“They will not control us, we will be victorious!” bellowed Matt Bellamy on stadium rockers Muse’s recent track, Uprising. It seems Konami may have taken this message as their inspiration, bestowing us with their fight against the establishment via Hard Corps: Uprising on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.
Hard Corps: Uprising (HC: U) is a side scrolling run n’ gun shooter and follow-up to an off-shoot of the much-admired Contra series, subtitled Hard Corp (or Probotector as it was more commonly known in Europe). The player controls either Bahamut or Krystal as they strive to topple the dictatorship of the Commonwealth led Tiberius. Thankfully the player can either pair up with a buddy in online or offline co-op to help rid themselves of the Commonwealth. The gist of the game is to shoot bad guys…then shoot a lot more bad guys until you reach a boss encounter and defeat them by… well, shooting them. Rinse and repeat.
The game can be played in two variations; Arcade or Uprising mode. Arcade is a no-frills blast to the end whilst attempting to retain all your lives (complete with all the attendant frustration/elitist satisfaction of rote memorisation this would entail). If this reviewer were to put down their thoughts regarding the level of frustration involved it would look like a heavily redacted MI5 document, with scores of black squares littering the page to mask the obscenities. Only the true hardcore need apply here.
In contrast, Rising mode is much more approachable. Essentially the same as Arcade, actions are rewarded with credits which can be used to upgrade health, weapons and all manner of modifiers to aid progression towards the final encounter. These abilities really help the player progress, making things easier by simply levelling the playing field.
If there’s one area where HC: U really shines it’s the quality of the graphics. Arc System Works have brought their astonishing hand-drawn art to bear here, creating a sumptuous looking title. From the exceptional opening movie to the various locations such as an exquisite Jungle, or a fast paced trip above a city, the graphical fidelity cannot be called into question.
Neither can the shredding metal soundtrack which is almost too metal even for someone like Tenacious D, but there’s certainly no denying that it perfectly suits the tone of the on-screen action. However the incidental voice samples are off-putting to say the least. The noise an enemy makes while in their death throes are obtrusively loud and sound more akin to a dog being scalded with hot oil. The least said about the “oh god!” sample, the better…
While the action can be fun in short bursts, some of the more questionable checkpoints in the game make it tough to get past certain sections. There’s a real danger that the player will simply stop caring as they’re forced to repeat a section over, and over (and over) again, whereas if it had all been paced a tad better, such frustrations could have been eliminated. To get the absolute most from HC: U requires a great deal of patience and time, meaning it ends up as something of a grind.
There are also some bewilderingly long load times, where it’s common to spend minutes waiting for the game to finally get going, but by far though the worst offence HC: U commits is charging for character unlocks. These should have been included with the game and such a blatant grab for people’s money is to be discouraged at every opportunity – it’s the sort of approach that does little to foster any goodwill towards Konami.
It’s very telling that Hard Corps: Uprising doesn’t bear the full Contra name. Undoubtedly somewhere along the line a decision was taken to associate it with one of the spin-off titles in the series, rather than sully its affection with gamers of a certain age. By no means a truly bad game, it feels as if it should have been much, much more than what is actually on offer and leaving it feeling like a wasted opportunity.