets. You have a limited amount at your immediate disposal, but your rocket supply regenerates over time. Grenades are even more powerful and do AOE splash damage. You can even manually chose where they will land from clear across the map, but you have an even more limited ammo supply and they regenerate even slower than rockets. Finally, you have a shockwave attack that can clear out the entire screen in a pinch. You only get one charge of this, so use it wisely.
As you wander through stages blasting the crap out of everything in your way, power-ups will drop. Unfortunately, this is probably the most uninspired part of the game. You'll only find health pick-ups, invulnerability, damage-ups, and other very basic power-up items. They last for a limited time, and they never make much of a difference beyond granting you a few final seconds of invulnerability to stave off death a little longer.
However, you can also find gold bars as you play through the game, and these can be traded in for upgrades at a shop at the beginning of each level. You can upgrade every weapon you own multiple times, as well as your mech's speed, health, and other attributes. Upgrades can be traded back for the exact amount of gold you paid for them, so you can effectively re-upgrade your mech as much as you'd like. In fact, many stages will require you to do so. Sometimes it pays to have grenades with a wider splash radius rather than a better Gatling gun.
The stages in Gatling Gears are rather enjoyable. They constantly feed you new enemies in ever-changing patterns to keep you on your toes. In the beginning, you will just be fighting a few tanks and scattered handfuls of foot soldiers. However, as the game goes on, you'll end up fighting helicopters, turrets, enemy robots, and more. Eventually, there are so many missiles on the screen you'll think you're in a bullet hell game. Though this is fun for the first few levels, it eventually gets a little frustrating because you do not have near the maneuverability required to dodge all of the bullets. Harder stages will simply require you to take hits or find invulnerability power-ups. This also makes health upgrades some of the most valuable upgrades in the game, so focus on those first.
On the whole, Gatling Gears is fun, but if there is anything the game suffers from, it's repetition. Eventually, the simple process of "move a screen, shoot some guys, lather, rinse, and repeat" starts to drag. This hits the hardest close to the beginning of the game when you don't have a lot of upgrades, and in random points in the middle. The above-average stage length is the real culprit here. In a perfect world, long stages would be a good thing. However, as it stands, the game is just a bit too repetitive for this to be a positive feature.