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Review: Small Arms

So, after weeks and weeks of, to be honest, rubbish being put onto the Arcade, in the form of old classics or Uno decks, it was a joy to learn that an original game would finally be making it’s way to us. Everyone had high hopes for Small Arms; it looked different and fun. But does it live up to the expectations?

The first thing most people will do is go into the single player options and do the tutorial, partly for the achievement, but also partly to get used to the game. You learn that the left stick makes you move, the right stick aims whatever weapon you’re wielding. A is jump, with Y making you dash in any direction you choose. X allows the pick up of weapons, and also doubles up as a melee attack along with B. The right trigger, naturally, shoots your weapon, whilst the left trigger fires your secondary weapon. Pretty straight forward then.

Well, it is until you get in a game. If you’re anything like me, you’ll immediately head into Xbox Live and discover everyone is better than you. You’ll try and join in, but get obliterated. Using the right trigger to shoot, and the right stick to aim, whilst moving the left stick to move, and jumping with A really doesn’t feel comfortable. Shooting on the move is inaccurate, and makes life considerably harder than it should. The controls just don’t feel right, and you never totally feel in control in the way you should do, which removes a bit of the fun, because, in the beginning at least, it feels more like a chore as you work relentlessly hard to get to grips with the controls. Had they of told me that bumper buttons initiate jumping as well, my experience may have been different. Even then it makes it hard to pull of jumping, shooting and moving fluidly.

It’s not all bad though. Given how much there is going on over Live with four people, there isn’t an ounce of lag to be seen, even during the game’s most frantic moments. The weapon choice is brilliantly varied, offering you a different experience with each weapon, since you have two different modes of fire. Thankfully they are balanced too. For example the sniper rifle is useless (read:crap) shortrange, but over a longer distance it is unbeatable. The flame thrower, though it may seem as the God of all weapons at first, actually also has some drawbacks. Firing it in too close a proximity to yourself will result in you setting your little character on fire, causing some heavy damage. The choice of characters is excellent as well. Initially there are eight available to choose from, with another four requiring you to unlock them in the single player. The characters range from a pig with a sniper rifle, to a crazy chicken holding a flamethrower, to an innocent looking girl firing green things. Every character starts with a different weapon, so the pig will always start with the sniper rifle, but this can obviously be swapped mid-battle. items litter each level too, rainging from ammo boxes to health power-ups.

Of course, the game would be nothing if it had no levels. Fortunately this game has some, and they range from good to annoying. There are seven to choose from, with one of those being locked (again, this needs to be unlocked in the single player). There is a train level which is side scrolling, so you always have to keep up, something which makes the game move a lot faster, with everyone battling for the next carriage ahead. Good, clean fun (no blood in this game). However, perhaps the most annoying level is the unlockable one. Featuring lava, which results in instant death, the level is small and there is little room to move. Whilst some may enjoy this, I had difficulty controlling my character, causing me to commit suicide three times in the same game. The level is too small for four people, and the controls mean you lose control often. It’s not just me; I’ve witnessed others jump to the other side but falling clean off. I wasn’t pleased. But I did have fun eventually, since the weapons and maps keep it interesting long enough for you not to get bored. The single player though isn’t quite in the same vein though.


The brilliant train level in action

You probably won’t want to spend much time with single player other than to unlock characters and gain achievements. There are four different modes on offer. Naturally, Mission Mode is the hub of single player, whilst Challenge Mode and the Shooting Range make up the other part. The fourth is the training, but you wouldn’t do that more than once.

Mission mode basically offers you the chance to go head to head with the CPU. In the latter stages, it’s head to head head head, since the fights increase to 3 on 1 battles, all against you. It’s actually incredibly hard, since, rather predictably, the CPU have an amazing aim and hit you 8 time out of 10, compared to my 4 out of 10 hit rate. You will complete single player though, since every time you run out of lives mid-game, you have to continue, which deducts points from your score. You won’t ever get Game Over, but you will always get frustrated. The boss battle at the end was actually easier than all the other stages I’d done (with flamethrower in hand), I found anyway. It mixes it up with a shooting range task, but you’ll know that you should be on Live.

The shooting range gives you 30 seconds with limited ammo to rack up as many points as possible. You shoot at three lines of targets above you, and getting bulls eyes considerably helps you get a better score. Whilst the challenge mode is a how-long-can-you-last mode, and you just battle CPU after CPU. My best was three. Looking on the Leaderboards, someone managed to down over 430 of them, spending way more than 90 minutes doing so. Clearly, I’m not the best (I swore blind for many minutes that there must be some sort of cheat. I accepted the fact that I suck soon after).

The most annoying thing about the single player is the lack of replayability. I was shocked to discover, that after completing it once, I had unlocked three of the four characters. I knew I hated the unlockable level (since you play on it if the host has it unlocked and selects that map on Live), and the fourth character didn’t bother me. I feel I have no need for the single player now.

I’ve gone on for long enough, it’s ony an Arcade game after all; something to keep you happy for a few hours at a time. And I think Small Arms just about would. As with any game like this, if you get three mates round and play on one 360, the experience would be amazing. Laughs a minute as you bash your mate to death; tears and frustration as the battle turns against you. Over Live, that feeling is lost a little bit, but it still offers some good fun. The game is annoying at times, with the single player offering nothing unless you really need to improve your Gamerscore. People will and do compare Small Arms to Smash Brothers on the N64 or GameCube, and you can see why. The influences are obvious, except the focus is now on long range rather than close range combat. You would argue that Smash Brothers does it all better, but I’m sure if the developers Gastronaut Studios had the same budget, then this game would have been bigger and better. Put it this way, if you loved Smash Brothers, you will like this. The product is better than most other offerings in the Arcade areas, and most of you won’t regret spending money on this. However, with it being a fully focused multiplayer game, the single player feels rushed and unloved, offering you nothing to go back to. This game is one for the multiplayer only.


A chicken provides a health boost

Final Score: 7/10 - Above Average (How do we rank games?)

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25 comments on 'Review: Small Arms'

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Comment by Voyager2k on 2006-11-24 18:40:17 | Reply

Wow, that’s a very generous review even tho you pretty much have exactly the same complaints I had after I tried the demo for like 20 minutes, then gave up and deleted this piece of crap.

There is nothing fun about this. The controls don’t deserve to be called controls. It’s more the lack of control and the extreme clumsyness that describes it than the ability to perform pretty much any kind of predicted move/jump/shoot combo.

Just going up against the AI is a painfull and frustrating experience. Not because the AI is so good and simply kicks ass but because you simply cannot excersise any kind of control over your character.

You never know where you can jump and where you can’t, what ledges you can hang onto or climb up, where you can land safely etc. That in combination with the horrible control-scheme turns playing this “game” into pure punishment.

The graphics are pretty, tho. Looks better than most retro games. But then, it should because it’s not a retro game.

If I had only played the demo, then the score would have been lowered. However, rather unsurprisingly, I bought the full game for the review, and the Live part really saved the day. I played with a few friends also and that was a good laugh, so that also helped.

Voyager, 0-lease enlighten me, what games do you like? You seem to hate everygame out.

Motorstorm?

Comment by Voyager2k on 2006-11-24 21:49:13 | Reply

Nah, not every game :) But many, yes. I could agree with such an assumption. It does take a lot for me to like/love a game but very little to hate one. I guess that comes with 28 years of gaming … hardly anything really excites me anymore.

Guess in a way it’s like having watched way too much pr0n :) (I wouldn’t know that for sure of course!)

But on a brighter note, the gods of international shipping once again smiled on my good ‘ol ass … just that my wife forgot to mention it until she went to sleep and asked what the package was UPS delivered this morning while I was sleeping … DOH!

I DO like RB6:Vegas ;-) But that I knew after a few minutes with the demo already. But that’s another topic.

I’ve only played the demo and I loved the Train level but hated the waterfall level, Can afford to buy it but I don’t know if I will seen as theres so much else worthy of my hard earned right now.

Comment by Blunted on 2006-11-24 18:45:55 | Reply

Defender is most definitely not rubbish. Retro, yes, but no way is it rubbish.

Comment by Blunted on 2006-11-24 18:49:23 | Reply

Oh, and re: Small Arms, totally agree with Voyager2k, the controls are awful. Buttons + right stick = retarded.

Comment by Carabus on 2006-11-24 19:00:34 | Reply

Small arms is great fun! :)

Small Arms demo was awesome, wish I had the MPs.

Comment by OGC SnakeEyes on 2006-11-24 19:39:22 | Reply

I’m divided on this one. There are times when I love it. Going head to head with my cousin one on one for twenty minutes is awesome. But on the other hand, a competetive 4 player ranked match can be an excersise in frustration. The controls suck…period. But there’s something fun about that game…cute widdle kitty wit his wittle minigun….

Comment by Son Of LA on 2006-11-24 19:42:42 | Reply

controls are hard?? WTF?? i didnt even download the demo cause i instantly bought the full game..
if u are saying that controls are weird/hard then stop playing with your feet or just learn how to use your hands u RETARDS

Comment by AC Tha PimP on 2006-11-24 20:11:15 | Reply

^^ Dude I totally agree! This game fuckin rocks!! I love it! I bought it right away! It’s the best arcade game so far… So you dumbasses that don’t know how to use your hands, I think ya’ll should just give up gaming and go back to jackin off in the closet you dumb fuck!

Comment by Blunted on 2006-11-25 12:49:01 | Reply

What well put-across, balanced viewpoints.

Take it you both have two thumbs on your right hand?

Comment by Leaderz0rz on 2006-11-24 20:10:44 | Reply

it certainly takes a different approach on the control scheme. In the midst of a battle you can easily become overwhelmed and lose track of your little friend. My biggest problem with the controls is sometimes there seems to be a delay when you hit a button till the action actually happens.

Comment by DSK UK on 2006-11-24 20:30:23 | Reply

the only annoyance I found with this game was the lack or a reticule…but then this game would be even more crazy. I downloaded the trial and took a whole minute to decide I like the game and that it was worth the money. The game rocks and brings my total of arcade games up to 3 (Hexic and Texas Hold ‘Em are the other 2 as they were free)

Comment by glenn on 2006-11-24 21:32:25 | Reply

Neither did I like the demo, though the real game which I bought was great fun, I think it is the best Arcade game so far and I have played it for hours straight already…

Although I must say that te butten-layout really IS annoying, and it would be nice if there were more maps (characters are enough for me, but if ontly there were more maps (A) )

My score: 8.5 out of 10

Greetings Glenn

Comment by WhetWurm on 2006-11-25 00:15:41 | Reply

I’ve heard that the bumper buttons also allow for jumping while aiming… Try that out.

I wish they’d allow for an unlocked remapping of controls. If I want to jump with the fire button, I should be allowed to. I love the game, though I do suck.

Comment by smellslikepie on 2006-11-25 01:33:13 | Reply

They do work :P

Probably best to avoid Thalidomide jokes eh?!

Comment by danny east on 2006-12-01 12:41:31 | Reply

what the hell do microsoft think there doin there gunna ruin the console with this game any comments mail me back dan.east1@ntlworld.com

Comment by danny east on 2006-12-02 19:13:11 | Reply

is it worth the the points u spent ” beeb ” or not ?

Comment by Kate Loire on 2006-12-02 22:00:01 | Reply

Well he plays it constantly, so I’d say it was :P

Comment by Wet Vein on 2006-12-03 13:57:54 | Reply

I admit, I had trouble with the controls the first couple times I played it. But now I don’t even think about them…. they work great. I think at first, people think they have to be constantly aiming… which makes it hard to jump and kick… That’s not the case, Just stick with the game a little while, the control will come. I love this game,… its right up there with Clyde and Geo Wars for me. Worth the points.

takes awhile to get controls down, okay game.

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