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Review | Hard Corps: Uprising

Macho

Format: Xbox 360, PS3 | Genre: Side Scrolling Shooter| Publisher: Konami | Developer: Arc System Works | Release date: 16/02/2011 | Price:  1200 MS Points (£10.20)

The harsh running and gunning is just the kind exhilaration Greg Giddens has been looking for. All bundled together in HARD CORPS: UPRISING.

REMINDING US of the hardships of the 16bit era is Hard Corps: Uprising, which is as brutal and as frustrating as its Contra older brothers. This is not through the use of cheap deaths and sloppy platforming though. In fact Hard Corps: Uprising promotes tight level design and mechanics that truly test your reflexes and patience. And whilst frustration inevitably tags along paired with plenty of deaths, It’s very clearly intentional.

It hurts us because it loves us. It throws countless enemies at us through eight lengthy levels which run the gamut of environments. From running through a dusty desert to leaping on missiles in outer space, the variety of levels are exceptional and engaging. They’re beautifully presented as well. Hand-drawn sprites and 3D backgrounds with an anime style make everything look gorgeous and contemporary, helping to completely draw you in for those precious few minutes you’re alive.

So very hard

Of course being part of the Contra series means it comes with inherent difficulty curve overhang. But this harsh experience is part of its charm. It’s a reminder of a past generation of games where the challenge was part of the allure and the completion of such a title was a true mark of honour. However, this is where it will define its player-base. Hard Corps: Uprising is a hard game that many will find off-putting.

Rising mode aims to reduce the difficulty gradient by allowing you to customise your chosen character – Bahamut or Crystal – by spending points earned in a session. It’s similar to grinding for experience points, except your death doesn’t nullify your score. This allows you to play multiple times to collect as many points as you need to buy items such as additional lives or weapon upgrades. And trust me when I say you’ll need every advantage you can get to progress.

Checkpoints are a scare gift, with only a couple in each level. With each level consisting of multiple stages and boss fights, it’s not uncommon to get killed shortly after a major encounter or platforming section and to find yourself having to do it all over again. It’s teeth-grindingly frustrating but the excellent design of the levels and the imaginative bosses compels you to try again. After a quick upgrade purchase you’ll likely find yourself back in the fray, as your subconscious takes over to get you back amongst the action. Although the slow loading times between each level breaks this immersion considerably.

Arcade mode keeps the experience pure with no upgrades beyond the power-ups you can collect in-game. It’s therefore much harder but with this mode or Rising you can bring a friend along for the ride through local or online coop. This is where Hard Corps: Uprising shines. The difficulty is far more manageable with an extra gun by your side and it allows you to make small mistakes without compromising yourself to the enemy, as long as your partner has your back. The later levels require some gentle and precise platforming that is tricky with two players but the controls are as smooth as the animation and brilliantly responsive. Failure is down to your timing more than anything else. Lose your partner, however, and you’ll be whisked straight back to the main menu, regardless of the survivor’s life gauge, so the breakdown of friendships is a likely consequence.

Despite being an exceptional arcade run n’ gun platformer, it‘s from a generation past, or if you’re feeling mean – old fashioned. It simply won’t satisfy the majority. But for those jonesing for some Metal Slug or Contra action, Hard Corps: Uprising could be just what you’re looking for.

8/10

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