Nonstop Gatling Action
Some video game genres evolve as they age (platformers), others stagnate (FPSes), and still others disappear completely (space-combat simulators). Arcade shooters, however, have simply kept on going. New games like Geometry Wars aren’t much different than the classics, but they’re no less fun, either. It seems that mowing down countless enemies while carefully avoiding the ravages of bullet hell is a timeless concept.
The latest triumph in the genre is Gatling Gears, a downloadable console title that just came to the PC. Gamers who demand sky-high difficulty won’t find what they’re looking for, but anyone who wants to spend five hours in an insanely fun, action-packed world should not hesitate to plunk down their $10.
In Gatling Gears, you control a mech with several different attacks. The most basic is his Gatling gun, which sports a limited range but unlimited ammo. Next are his missiles, which are unlimited in number, but spawn at a steady pace to keep you from overusing them. These are more powerful than Gatling-gun fire and have a long enough range to hit any target on the screen. You also have grenades, which are similar to missiles, except that they are slower (because they’re thrown rather than launched) and do more damage. Additionally, you have a spark attack that clears the whole screen and can be used only once per level. And finally, if you get close to an enemy soldier, you can simply trample him with your mech.
There isn’t much of a story here: You’re at war with some bad guys, and you need to clear them from a linear series of territories. After a brief tutorial, you’re off to complete five chapters of five levels each.
You’re given two extra lives, but there are no checkpoints within the levels. This is an easy game—on medium difficulty, I hardly ever lost all of my lives before reaching the end of a level, and when I did die, it was usually because I was careless—so most gamers shouldn’t have too much of a problem with the lack of checkpoints.
Gameplay-wise, Gatling Gears doesn’t reinvent the wheel. You trigger enemies, kill them, and then trigger more enemies. As the game wears on and the levels get harder, you need to be increasingly precise as you navigate around the various hazards each environment has to offer. Each screen is carefully calibrated to get your heart racing as you charge around the area, killing what you can and avoiding what you can’t. It’s a classic arcade shoot ’em up, except with a much lower difficulty and the ability to save after each level.
It’s exceedingly well-done, however. For such a small game, the graphics are amazing, with realistic landscapes, believable water, and huge boss monsters. Each new chapter has a different setting, so you’ll traverse a wide range of terrain. The sound effects give you a sense of immersion, especially the satisfying boom you hear with every missile you fire, and the music makes your campaign feel epic. One of the few additions to the basic formula is that you can buy power-ups between levels, which make your weapons stronger and give you more health. Further, the game features online co-op and a survival mode, so it’s a great way to join your friends on an explosion spree.
Of course, whenever a game comes to a new platform, the big question is whether the port is an improvement or a step back. In my view, the greater control flexibility makes the PC the better choice, though it’s a close call. On PC, you can choose between a mouse-and-keyboard setup and an Xbox 360 controller attachment. (I don’t know if any other controllers are supported, but the 360 controller is the only one mentioned on the setup screen, and I couldn’t get my Nyko Airflow Ex to work.)
On a console controller, the big advantage is the two-joystick setup, which is superior to using WASD to make your mech walk and the mouse to direct its gunfire. However, if you want to throw a grenade, you have to hold down a trigger to display a cursor, and then move the cursor onto your target with a joystick. All this extra work makes grenades almost completely useless in hectic firefights. By contrast, with a mouse, you can simply place the cursor over your target and hit the space bar. To me, that’s a good reason to stick with a keyboard and mouse, which isn’t an option if you buy the console version.
I also came across a non-control-related issue in the PC version, though. Maybe a third of the way through the game, my HUD simply disappeared. I couldn’t see how much life I had, or how many missiles or rocket I’d regenerated, unless I paused the game. The problem persisted when I quit and re-loaded my file. I don’t know if this was a glitch, or if I pushed a button combination that turned off the HUD, but the instructions didn’t help me undo the problem. So, until the developers fix this, it’s a strike against the PC version.
But why complain about little things? Put simply, Gatling Gears is fun. It’s the kind of game that will practically force you to play it for longer than you planned. It looks great, it fits in to a long history of addictive games, and at five hours, it gives you your money’s worth while leaving you wanting more. As far as I’m concerned, Gatling Gears II can’t come soon enough.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
This game looks terrific for a downloadable title. 3.7 Control
The console and PC setups both have minor problems; we slightly prefer the PC configuration, but either will work fine. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects give you a sense of immersion, and the music makes your campaign feel epic. 4.0 Play Value
Five hours of mindless fun. Ten dollars. What’s not to like? 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|