When Brilliant William assigned me this game for review, he helpfully informed me that “GunForce is a Contra clone by the R-Type dudes”, as if to assuage my fears that this might be one of those terrible Super Scope light gun games (and I use the term “light gun game” lightly), necessitating hacker-level mouse-modding and other such nonsense. Cool by association: in one sentence, the game is immediately connected with two games whose reputations precede them – Contra and R-Type. Immediately, my pre-game assessment jumped from this might be terrible to this might be good. But I don’t think Brilliam realised the brilliant wordplay of his original statement when he wrote it (nor did he realise I would use his email as stimulus material, much less quote it for this review – be careful what you wish for and whatever you do don’t look out the window). See, the Latin root ‘contra’ means ‘different’* (or ‘against’, or ‘in opposition to’). Substitute that back into the original sentence and you get something like this: “GunForce is a different clone by the R-Type dudes”. I’d say it was a contradiction in terms, but that has the prefix of ‘contra’ in it and I’m against using a word to explain its own meaning, so try to come up with your own word and replace it with that.
GunForce is a different clone. Think on that for a moment. And it is, you know. It’s running and gunning and jumping to be sure, but it’s far more clinical than the balls-to-the-wall hypermasculine bravado you’ll find in any given Contra title. And that’s okay. It’s better than trying for it and missing the point. What’s the point of Contra, you may ask? Well, you’d be forgiven for not knowing it if your only exposure to the series was Contra 4, the first and only (and hopefully last) American-developed Contra game. They missed the point. When a big sweaty lump of manhood with tree trunks for arms somersaults nine times in the air every time he jumps, you’re not supposed to yell “BOO-YAH!” or “YEEEEE-HAWWW!!!” at the television screen, because, you know, that’s so fricken’ bad-ass; you’re supposed to LAUGH. That, there, Joe American Gamer, is something ridiculous on purpose, not something to aspire to! This is satire, and the joke’s on you, America. It’s taking the piss out of y’all.
GunForce doesn’t try to do that.
Does that make it a better game or not? Well, I hate to get all Obi-Wan on yo’ ass, but that all depends on what you’re seeking from a videogame. It won’t make you holler and pump your fists [like a ‘hardcore gamer’ [read: Xbox Live frat-boy]], but it won’t make you laugh either. It’s fantastical to a smaller extent; you’re an armoured soldier of reasonable proportions; you don’t do nine somersaults every time you jump, in fact, you don’t even do one; but you can drive jeeps, pilot helicopters, fire cannons, and sometimes a combination of two of those at the same time (guess which two). Being the “R-Type dudes”, they likely leaped at the opportunity to include controllable vehicles in this thing. In many ways this is 2D Halo, and that’s kind of a cool thought.
Everything has a slower pace to it, too. The music is something you’d expect to hear in a Mario game, and doesn’t really chug like it ought to (then again, maybe that’s the Contra-conditioning talking). The bullets, the running, and the enemies are slower too; but on the plus side, this gives you more time to think, and consequently, a lower risk of dying every five seconds. Unlike Contra, you may yet live to see the end of this game! Here’s proof:
That was the end of Mission 2. And I’m sorry, but if you think making a beat-able Contra game is a bad thing, you are a dick.
Let’s recap to finish off, shall we? GunForce is:
- “a Contra clone made by the R-Type dudes.”
- not as funny as Contra, but then again it’s not really trying to be.
- better than Contra 4, because not trying at all is better than trying too hard.
- 2D Halo sorta.
- easier than Contra AND HEY, YOU MIGHT JUST SEE THE END OF THIS ONE!
- not as fun to talk about as Contra.
Oh, who am I kidding? It’s nowhere near as good.