During my review of Assault Heroes 2 this week, two undeniable truths made themselves readily apparent. My first realization is that I absolutely suck at fast-twitch games. Seriously. From Geometry Wars to Ikaruga… I’m really, really bad. The second truth is that I totally enjoy games that I suck at. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps a fast-twitch review will enlighten me. So lets dive right into this game.
Graphically, Assault Heroes 2 is a more polished version of the original Assault Heroes. I bought Assault Heroes 1 when it first graced the infant XBLA because the action was ridiculous and the challenge was welcome; it was also one of the prettiest arcade games to come in at the $10 mark. Not much has changed since then which could be a good or a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing because there wasn’t much that needed improved on. The characters are crisp looking. The particle effects are bright and the levels are diverse. For ten dollars, you can expect graphics that are better than some retail games. I’ll attribute that success to the well-laid graphics engine from AH1 being used. All in all, my only graphical complaint is the lack of a zoom. I know the dynamics of dealing with a camera angle in mid-assault is probably too much, but it would have been nice to see all the lush detail in the environment and my character. I can’t even complain about enemies (or my character) getting lost in the environment. Everything is spot on.
Graphics (25 Points Possible):
• Texture & Image Quality (5): 5 points
• Frame Rate Quality (5): 5 points
• Technical Effort (5): 5 points
• Overall Art Direction (10): 10 points
The audio in the game is reasonably expected. It’s nothing stellar, nothing bad. I can hear each bullet shooting, but it all seems to blend together into one cacophonous mess of bulletry (new word, just made it up). Having said that, I’m a bit of an audio snob. I have an above-average audio setup and the Xbox360 has all the tools to exploit systems like mine. Thus, I was a bit disappointed that AH2 didn’t take more advantage of my speakers. It would have been nice to have a richer echolocation of where enemy fire was coming from. Also, the screams from the exploding “terrorists” get really annoying really fast. I make it a point to shoot them first just out of spite. The soundtrack is appropriate, especially during boss battles. Overall, the audio is just average.
Audio (18 Points Possible):
• Sound Effects (6): 3 points
• Soundtrack (6): 5 points
• Sound Quality (6): 4 points
From a gameplay perspective, AH2 is pretty much on point. It’s addictive fun if you like fast-twitch games and it’s really well balanced. The endless hordes of enemies aren’t unfairly hard and the bosses are freaking huge which is a welcome throwback to R-Type if you’re old enough to remember that game. If you can handle them, the new hijack-able vehicles are an interesting addition. Personally, I find the new vehicles fun, albeit a bit useless. Sure, they break up the monotony of switching between the assault ATV and foot, but they only have 1 standard weapon each (2 on the tank technically). There is no direct advantage to being in the helicopter because it’s still just as susceptible to gunfire as the ATV and the tank is slow as molasses. Seriously, if it didn’t have a huge cannon on it, I’d just as soon walk because it’s a bullet magnet and can’t travel over all types of terrain. Still, it gets the job done. Moving onto the later missions (without giving away any spoilers), I love how diverse the locals become. Fresh challenges await you! I can’t really say that I fell in love with this game because it will probably find itself lost among the other action shooters I have stockpiled on my hard drive. It just doesn’t have that appeal that will keep gamers coming back for more and I feel that carried over from AH1. Don’t take that statement as a lack of fun; but you won’t find yourself craving this game after a few days of playing it through. As for the menus and HUD, they are both very clean. Weapon choice is clearly visible and your health, stats, and upgrade levels are easy to understand.
Gameplay (30 Points Possible):
• Storyline & Attachment (10): 6 points
• Character Control (10): 8 points
• Game Interface (5): 5 points
• Menu System (5): 5 points
And finally, how’s the replay value and multiplayer treating us in AH2? To be frank, it’s the same as AH1. Don’t expect any surprises here. The fun factor is present and accounted for in the single player mode and I didn’t have any issues playing online. Live didn’t have any issues with lag and the game code only hiccupped once when I was attempting to connect with other players. Online co-op is really a joy in the Assault Heroes games because the gameplay is focused on this type of interaction. I give the developers major props for infusing the online game with the same diversity and action as the single player game. Beyond the online co-op, don’t expect any surprises. I would have liked to see some more game modes thrown into the mix to make the multiplayer interesting and offset the lack of replay value in single player mode. I’m hopeful that some form of downloadable content rectifies this shortcoming; however, my hopes are diminished by the fact that extra DLC never came to fruition for AH1.
Replay Value & Multiplayer (25 Points Possible):
• Fun Factor (15): 12 points
• Xbox Live Features (5): 4 points
• Downloadable Content (5): 3 points
So what drives me to enjoy this game so much? Perhaps it’s the challenge of playing something that I’m not already good at (yes, I’m a sanctimonious jerk), or perhaps it’s the enjoyment I get from being taunted by my own virtual death scenes (yes, I’m being sadistic). The achievements are pretty challenging, so guess I simply enjoy games that challenge me to no end. Assault Heroes is a welcome challenge. I’ll still continue sucking at fast-twitch games (for reference, see my Geometry Wars score on my GamerCard) but that won’t stop me from enjoying my own endless defeat.
Above and Beyond (2 Points Possible):
• Achievements (1): 1 point
• That Little Extra (1): 1 point
Total Score = 82 out of 100
P.S. I altered the values of each category one last time. I really felt that gameplay should hold the most water and that the “something extra” category shouldn’t.
Dave “Whet Wurm” Wetty