Hard Corps – Uprising (Xbox 360) Review
Make no mistake; this is a Contra game just with a new name. From the ridiculously high difficulty level, to the classic Contra tunes, to even the wall turret boss, this is the Konami action game that you have wanted to play.
So why the different name? Perhaps it has something to do with Arc System Works, known for the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series, taking the development helm instead of Konami. Or perhaps it is because of the new HD anime art style. Or maybe because of the new RPG-style leveling up system. Either way, Hard Corp: Uprising should please long time fans of the series by offering classic run-and-gun gameplay while offering new modern day game design elements.
First, Uprising offers a sprint button. While this might not sound like a major addition to the gameplay, it will need to be mastered if you wish to survive. Dashing will not only get you to the goal faster, it will be needed to outrun Indiana Jones-like boulders, climb out of sinking sand, and to air dash to another wall grip. It is possible to get through most of the game without dashing, but smart players will learn its advantages early and learn them well.
The game also features a weapon stacking system, a health bar, and an RPG-style leveling up system. In previous Contra titles, one hit meant that you lose one life. Here in Hard Corps, each hit from an enemy results in one chunk of your health bar to deplete. Also, say if you found a machine gun or spread gun weapon, getting hit removes your special weapon Blaster Master-style. However, if you manage, for example, to collect two spread gun upgrades without getting hit, you will be rewarded with a more spready-spread gun. The all or nothing risk-reward system really bumps up this game?s difficulty, but veterans would have it no other way.
When playing in Rising Mode, the player earns points for killing enemies and finding secrets. These points can then be spent on upgrading your character. Increasing your life bar, increasing the number of lives, starting the stage with a spread gun, unlocking a triple jump ? these are just some of the options available to make the game a little easier. By the end of multi-staged quest, you should have many options unlocked, but not all. Unlocking all unlockables will take many play-throughs and dedication.
Let me just say this again ? this game is hard. Expect to get your ass kicked, especially when just starting out and when playing through the Arcade Mode ? you cannot use any unlocked upgrades and must play through the game with limited lives and continues. Unfortunately, the game does have its fair share of cheap deaths and attacks, especially from bosses and later levels, but it isn?t crippling. And if you take the time to level up your character from Rising Mode, many of the cheap tactics that the game throws at you can be avoided.
Hard Corps is a non-stop testosterone ride. The first stage will pit you against robot snakes that will attack from sinking sand, while the forest stage will force players to move carefully against hidden sniper fire. Motorcycle stages, riding on rockets, jumping vertically between moving trains – the game always throws something new at the player, keeping the pacing fresh. There is even an escort mission about halfway through that introduces stealth elements.
There are a few negative points about Hard Corps but all of them could have been avoided with a little more explanation. First, the plotline is terrible. The only indication of a story is from the few paragraphs of text found during the loading screens between stages. And speaking of loading screens, the game will only load once before each stage, but it can take almost a minute to get into the action. And finally, the game never explains what the ?B? button does. From the options menu, it is designated as the ?action? button, but it is up to the player to figure out how to use these actions. Apparently from the leveling-up screen, you can unlock the ability to block bullets, dodge incoming fire, hop over obstacles and a few other things, but the game never explains how to use these abilities before or after they become unlocked. Perhaps this is just another way to make the game more difficult?
If anything, playing this game will make you appreciate the automatic knife melee attack from the Metal Slug series a little more as close quarters combat can be tricky. Also you don?t realize how much the 360 controller?s d-pad sucks until you play a 2D side-scroller; many deaths will be the result of the bad hardware.
Uprising is a great looking HD game, but the overall presentation doesn?t fully line up with itself. The backgrounds and environments are realistic looking whereas the characters and enemies are these high res anime cartoons. While the graphics are of high quality, the characters sprites and backgrounds just don?t fit with each other. However, if you look at the previous work of Arc System Works, this graphical style will not surprise you. The opening anime video is pretty impressive, especially coming from a downloadable title. And listening to classic Contra tunes is also a nice tie in, but the voice quips that characters make when they die can become annoy quickly. But for some strange reason, enemies robots and bosses make this strange animal scream noise whenever they are attacked; it is just kind of weird.
The game does feature full online co-op and leaderboards, but I was unable to test out this feature due to earlier coverage of the game. But it pretty much goes without saying, a game like this can definitely be enjoyed with a buddy at your side.
Before you play Uprising, understand that this is a challenging game. To many players, I am sure that it could become more frustrating as opposed to pleasurable just because of its shear pwnage. However, if you take the time to learn the ins-and-out of the game, power-up your character, and start to memorize each stage, the game?s challenge will be appreciated. Sure, when you have finished the quest you will most likely have carpel tunnel in your right hand, but a high challenge game like this creates an unmatched sense of accomplishment when you are watching the Credits screen?and some might think it is a little strange to be playing as a dude with a shirt on.
Better Than: Contra Rebirth
Also Try: Contra and Super-C on the XBLA
Wait For It: a four-player co-op Contra
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