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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
7.5
Visuals
8.0
Audio
7.5
Gameplay
8.0
Features
7.5
Replay
6.5
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox Live Arcade
PUBLISHER:
Sierra Entertainment
DEVELOPER:
Wanako Studios
GENRE: Shooter
RELEASE DATE:
December 13, 2006
ESRB RATING:
Teen
 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on December 19, 2006

Review: Assault Heroes marks the third original game in the last month for the Xbox Live Arcade, and it provides an entertaining action experience that ? while short ? manages to entertain both offline and online.


Jackal. Ikari Warriors. Guerilla War. Contra. All of these games are obvious inspirations for Assault Heroes, the newest action title to grace the Xbox Live Arcade. Jackal and Contra are probably the most accurate comparisons, and this is because of the positive qualities they share with this new action title. While Assault Heroes won't last you as long as you might want, the game is still very entertaining while it lasts, especially when played cooperatively with a friend.

The action in Assault Heroes is directly comparable to Jackal because for the most part you (and possibly a buddy) will be driving around in RC Pro Am-style buggies outfitted with various guns, missiles, and bombs. Your little 4x4 will cruise around various scrolling battlefields (from a top-down perspective) and lay waste to the onslaught of turrets, gunmen, kamikaze bombers, and mechs that will flood towards you. There are some small ?bonus? areas that allow you to walk around on foot and shoot it up ala Contra, but these are quite brief and don't really make much of an impact when compared to the usual vehicular fighting. You can also get out of your car and walk around on foot during the main action, but this isn't usually advisable unless you are forced to by having the buggy destroyed. If your vehicle is destroyed, you will have to survive for about 20 seconds until your ride returns, in which case you can resume shooting all of its heavy guns. There is one level in the game that takes place in powerboats, and other than the fact that the mission takes place on the water, almost everything about it plays the same.

The general goal in Assault Heroes is to make it to a secret laboratory and dispose of some out-of-control robot. Nothing too flashy story-wise, here, but there are little cutscenes that show your characters escaping perilous situations and encountering various bosses, and these short bits of cinema add a bit of personality to your little buggy. It's actually pretty cool that there are bosses in the game, as they add some old-school flavor to the title, and they actually involve a decent amount of strategy. The progression of the game is checkpoint based, and you'll move through each of the game's five areas by completing the sublevels within each one. You can start from any checkpoint once you've unlocked it, but the score you've accumulated (from previous runs) will be lost.

The enemies will diversify as you progress through the game, but to combat them you'll have your minigun, flamethrower, and flak cannon. Each of these weapons can be upgraded throughout a level, and they are quite devastating when maxed out to the fullest. You'll also have access to grenades and nukes, with the former working on a trajectory based reticule and the nukes clearing the screen completely.

It's actually kind of appropriate that the nukes blast the whole screen, as this is a similarity to Geometry Wars, which Assault Heroes also seems inspired by. The two-stick control method seems lifted directly out of Geometry Wars, and even though the action is power-up heavy and level-based, the resemblance to the best XBLA game out there is undeniable. This being said, the control scheme works in handling all of the action on-screen, and the only gripe comes from a tad bit of delay in your vehicle's movement.

When teaming up offline or online with a buddy, the action picks up quite a bit. The game will become quite a bit easier, but you'll still die fairly often in certain spots (especially at the bosses). Easier or not, though, the game plays well with a teammate, and the use of a co-op attack (a sort of tag-team volley based on the weapon used) is fun once in a while. The performance online is fine, although there are some occasional hang-ups when loading a level. Scoreboards are also available so you can compare how you and your friends stack up in single-player and co-op.

The only real knock on Assault Heroes is that the game is over all too quickly. It's certainly enjoyable while you're playing it, and a player can only expect so much for an 800-point game, but you are left wanting when it's over. While it might not be fair to ask for a casual game, a slightly longer experience or some arena-based multiplayer might've added the necessary value to make this game last longer than the 3-5 hours it takes to beat the game a couple of times with a buddy.

Assault Heroes is actually one of the more detailed XBLA games out there. The action is dynamic and full of particle effects, and you'll be surprised at the nuances and features in some of the environments. Then again, there are some rough spots when the game gets down and dirty in the cutscenes, but the majority of the visuals don't disappoint. The audio also fares quite well, with some catchy beats in the menu and some solid tunes during gameplay that suit the action (there's even some different stuff for the boss fights). The effects are all fine, with the distinct sounds of the flak cannon and the absurd war cry of the kamikaze bombers standing out (the latter for comedic reasons).

Achievements are used quite well in Assault Heroes, and you'll be rewarded for beating the game on your own or with a buddy. You'll also be commended for beating levels without using nukes or grenades, firing set amounts of bullets, or losing a life. The achievements are setup so that you'll have to play the game several times in order to get the most out of it.

It's encouraging to see games like Assault Heroes because they add much needed variety and freshness to the XBLA portfolio. Games like this show the potential for quality presentation and fun online play, and they can do so while borrowing some tried-and-true retro conventions.

Bottom Line
Assault Heroes hits the mark much like the recent Small Arms in that it provides an original experience that sticks out above the usual retro ?classics? on XBLA. The game actually plays like many top-down shooters of yesteryear, but it also includes some fun online co-op and surprisingly good visuals to make the package worth a download.


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