Over the last couple of months Xbox 360 gamers have been treated fairly well with Xbox Live Arcade game releases in terms of quantity. The quality however was rather disappointing, even with some of the original games which have been released recently. Now there’s Heavy Weapon, 2007’s first original game, will this side-scrolling shooter start an upward trend of quality?
The story, if you can actually call it that, is explained when you first enter mission mode. In 1984 youâ€™re under attack by what is called the â€˜Red Star Forcesâ€™ and because the enemy is about to break through youâ€™re called in as the final line of defense, the Atomic Tank. In this side-scrolling game you’ll be driving a tank and your main weapon is some sort of gun which fires rapidly. In mission mode you have to get from point a to point b and because the screen pushes you forward it’ll always take the same amount of time before you reach the end. At the end you’ll encounter a boss who has some special tricks up his sleeve but isn’t really that dangerous. Once you’ve beaten him there’s a short moment of rest and you’re rewarded with an upgrade of your choosing. There are 6 upgradeable special weapons to choose from and if you’re not really content with your current one, you can remove it and pick another one, even after the next level. Each of the 19 levels represents a country or province on a map and since there are 9 different ones you’ll have to play them twice in order to get to the final level. The game starts out pretty easy and you can probably finish the first 5 levels with 2 fingers up your nose but after that it starts to get tougher. There’s about a dozen different enemies and most of them are killed in a single shot but some need some special attention.
Mission mode isn’t the only thing you can do in this game, there’s also Survival and Boss Blitz which are quite self explanatory. In Survival mode you start out with your basic tank gun and have to survive as long as possible with three lives. The occasional white helicopter - which by the way also appears in mission mode - drops a weapon or shield upgrade every now and then and theoretically you’d be able to survive until your fingers bleed. In practice you probably won’t last longer than 10 minutes. The third and final mode you can play on your own is Boss Blitz. This unfortunately requires you to have finished the mission mode, otherwise it remains locked. In this mode you’ll have to finish off all of the game’s bosses one by one without having to struggle through an entire level first. It’s too bad that they’ve locked this because the mission mode gets pretty tough near the end and many people probably won’t finish it and will be missing out on Boss Blitz.
The mutliplayer part of the game is where the real fun lies, it’s very chaotic, but it’s damn fun and very intense. You can either play locally with a bunch of friends on your couch or get together on Xbox Live. There’s one difference between a local game and Xbox Live and that’s the possibility of working through the mission mode together. If you finish it this way it won’t unlock Boss Blitz mode but it’s pretty fun nevertheless although not as fun as the other modes I’m about to describe. Just like in single player there’s a survival mode only this time it’s split up into two different types: Arms Race and War Party. War party is definitely the most fun as it gives you unlimited lives and you’ll have to survive as long as possible until all the players die at the same time. If you die the first time you’ll respawn a couple of seconds later but every time you die after that, a penalty second is added and your buddies have to fight longer without you. This mode actually involves a little bit of strategy because if you’re playing with four people and you’re getting swarmed with enemies from both sides, you can’t just start randomly ploughing down enemies if you want to survive. The second Xbox Live mode is Arms Race, but this is basically the same as the single player version which means all of you have three lives and once the final player runs out it’s game over.
The graphics of this game aren’t really spectacular, especially if you compare it to Roboblitz, but it has a nice cartoony look. The backgrounds have some moving parts and the colors also look very vivid which makes it pleasant to look at. The game also manages to maintain a steady framerate throughout the entire game, even when you’re shooting, nuking and creating massive chaos with 4 players. The sound effects of Heavy Weapon are pretty standard and you shouldn’t purchase a surround set for it but it has a nice voice over occasionally. The music on the other hand gets very repetitive after a while and it consists of a 10 second loop which is played over and over again. It’s supposed to resemble some sort of Russian song but it really gets on your nerves until you disable it. The controls of the game are perfectly suited for the Xbox 360 controller and it plays way better than the PC version where you’re stuck with a mouse. You can choose to drive with the left analog stick or d-pad, but intuitively most people would go with the first option.
Heavy Weapon is definitely one of the better arcade games around and it gives you a lot of bang for your buck. The game mechanics are very simple but it remains challenging and that’s what is making it so addictive. The mission mode should entertain you for a while but when you’re bored with that, the survival mode is where the real challenge lies, especially with some friends or via Xbox Live. The game doesn’t deserve a 10 because it’s perhaps a little too simplistic for that. The annoying music and slightly static graphics make it less than perfect. The question whether an upward trend for 2007 has been set can be answered positively, let’s hope the rest of the games will follow.
Final Score: 9 out of 10 - Very Good (How do we rate games?)