Like other downloadable gaming services offered on current-gen consoles, Nintendo’s WiiWare continues to show tremendous potential yet still has a lot of growing to do before it truly comes into its own. It’s been host to a mixture of amazing indie hits, heinous shovelware, and just about everything in between. While the service is populated by many different types of games, file size limitations and other constraints have deterred developers from bringing a first-person shooter into the fold. That is, until now.
For many players, blasting quasi-bionic bugs across the rough-hewn landscape of a foreign celestial body may evoke memories of Starship Troopers or some other over-the-top sci-fi flick. Revilers of nanotech-infused alien space bugs can get their hate-on full throttle in Hudson Soft’s WiiWare first-person shooter debut. In any other format, Onslaught might be considered a bit underwhelming in some areas, but as the first first-person shooter launched on WiiWare, it’s pretty damn impressive. Get read to wipe away the neon green bug guts that are about to be splattered across your screen via high-caliber weaponry.
There’s not a lot you really need to know about Onslaught’s sci-fi tale, other than it provides the barest of contexts necessary to facilitate the forcible destruction of a whole lot of big, robotic insects. Story in a nutshell: “Hey, let’s stick expensive government technology into huge bugs and send them into space to see what happens.” What happens, of course, is that they wind up on a desolate planet, replicate, and find a sneaky way to lure more humans to their deaths. The “more humans” turns out to be you and a few geekily armored squad mates. Thankfully, you’re well-armed and granted a blank check to kick some carapace. Let’s roll.
Onslaught’s single-player story mode spans 13 intense missions that are unlocked in tiers. Three missions are available at a time to be played in any order you choose; beating the first three unlocks a boss battle, and beating the boss unlocks the next trio of levels – the process repeats. The first level or two eases you into the rhythm of taking out waves of oncoming bugs (they come at you from the distance and sprout up from underground in front of you) while navigating the rocky terrain. Beyond that, the difficulty ramps up significantly, and many will find staying alive to beat some missions on the first go-around will be a struggle even on normal mode. Mission objectives typically include search-and-destroy raids, reaching specific points on a map in one piece, staying alive until time runs out, defending locations or bases against waves of foes for different periods of time, and other similar variations.
Any first-person shooter on the Wii stands to be greatly enhanced or horribly mangled by its controls. Here, the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo works quite well, providing general fluidity in basic movement, aiming, and switching weaponry. The thumbstick allows slow forward, backward, and side-to-side strafing movement. Double tapping the stick makes you leap quickly in the corresponding direction, but it can be really awkward trying to dodge or move quickly across long distances when necessary. This is the only fault in the controls, and it’s a minor grievance that only impacts play during boss battles. Aiming, turning, and firing are handled with the Wii Remote – it’s all very smooth and easy to pull off. Your four primary weapons can be switched out via the D-Pad and waggling the Wii Remote reloads. The Nunchuk also gets plenty of play as well; tapping the C button arms a grenade which can be lobbed with a flinging motion, and the Z button pulls out a sweet laser whip for close combat discipline. In a fun twist, killing foes at close range douses your view visor with their green blood, which begins to cause damage if it isn’t cleared away. Shaking the Nunchuk wipes your free arm across the screen. Groovy.
Weapon-wise, you’re packing space-age versions of a missile launcher, a three-burst assault rifle, a machine gun, and a shotgun. Each can be upgraded twice by finding secret items hidden throughout the game. The firepower isn’t too fancy, yet it’s generally fun to use, especially the laser whip. There’s also a massive tank that provides highly enjoyable destructive force in short bursts. And every bullet will be needed. You’ll face a variety of grub-like, mawed slithering things, airborne creatures akin to giant bees, hopping locusts, massive armored beetles, and towering boss creatures. Since these are robo-bugs, each has a glowing core element located somewhere on its body. Putting enough lead into these creepy crawlies will take them down eventually, but targeting their glowing weak spot gets the job done with greater efficiency – something that’s absolutely mandatory when literal hordes of these nasty beasts are clattering at you from all directions.
Though there are only a handful of different kinds of enemies, the developers smartly broke each into different subcategories by making minor visual and color adjustments to switch things up and denote tougher foe varieties. Overall, the game isn’t much of a looker – the levels offer some variety yet start to look the same after the first few – but the design team did a good job with the limited space available. The graphics are certainly respectable and are a big step up from most WiiWare titles.
Onslaught’s multiplayer aspect is purportedly another huge part of its draw. Though it does have some limitations, you can play through any of the story missions online via Nintendo’s WFC with up to three other players. It’s easy to jump in and get started. However, you have no way of communicating effectively with other players, which means you can’t tell them where to go when they’re being total asshats. There’s no deathmatch mode, but that doesn’t seem to register with some folks. In numerous instances my human “comrades” felt it would be more prudent to waste time by ammo plugging rounds into the back of my head (they don’t do damage) rather than assist me in mowing down the real enemy. Depending on who you’re playing with, it’s only a minor step up from the dim A.I. in the solo campaign that causes your comrades to run circles around you like morons (it looks ridiculous, but they’re actually decent shots).
As the only WiiWare first-person shooter, Onslaught succeeds on many levels. It proves that it’s possible to make a decent FPS title at an affordable price with limited space resources. Sure, first-person shooters have been done before on the Wii and done better, but for $10 Onslaught is hard to resist. Boil all of its elements down, and you’ll find some delicious fun shoving your gun barrel in the maws of wave after wave of giant cyborg bugs.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Though not amazing, the visuals are quite good for WiiWare. 4.2 Control
Fluid, easy-to-grasp controls make battling fun, but fast movement is a bit cumbersome. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is relatively good, but frequently repetitive phrases voiced by teammates every time you cap a few baddies are lame and irritating. 4.0
For $10, there are a lot of missions, challenge, and gameplay to be found here. It’s a great accomplishment.
4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.