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Hard Corps: Uprising Review

February 21, 2011

Hard Corps: UprisingAs far as run-and-gun shooters go, the two longest lived franchises in the genre are Contra and Metal Slug; both have their fanbases and both appeal to a different style of gameplay. I’ve personally preferred the more cinematic and humorous style of the Metal Slug games although I will concede that Contra has had far better controls and gameplay mechanics as far back as the original arcade version. This is why I was happy to learn that the newest installment in the Contra franchise was going to be handled by Arc System Works, the developer behind the Guilty Gear and Blaz Blue series of fighting games. My optimism was well met as the end result was a title that controls like Contra, but feels more like Metal Slug.

The events of this game serve as a prequel to Contra: Hard Corps (if you’re the type of person who follows that sort of thing). In the year 2613, the world has fallen under the oppressive rule of the Commonwealth and its leader, Tiberius. You play as an elite squad of resistance fighters under the leadership of Colonel Bahamut, a former Commonwealth soldier. However, none of this really matters for two reasons. First, the producers plan to spin off Hard Corps into its own franchise, which makes all ties to Contra largely irrelevant; second, we’re really just here to blow things up.

Blowed Up Good!

Done and done!

Arc System Works has given the game its trademark visual and musical style, focusing on over the top anime designs for the characters and a rocking soundtrack. The level design is also fairly interesting, with a good variety of locations and environments that present their own unique challenges. This definitely looks unlike any other Contra game, as the focus is more on military combat as opposed to alien invasions, and the enemies’ behavior is played more for laughs, similar to Metal Slug. This game also works best in HD, so if you still own a ray tube television like me, you might have a hard time reading the HUD and keeping track of your lives.

animu cutscene

Yeah, her gun's pretty big but I'll wager that pompadour's deadlier.

Gameplay is par for the course with a few tweaks. You can run, jump and shoot in eight directions, but you can also execute a dash or a mid-air dash that’s useful for evading enemy fire. The shoulder buttons can also be used to lock your aim in one direction or allow for stationary aiming; mastering these two mechanics is key to your survival. Power ups include mainstays like the Super Machine Gun and Spread Shot as well as a grenade launcher and a very spiffy Tracking Laser. Another standard feature of Contra that was kept intact is the difficulty; this game only has one difficulty and they clearly put it in the title.


Charlie's in the trees! Charlie's in the trees!

Hard Corps also has two distinct modes of gameplay. First, you have Arcade Mode, which is your standard mode; you have 3 lives each and limited continues to make it through eight levels of pain. Then, there’s Rising Mode, which allows you to play through the game while earning Customization Points you can use to unlock items and abilities for your characters. These items range from additional maximum health to stronger default weapons and can only be used in Rising Mode. You can even toggle these abilities on or off before you start so that you can essentially craft your own level of difficulty based on what you’re comfortable with.


That extra health will come in handy around here.

Rising Mode also lets you start at any level you’ve completed, making it perfect for practicing certain stages and bosses. This makes the game far more accessible and less frustrating for less “Hard Corps” players, who might not have the time to repeat the same levels just to get another crack at that one boss they can’t beat. The game also supports both local and online multiplayer, so you can play with a friend in the same room (something gaming seems to ignore these days) or with a complete stranger online.

When we work together it's much better! My best friend!

Always better with a friend.

There really isn’t anything bad that can be said about this game that can’t be lobbied against any other game in the genre. Much of the difficulty is based on trial and error and many of the hazards in the stages are unpredictable and feel like beginner’s traps. For example, after defeating one boss I entered a cutscene in which I had to outrun the boss right before jumping a wide gorge. Halfway through the cutscene, however, I got a quicktime event urging me to jump out of my vehicle. I missed the prompt, promptly splattered against the cliff face and had to redo the entire level. Hard Corps is unforgiving and often cruel, but that kind of comes with the territory.

Currently, the game is only available on XBLA for about 1200 MS Points ($15 USD) as part of Microsoft’s “House Party” promotion that will include some themed releases over the coming months. For $15 this is a pretty solid title if you’re a fan of the genre and there is supposed to be some DLC down the road in the form of additional characters and possibly four player cooperative play. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll find this game a welcome addition to your library. More casual gamers should probably stay away from this one.


Group scowl time!

One Comment leave one →
  1. bgarla permalink
    March 1, 2011 10:19 pm

    Hm…sounds interesting, but I’m not that into the genre. Thanks for the tip :)

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