Gatling Gears Review (PSN)

Gatling Gears launched on the 360 back in May; it was a pretty great game then. It stands to reason then that the PSN release of Vanguard’s steampunk mech shooter is still a pretty great game. Short answer: yes, it is. It’s just another sunny day in the Empire’s training camp. You’ve just gotten situated in your spiffy new Mech and are ready to fight the Freemen in the name of the Empire. Yeah, something sounds wrong there. Vanguard Entertainment has cleverly named the two factions. It could be said that Gatling Gears is a bit of a social criticism; The Empire has spun everything so that The Freemen are the enemy. Sound familiar? Our hero goes into hiding soon after realizing that his whole world has been a lie only to fight back against the full might of the Empire. When I say the full might of the Empire, that’s really how it feels. After that initial tutorial level, each level gets progressively more chaotic. Enemy mechs, choppers, turrets, mines, bombers, and foot soldiers all work in a devastatingly choreographed assault on your reflexes. In most bullet-hell shooters your character is fairly small and maneuverable. That’s not the case in Gatling Gears. You’re the pilot of a slow, clunky mech in which it couldn’t possibly be harder to dodge the constant onslaught. I wouldn’t consider this a bad quality, however. It’s frustrating, but I love it. To face this seemingly endless army, you’ll need to upgrade your gear. Each normal stage contains 3 pieces of gold, while each boss stage has 1. You’ll use this gold to upgrade each of your mech’s four components: Cannon, missile, Health, and Grenades. Each upgrade makes you that much more brutal. Maxed out grenades can literally clear a screen. You’ll really want to maximize your upgrades for the boss fights which are among the craziest I’ve seen. Given the title’s steampunk theme, there’s a ton of potential for boss design and it’s safe to consider that potential met. The difficulty of these fights doesn’t quite line up with that of the rest of the stage, however. I noticed that the last two levels of a chapter are significantly harder than the boss battle. This may just be because the bosses don’t rely on hordes of minions as much as they do screenfilling attacks. Where the stages are chaotic, the bosses are patterned and predictable. Aside from the upgrades, you’ll also unlock a handful of experience point based customization options. These are silly, useless, and a ton of fun to play with. As you accrue more experience you’ll be given a new option. Mech skins, pets who add absolutely nothing to the experience, and effects like flaming vents and a leafy trail in your wake. Like I said, it serves no purpose whatsoever. In co-op it is nice to be able to set yourself apart from your buddy, but that’s about it. More often than not, repetition in a game is an awful trait. In Gatling Gears however, the repetition seems natural and doesn’t detract from the experience. There’s a trophy for blowing up all of the generators in a specific level; enough said. It’s all about laying down that cannon fire and unloading missiles when you’ve got them. The environments and enemies are varied enough that the repetitive gameplay doesn’t make one bit of difference. If nothing else, Gatling Gears takes on a classic arcade feel where it’s less about completing the game than it is earning the top score. After each level you’re given a rank from Bronze to Platinum based on your score. Dying in a level resets your multiplier so there’s plenty of incentive to stay on your feet. If the campaign and its 25 stages aren’t sufficient for your high score hunting hunger, there’s also a survival mode that tests just how far you can go without losing a life. The game’s hard enough with a stock of three lives, getting by with one is pretty brutal. As far as mindless shooters go, Gatling Gears is a good one. There’s just enough of a story to push you through, and enough depth in the customization to encourage replays. It’s $9.99 on PSN now, go check it out for a simple, good time.

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