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Rocketmen: Axis of Evil Review

Rocketmen: Axis of Evil pack shot
Developer:A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games
Publisher:Capcom
Genre:Top down shooter
Platform:Xbox 360
Release Date:March 5th, 2008 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 
 

Xbox Live Arcade is a great idea. It offers gamers one last taste of the retro arcade mastery of the 80's and 90's at a price that keeps you coming back for more. One of the most popular genre's from that great arcade era is the top-down shooter, which features all-time classics like the peerless Alien Breed, one of the fathers of the modern shooter.

But, while aspiring to the lofty highs of Breed, Rocketmen: Axis of Evil feels more like its mutant half brother who's constantly having a temper tantrum.

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The game is the first Xbox Live offering from developer A.C.R.O.N.Y.M. Games and Capcom, and while it looks like it could have been a fun ride through the depths of cell-shaded space I found it to be a constant barrage of disappointment.

The game is set in the far future where space is vast, aliens are plenty and an intergalactic empire known as the Legion of Terra is gradually taking over the last free sections of the galaxy. Your character, one of the troopers who fight for the rebel 'Alliance of Free Planets', is tasked with bringing the Legion to its knees, any way you can.

There's a wide range of looks for your character, from sexy future-babe to chunky alien man, and each character can be upgraded with better armour, speed and weapon power, at the expense of the various 'element's and XP that you earn with each completed mission.

Sounds pretty solid for a downloadable game doesn't it? It's just a shame that with such a typical you-versus-the-empire plot that the game turned out to be such a disappointment.

Rocketmen: Axis of Evil screenshot 5 Rocketmen: Axis of Evil screenshot 6 Rocketmen: Axis of Evil screenshot 7 Rocketmen: Axis of Evil screenshot 8

The game's visuals are cell-shaded, and although they are still quite cool, it's starting to get a little old now, and this game isn't nearly funky enough to require the textured stylings. The shading tends to look kind of jarring on the screen, leading to a bright blend of colours quite upsetting to the eye.

And it's not just the cell-shading that's the problem. Like many top-down shooters, Rocketmen has a crawling camera that moves along with the character, revealing new areas as one makes progress.

The main problem with this is that it is far too slow. Quite often I found myself waiting for the camera to catch up so I could shoot the monsters off-screen that were so happily shredding my armour. But that's not the worst part of the camera: not only does the camera slow to a snails pace, it also can't go backwards: Forgot to open that box and grab the goodies inside? Forget it; the camera will just not go back for you, even if you spend five minutes running at the bottom of the screen.

And the game's issues don't stop there. The gameplay itself is also fraught with problems. For example, your character starts out with a pistol that has all the power of a potato gun and you can pick up a variety of weapons that are dropped by enemies or found inside crates. But even after you've found one of these weapons (and they are annoyingly rare) the game starts a timer on how long you can use it. So even if you're moving down a corridor with no enemies in it (also rare) the gun will just vanish from your hands.

Rocketmen: Axis of Evil screenshot 9 Rocketmen: Axis of Evil screenshot 10 Rocketmen: Axis of Evil screenshot 11 Rocketmen: Axis of Evil screenshot 12

Now, either the game's designers were trying to encourage you to fight your way through quickly, or they were just being plain annoying. Of course, there are secondary weapons, including rockets, mines and deployable turrets, but these are inaccurate and fairly useless as well as far too rare to keep the game fun.

The vocal work is also in issue. The in-game voices don't really match the style of the game, and at some points it sounds less like an action/adventure game and more like a bad TV advert, with all the characters over emphasising their voices to the point that it becomes laughable.

Action-wise, the game is a roller coaster of dizzying lights and waves of enemies. You will find yourself constantly fighting your way through a screen full of enemies that just keep coming, and coming, and coming. It sometimes feels that the developers are trying to drown you in a sea of Martian flesh so you can feel like a superhero fighting your way out of it. Of course, for that to work it would have been nice to have a big gun that lasted more than ten seconds before disappearing.

Now, being an Xbox Live game, one of the main attractions for Rocketmen is the four way multiplayer, a blessing, you might think. But imagine all the issues listed above, and then times that by four, and you get total mayhem. Although the gameplay runs smoothly, the camera and the disappearing guns, when combined with the hordes of enemies, leads to a significantly disappointing experience. Players are forced to go clambering all over the screen, desperately trying to get to the single spawned gun first, and that's only if you can see it in the melee that the screen always becomes as wave after wave of enemies lurch in.

Summary

Overall, this is a game that had a lot of promise, and with a bit more development and beta time it could have been a work of top-down art. As it is, the game looks and feels like an unfinished shell, with its simple shooter fun drowned out in a non-stop series of errors which could have been easily avoided.

The bottom line
2.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Not a bad plot, characters are fun

Not so good stuff

  • Poor graphics
  • Poor sound
  • Poor interface
  • Annoying gunplay
  • Unnecessary cell-shading


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