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Game Guys review - Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear

11:46 PM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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  • 'Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear' for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
  • 'Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear' for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
    

To say that the modern-era militaristic first-person shooter genre is over-saturated would be quite the understatement thanks to seemingly annual editions of EA's Battlefield and Activision's Call of Duty, not to mention countless one-offs and also-rans from a number of different developers and publishers.  What there isn't a whole of are modern-era rail shooters of any kind.  Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear, a new title from publisher Mastiff, is that second kind and it provides a different (yet lackluster) experience compared to its traditional modern-era FPS options.

If you believe the company, Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear puts players on the front lines preventing nuclear Armageddon.  While that may indeed be true, this core plot element is often lost.  This is mostly due to how developer Teyon decided to present the story as a whole.  Rather than linking story-critical cutscenes together like most other games like it, HF:SS instead gives the player a paragraph or two of narrated text to set the stage (as it were).  The problem is that while this style of storytelling may have worked fine in 2003, it's unpleasantly unexpected in 2013.

A cover-based rail shooter (think Time Crisis without being on a deadline), the player is basically along for the ride.  Transitioning from one area to the next, each level is basically filled with digital shooting galleries that just so happen to shoot back.  Playing with the gamepad (even on the game's easiest mode) can prove to be fairly difficult -- especially for those used to the controls of BF and CoD.  For a much better playing experience, HF:SS really should be played using PlayStation Move and, preferably, one of the various gun attachments available on the market.  This essentially turns the Move wand into a light gun, adding a level of entertainment and immersion that gamepad players will miss out on; and, honestly, it's the only way that this game can be fully enjoyed.

Regardless of the chosen control scheme, there are quicktime events sprinkled in.  Treyon decided to do something a little different with these, however.  Whereas most developers are contempt in having a player simply pressing a button at the desired time, players of Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear must instead actually move the controller in the desired direction.  While this might seem a bit hokey, at least it's something different.

Taking a departure from current trends in shooter video games, HF:SS doesn't do the player any favors by the way of regenerating health (though unlimited ammo is always an option).  To prevent the player from taking near-impervious cover as to wait until his character's health replenishes, Treyon decided to axe that gameplay concept for this title.  Not all is lost for those who take a few too many shots to the chest, however, as they've put health pick-ups here and there on each stage.  The trick is living long enough to get to them.  Treyon wasn't so conservative with ammo, however, as the player will always have a weapon availabe with unlimited ammunition.  As a way of balancing things out, though, that unlimited ammo weapon is usually woefully under-powered compared to its limited ammo brethren.  Like player health, ammo can be picked up here and there throughout each level.  Mechanics like these prove to up the difficulty a bit by providing the player with quarter-pumping arcade-style gameplay on a home console that some might find welcoming, but others might find near-disastrous.

To Treyon's credit, ducking and shooting isn't all there is to do in HF:SS.  In fact, some of the best parts of this game are in these alternate action sequences such as when the player is on a zodiac boat or, better yet, manning an airborne anti-personnel gun.  While brief in comparison to the standard segments of the game, these diversions are quite welcomed and keep the game from getting too stale during a playthrough.

Set with a retail price of roughly $20, players know right away that Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear is a budget-oriented title.  As such, it should come as little surprise that this game's visuals aren't exactly up to snuff compared to the "big boys" in the shooter genre.  To its credit, HF:SS does come off as current-gen.  Unfortunately, it appears more like an early PS3 title than a current one.  The game's audio, however, fares rather poorly -- mostly thanks to sub-standard audio mixing as voice overs are much too loud compared to the rat-tat-tat and ka-booms of weaponry.   This would be little more than a minor annoyance had the in-level voice overs been of any quality.  Much of what is said is just so over-acted and/or poorly stated that the player will often times find himself simply rolling his eyes.  Budget title or no, there's no reason why a video game's voice acting should make a high school play seem like a high-quality production.

Now, one could do much worse than Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear.  That stated, this game could easily have been a much better game at its whole.  Its controls are far from perfect and sometimes verge on awkward, its visuals are sub-standard compared to other releases over the past year or two on the PlayStation 3, and its voice work is downright disappointing.  Those expecting a Call of Duty-like experience will find themselves wanting, though those wanting something different from the standard militaristic FPS experience should still give this title a look.

GAMEPLAY: PRESENTATION: STORY: QUALITY: FINAL SCORE:
13/25 15/25 12/25 20/25 60/100

(Mastiff supplied a copy of this game for review.)

Version tested: PS3

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