Retrospective: Armed & Dangerous • Page 2

Laughs or howls?

Not enjoying seeing the giant shark body sticking out the side of a mountain to eat a sniper is clearly a sign of brain death. It's a very splendid thing.

But it's not enough to carry the entire game, and the game has some other big issues.

So while using sticky bombs, sniper rifles, and even bombs that reverse gravity dropping all the opponents into the sky, can be immensely satisfying to get right, it can also become quickly very repetitive. This is a game with only three regular enemies, with an enormous amount of the first of them. You will shoot that same grunt creature so many damned times that the trickier bads with the rockets, sniper rifles or jetpacks come as a blessed relief, rather than a tougher challenge.

You quickly learn to take out the barracks that produce more enemies not because the volume of their attacking is too difficult, but because you're just so fed up of seeing them. However, it's a real pleasure that this is a shooter where you can influence things by taking out barracks, destroying buildings, blowing things up, and going to the pub.

Rescuing peasants would have been fun for one level. But not for this many.

Pubs are somewhere from which you can acquire new weapons, top up ammo, and most importantly, refill your health from a limited pool. When the random drops insist on giving you more bullets you don't need rather than the medkit you so desperately do, the sight of a pub door is a blessed relief.

In between straight shooter levels are some very average siege challenges, where you man a mounted gun and attempt to stop waves of enemies from climbing over the walls to a town or village. Extremely easy to succeed at, and mostly very dull to perform, they're an odd inclusion in a game that's otherwise so focused on forcing you to think hard about how you might survive a section.

In fact, some levels are extremely difficult, bombarding you with enemies in a ludicrous fashion, leading to frequent frustrating deaths. Get through them, and the next level will suddenly revert to a much more balanced experience.

It must be hard to play trumpet with a scarf over your mouth.

One other thing A&D absolutely does get right is deforestation. I think there should be an extra point on the score of any game that allows you to shoot the trees down, and here you can do this to much satisfaction. If you're the sort of person, like me, who can't run through a screen in Zelda without chopping down every blade of grass, then taking out the trees will make you feel very content.

But I must return to the humour. It did make me giggle a couple of times. The crowing penguin made me laugh out loud. There's a few one-liners that are decent. But they're few. Too often you can expect an extremely cheap xenophobic comment on the French, or 'puns' like "Fjorkin Village". As in "Get out of the Fjorkin Village". If that works for you, then so will much of the game.

The Land Shark Gun is a wonderful thing. If the same level of smart and funny could have been invested throughout, this would be the classic so many claim it to be. Instead it's a solid shooter, with a really interesting emphasis on tactical play. But it woefully lacks variety, and has a gag ratio somewhere below even the most average sitcom on a bad day.

Everyone, stop accepting this level of humour as good enough, let alone laudable!

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John Walker

John Walker



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