There's nothing quite like a good top-down shooter to get the blood pumping.
Gatling Gears is some of the best fun you can have with your analog sticks. Simple, fast-paced and exciting is how you can define a game like this. Is it perfect? Lord, no. Is it fun? You bet. Here's why...
The story is as simple as the game. You're a retired Gatling Gear pilot, who is called back into action when the evil Empire starts ravaging a once beautiful land. It's basically you, your niece and the metal beast you rode in on aiming to stop the Empire destruction through your own large amounts of destruction. It's you against the world, kind of the Rambo odds any good shooting game should carry with it.
Harking back to the old 16-bit days of yore, Gatling Gears brings simplistic controls to a simplistic game. Armed with three major weapons (grenades, Gatling gun, missiles and one massive electrical charge), you move your analog stick controlled robot around through different types of environments fighting relentless Empire soldiers armed with guns, missiles and machinery. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, Vanguard Games makes the analog sticks on the Xbox controller into your main source of fun. The left stick controls your movement, while the right stick controls your Gatling guns. The movement is as easy as the guns, as you can pretty much go wherever you want on a level to dodge enemy fire or get away from bosses. The guns provide the same range of motion as the Gatling Gear movements. If you can remember how the old game Smash TV works then you know exactly what to expect when it comes to firing and moving. With that said, there is a caveat to the weaponry.
For nearly five hours of playtime for this game, I had the hardest time getting use to the grenade launcher on the mech. Holding down the left trigger on the controller changed the Gatling gun to a grenade launcher. Pretty easy, right? Not at all. Once you change from the grenade launcher the Gatling gun analog stick becomes an aiming mechanism. Imagine trying to control your mech's movement while at the same time targeting with the right stick; trust me, it's not an easy task and one I never got use to in the game. Most of the time I had to stop my Gatling Gear, aim and then fire. In the latter portions of the game this is not a good idea when hell is coming down on your courtesy of the Empire. The further you get in the game the more you're required to keep moving, which stinks when you're trying to use the grenade launcher. This is probably the worst part of the game and one that could have been improved, yet I'm not sure how.
Another caveat to the game, which just annoyed me to death (though I could see the strategy in it) is how you can only set off one massive electrical charge per play or round. In the game you get this one almighty electrical charge that pretty much wipes anything out onscreen. You can only use it once until the previously stated situations happen. I found it quite annoying, and off the beaten path from other games of this type, that you can only use this weapon once. It should have recharged after you die, and one expects it to because we've been trained that way, but it doesn't. Again, just another smaller complaint about weapons, but not as problematic as the grenade launcher.
All in all, the control scheme and the weapons worked out for the most part. They were improved dramatically with the inclusion of an upgrade system, which allows the user to gain XP and purchase upgrades. There are four levels of upgrades for each weapon (minus the electrical charge) and health. At the beginning of each subsection in each chapter you have the opportunity to purchase or upgrade your mech. It added more motivation to the game, which is always good for a senseless shooter like this.
Speaking of chapters in the game, let's talk about them.
There are five chapters to the main story and you work you way through them quite quickly. Each chapter is broken into 4-5 smaller portions that allow you to reset your lives and health meter at the end of each. The chapters range from a base filled with faulty electrical equipment, snow mountains, a forest and a barren wasteland. Each contains some unique feature about it and each has its own simple challenges to work through. For example, in the barren wasteland you soon discover that the wasteland use to be an ocean or sea of some sort. Around the land you'll find abandoned boats (which you can destroy) and plenty of mines that have also been left behind. On top of this you'll also find crumbling lands and plenty of small obstacles to impede your progress. Each board has these little objects that make it unique and little dangers to keep your eyes open. They're nicely laid out maps and fun to explore, though they are limited by the game's linear nature. By the second level you'll try to find things to destroy (which you'll get points for) and test out what you can and can't take out. That makes the gamer, as it did me, look around the environments and become a lot more aware of all the surroundings.
Speaking of surroundings, the visuals in this game are fun. Again, coming straight out of a 16-bit dream, you'll find the top-down view to be quite visually appealing. Thanks to the view the environments have a lot more depth than they should. For example, staying with the barren wasteland, there is a scene where there is a giant abandoned tanker sitting on the edge of a cliff. Once you pass over the tanker it begins to collapse and fall into the fuzzy abyss below. The process is neat and it's not too detailed. It looks cool, sounds cool and is cool to watch. You'll find these little moments scattered throughout chapters in the game. Overall, though there's no great visual achievement here. There are no fine details to be had, just pure simple visual fun that you would expect. The enemies in the game are very creative and there's enough variety to be entertained (and on the edge of your seat sometimes). You'll find a nice variety of enemy vehicles, different large weapons and weird ones as well (one-arm mechs throwing trees). Again, overall the graphics aren't overwhelming gorgeous, but they fit the bill pretty well for this type of game.
I do have a tiny complaint in the graphics department, though. Some of the foot soldiers are damn hard to see sometimes, which creates some frustration. Just when you think you've cleared out a spot you don't realize until it's too late (after you get hit by a missile) that you missed a tiny soldier. Those particular moments felt a bit cheap and they happened often. I understand that you gotta have the soldier proportionate to the mechs, but it's still frustrating.
So is this game fun? If you can live with the linear nature and the sometimes goofy controls then you'll find some real fun here. It's a simple game that will somehow give you enough action to keep you motivated to play 5-6 straight hours before you need a break (or need to go to bed). I found myself playing almost straight through this in one day. I also found myself coming back for more after the job was done. There's just something fun about destroying a whole lot of stuff in a short amount of time that keeps the heart racing for no good reason. Add the fact that you can play co-op locally or over Live and you have yourself enough reason to spend 1200 points. Also, add a super difficult survival mode (good luck with this). Again, more than enough reason to spend some points.
To the summary!