There's nothing "complex" about being awesome...
Wow, first off let me say that this game is fantastic, easily the best Downloadable game that I have ever played. It is such a throw back to classic Metroid that I almost feel like I'm holding an SNES controller instead of a 360. The great thing about this game is that it isn't like some hidden gem or anything. People know about this game, it won 9 E3 awards, unheard of for a Downloadable game.
So the game starts off with some crazy group attacking Washington, DC and you play a short sequence as some throw-away character that you never see again. Then we meet our main character Jason. He is on a date with a chick named Claire and they are going hiking. The girl goes down the pit and when she doesnt come back our hero follows her of course. First you find her backpack, then the game doesn't stop rollin from there.
The story, suprisingly is one that is very deep if you are a fan of Orson Scott Card's series of Empire books, because that is the universe where the game is set. I watched a few of the developer diaries and they had one with Card. He talked about how the game was a prequel to the novels and how impressed he was with the writers to create a story within the story. So much so that you don't need any type of familiartity with the series to enjoy the game to its fullest extent. That being said, the story is actually very rich and you will find yourself getting into it more and more as the game goes along.
The team at Chair has really outdone themselves, the gameplay is so smooth there is almost zero learning curve, well if you have some experiance with the side scroller. If not, in 5 minutes most people could probably have the controls down to a comfortable level. The game starts you off slow and you work your way up to doing crazy things like swinging with a grappel chord, and before you even reach the wall jumping off and doing a triple jump. The controls just feel right and they work. There is really nothing else to say about it.
In the classic Metroid style you start off with no outstanding skills to your name. You gradually acquire more and more weapons to your arsenal and become quite the force within the game. Starting small with a pistol all the way up to some crazy particle accelerator thing. Of course this type of game wouldn't be complete without awsome exploring gear. You start with simple climbing gear that allows you to grip ledges and do wall jumps. From humble beginnings to awesome Jetpack-ness that lets you do the fan favorite double-, and even triple-jump. Not to mention that the armor looks pretty darn sweet. Oh and it takes some of the pain out of those bullets that enemies seem to insist on shooting you with.
Alright well the big story with this game is the visuals. When it was first shown people were blown away at the thought of it being a downloadable game. I personally couldn't belive it. The development team has pushed the Unreal 3 Engine, and the genre of 2-D Side Scrollers beyond what was thought possible. So much so that the game at times feels more like 2.5-D because the game is drawn in 3-D allowing enemies to come up corridors and shoot at you. It may sound like a drawback since you cant shoot in 3 dimensions. That is where you would be wrong my friend. The game has an interesting way of dealing with this conundrum. Just press the right stick in the direction of your enemy and there you go. It does get frustrating, especially when you die, but for the most part it works.
There is an issue with some glitching items and what not, things popping through eachother and whatnot. Also, the AI might as well be non exsistant at times. I swear I have run right into the back of an enemy and he doesn't even turn to shoot. Giving me more than ample time to do the awesome melee moves, (thats right melee in a side scroller) that never seem to get old. Those however are 2 very minor gripes that really don't detract from the overall enjoyment of the game. Well other than the fact that if you finish the game with 100% the final cutscene doesn't load. Patch anyone?
Does anyone like boss battles? Well you will once you get your hands on this game. These huge, mech-like, metal gear esque, could be an AT-ST things that you have to fight are huge, not to mention the blow up reeeel good. Of course they also are good at killing you as you will find out for yourself when you play this game.
The most subtle thing about this game though, is the music. Its not over-bearing, nor is it music you can easily cast aside. There is one moment in the game where the music shifts to a piano sonata while you swim through a now flooded cafeteria. Its things like that, not to mention overall stellar sound design that pulls a game like this togeather and makes it something that people remember playing and will want to play over, and over again.
Ok well the kicker for this game is that if you are like me, you do a quick run through to see how fast you can finish the game. My first playthrough, and be aware that I just finished it about 30 minutes before writing this. It took 4:36.32 for me to finish the game. You should know that I only collected 55% of the game's stuff. I even left out a peice of the armor so I did a quick speed run. Not as speedy as I would have liked, but enough for a Gold ranking.
There is also a neat little set of challenges for the game that has you do some crazy stuff to get to the finish line. Alot like the ones from Bionic Commando: Rearmed. So that adds some more game to it. Also there are leaderboards to help you make sure you actually are better than your friends.
That being said you will not play this game once, or twice, or even three times. This is one of those games that you will keep playing despite the fact that it is an Arcade game. Its one that you won't be able to get enough of. I just wish it had come out sooner in the summer. But hey we've got untill October when the good games start to roll out.
There is something in the Complex for everyone. Those side scroller vets, the ones who want to see what all the fuss is about, and anyone in general who likes to think of themself as a gamer. So seriously, pony up the $15, it is a small price to pay for awesomeness.
Concept: Up the anty of 2-D shooters
Gameplay: Fun, fast, awesome, some very minor glitches.
Graphics: Umm... are you sure this is an XBLA game?
Replay: You will play this game multiple times. It hurts just to stop playing to write this.
Overall: 5 stars
~Ride Hard, Game On