Developer: Vanguard / Publisher: Electronic Arts / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: $15 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Violence]
It seems that every other week a new dual-stick shooter releases as a downloadable game. The seamless action and easy-to-learn controls make the genre an easy recommendation to old gamers and new gamers alike. But with so many options to choose from like Geometry Wars and I Maed A Gam3 W1th Z0mbies 1n It!!!1 how does one produce a game that stands above the rest? EA has risen to the challenge with Gatling Gears, a shooter that harkens back to those of the early 90’s while still being fresh, fun, and freakin’ hard!
You play as Max, a talented pilot who works for the Empire. At your side is Julius, another highly talented and intelligent man working with the Empire. Things quickly turn sour between the two, and eventually Max leaves the war-hungry Empire as they begin to destroy the planet with Julius at the head. Thankfully for Max he still has control of his AT-AT like mech that he uses to pursue Julius and the corrupt Empire before they destroy the entire planet. It’s a bit cliché and takes a back seat to the action, but the story does its best to hold together the reason you’re fighting. The entire story pans out through loading screens between levels and short in-game dialogue. Don’t expect anything enthralling.
You play Gatling Gears for the action, and boy is there a lot of it. You move Max and his high-tech mech with the left stick, while you shoot with the right stick. Your basic machine gun is great for mowing down infantry and grunts with rocket launchers, but you’ll need something that packs a bigger punch to take out the countless tanks, helicopters, and opposing mechs the Empire throws at you. Thankfully Max comes equipped with missiles and grenades to crush the bigger foes. You can only use a set number of missiles or grenades before they need to recharge, so knowing when to unload and when to hold is key to survival. If you’re lucky an enemy will drop a power-up that grants you invincibility or super-powered rockets, guns, or grenades for a short time. The basic gameplay of Gatling Gears reminded me of early shooters like MERCS or Total Carnage. As you play through each of the five worlds you collect gold to upgrade your mech, increasing your gatling gun range, power of grenades and missiles, and your health. Completing each level awards experience points used to unlock extra skins for your mech, effects to add visual appeal to your mech, and even pets to follow you around that don’t seem to do much else. Interesting and creative boss battles cap off each level, rounding off the package.
Gatling Gears is a blast to play, and with two-player co-op the action gets even more insane. This comes off as one of the biggest problems though. Oftentimes there is so much going on, the on-screen action is confusing. In the later stages, especially, there will be so many bullets, rockets, explosions, and enemies you’ll get absolutely pummeled with damage. On top of this, many of the enemies are so small you can’t see them through the chaos. I was handed my fair share of frustrating deaths due to this. Playing with another person online or offline helps out a bit, but the frustration persists.
Outside of the four or five hour campaign mode there is also a survival mode that plays like a tower defense game. You have to kill the enemy forces and defend your silos from incoming explosives. It’s fun and frantic and offers up a great challenge. As a whole, Gatling Gears is a good game that is high on action but it is over all too quickly. At 1200 Microsoft points the price of admission is a bit high and you will be left wanting more.
Being able to maneuver through bullets while still shooting enemies is clutch for any shooter. Gatling Gears offers up tight controls that are easy to learn. A short tutorial mode makes up the first level, and from then on it’s you versus the relentless armies of the Empire! Weaving in and out of bullets and missiles is easy thanks to tight responses from the control sticks. The final stages will test anyone’s skill as the game essentially becomes a bullet-hell with so much crap flying at you you’ll want to scream. The problem of enemies being too small rears its head again here with controls. When shooting other mechs, in particular, you have to be very precise with your aiming or your missiles will shoot right past them. I’m not sure if it was just me but there were plenty of times I missed my target by what appeared to be inches. Overall, though, Gatling Gears handles well and should be easy for players of any skill level to pick up and play.
Though levels are completely linear with no branching paths to explore they are vibrantly colored and look beautiful. Trees fall over when you run into them, desolated buildings explode when you shoot them, and a city is destroyed by an avalanche. The cartoony graphical style fits the game’s carnage surprisingly well, reminding me of something from the Advance Wars series. My only complaint here is that the enemies remain the same throughout the game. You’ll fight the same flamethrower-wielding enemies and boring grey tanks on the first level and the last. But this is something that is easy to get past. All in all, Gatling Gears’ lively art style looks great and is one of the higher points for the game.
Gatling Gears definitely pays homage to shooter games of yesteryear. Satisfying action and a fun cooperative experience make the game a blast to play, but a short lived campaign and frustrating difficulty hold the game back from being perfect. While Gatling Gears does a lot of things right, it doesn’t do anything that hasn’t already been done before. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, though. Anyone looking for an exciting if short game to play with a buddy for a weekend will find a lot to love in Gatling Gears.