Genre: Top-Down Shooter
Publisher: Sierra Online
Developer: Wanako Studios
Release Date: May 14, 2008
Xbox Live Arcade is a very unique system that provides users with content and games that are small in portion and price. While it may seem to be a bit oversaturated in top-down shooters, that doesn't mean there isn't room for more, so long as they're fun to play. Assault Heroes 2 is fun and proves that, while most XBLA games are shallow, a sequel to a game already on XBLA (Assault Heroes) can still be a critical success. Not only does Assault Heroes 2 bring more of the same "cowboy" type of fun that the original had, but it brings in more of it — and faster.
Assault Heroes 2 brings one mantra to the table: addictive gameplay. This is no more noticeable than when you first start the game only to see a complete lack of story development as you're thrown headfirst into an oncoming army of baddies. Anybody looking for deep gameplay marred by story-changing elements and surprise twists should hit the door right now because Assault Heroes 2 will not provide any of that. However, for those of you who just want to hop on for a few minutes and blow up some stuff, welcome home! Assault Heroes 2 was designed with you in mind, and the system works surprisingly well.
A game like this needs good controls, though, and that is something that you don't ever really need to worry about with Assault Heroes 2. In building on the original, the developers put a lot of effort into streamlining everything. As in the first game, you move around with the left analog stick and shoot in whichever direction you want with the right analog stick. It may seem a bit complicated for newcomers to the game or genre, but when you actually get a hold of the controller and begin playing, you'll wonder why you ever felt tentative. Assault Heroes 2 controls very well, even in times of extremely hectic gameplay.
For those who absolutely need a story line to make your overall gaming experience complete, the plot is severely lacking, but that doesn't mean that it was omitted altogether. Throughout the game, you'll be introduced to the story and characters through a variety of short cut scenes. It's nothing too exciting, but if you absolutely need a story (no matter how shallow) to get you through, then you needn't fret.
So, I've told you how much fun Assault Heroes 2 is and how much it's expanded upon the original, but what exactly is different? For starters, you get new vehicles; whereas the original title only gave you a trusty buggy, Assault Heroes 2 gives you a buggy, a helicopter, a large tank, and a walking mech, and each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. The helicopter is fast and highly maneuverable but also very weak; the walker can regenerate its health over time, but it's excruciatingly slow; and the tank, while very powerful, is also very sluggish in its turns. Oddly, these new vehicles are only able to use the minigun weapon, whereas the buggy has the minigun, ice thrower, flame thrower, and flak cannon. Because of this, you'll never truly want to be away from your buggy for too long, which provides a well-balanced style of gameplay with all of your weapons. In addition to the vehicles, you'll be taking on side missions that feature your hero flying solo on more than a few occasions, which provides for some fun breaks in the vehicular gameplay.
Sequels are expected to display serious improvements in the graphics area, and Assault Heroes 2 doesn't disappoint. While the first game was plenty colorful and looked very good for an XBLA arcade game, Assault Heroes 2 outdoes it in nearly every way imaginable. The colors look more vibrant and luscious, the textures are more detailed, and the game runs smoother.
The audio is also enhanced over the original, and while the game still boasts no voice acting, the original score and sound effects are much improved. The original Assault Heroes had a largely forgettable soundtrack, and it wasn't all that annoying, but it certainly didn't enhance the experience either. The developers must have taken note because the soundtrack for Assault Heroes 2 is much better and actually makes you feel heroic. In addition, the weapons sound more like weapons instead of a series of "pews," and the flame thrower and ice thrower sound exactly like what you'd expect. The only complaint in the audio department is that the explosions still sound like the volume was turned down. Explosions should be much louder than the other weapons, but they aren't, and that's a shame. For an XBLA title, though, the sound for Assault Heroes 2 is a real treat.
Should you happen to get bored playing on your own, Assault Heroes 2 also offers a co-op mode that provides a fresh take on the game. Whether you're playing local or over the Internet, having a buddy there to help you get through the enemy bases just makes the destruction that much more fun. The only thing I could have seen making it even better is if the co-op had been expanded this time around to include four players instead of the usual two.
Now, Assault Heroes 2 isn't perfect. I know I've been raving on about why the game is so much fun and how it's so much better than the original, but it does have its faults. First, the gameplay can get fairly repetitive at times. It may be fun to race around an enemy base laying waste to everything for a few minutes, that style of gameplay starts to show its age after a few hours. In addition, those of you who pride yourself on being Assault Heroes experts will notice that the sequel is a bit easier than the first. You're given more health, and the difficulty level has been noticeably decreased from the original title, which is definitely not good news for somebody who's expecting a challenge.
All in all, Assault Heroes 2 is a very fun XBLA title and is a prime example of why gamers love the advent of XBLA so much. Fun games with little to no attachment to an overly long backstory are great, and at 800 Microsoft points, it's almost perfect for everyone. Anybody who's looking for this type of gameplay in the admittedly crowded XBLA store needs to look no further than this game.
More articles about Assault Heroes 2