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Not A Hero (PC) review

 
Not A Hero logo
Not A Hero logo
Not A Hero logo

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PC (reviewed); PS4 & PS Vita (release TBA)
 
Genre: , ,
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
8.0
8/ 10


User Rating
1 total rating

 

We liked?


  • Absurd humour, violence and swearing - it's not mature, but fun
  • A lot of personality in the characters, despite - or perhaps because of - their lack of detail
  • A decent challenge, and the range of characters give levels plenty of replay value

Not so much?


  • Absurd humour, violence and swearing - if these leave you cold, you'll probably hate every moment of this
  • The humour - especially the briefings - can be hit and miss, and after a while even the parts that seemed funny at first can be wearing


Final Fiendish Findings?

Not a Hero is baked with many ingredients, with retro styling and modern game mechanics, and letting humour into the gameplay without it detracting too much. It’s something that is adult if not entirely mature; personally, I had a blast.

0
Posted August 31, 2015 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

It’s normal for politicians to makes promises of getting tough on crime, but Bunnylord – an anthropomorphic rabbit from the future, obviously – delivers. His campaign team is filled with hit men and violent oddballs, and his appeal with the electorate comes down to wiping out locally organised crime. Welcome to Not A Hero.

We first got hands on with an early version of the game at last year’s Rezzed, seeing the side-on cover based shooter mechanics and enjoying the sheer overkill of it all – and challenge attached. You find yourself in a series of urban environments – warehouses and housing estates mostly – having to fight through large numbers of enemies to complete an objective, with three optional side objectives if you’re feeling confident.
Not A Hero screen
Movement and combat is firmly fixed to the Y axis – while plenty can be happening above or below you, you have no ability to jump or climb. You might assume that this means combat success is largely down to shooting when enemies appear, but the cover system means that timing is pretty critical. Both you and the bad guys – at least, you hope they’re bad guys, but you’re encouraged to not question who’s morals are better here – can jump out of the game’s main plane into cover where scenery allows, giving you critical moments to regenerate health, probably get flanked, and to reload.

Ah yes, reloading… There is a satisfying feel to the guns, firing about as fast as you can hit the button, and with an infinite number of reloads. However, there are no auto reloads and you need to keep track of this in the heat of combat. There are tactical elements to it too, as enemies respond to the sound of reloading by trying to charge you down – can you return fire while they’re out of cover? Did you leave landmines in their way? Regularly the game sets up set pieces where thinking ahead gives you options like this.

Bunnylord’s main opposition are the Russian mafia, a Yardie themed gang, and a “Pan-Asian” (and self described stereotype) Yakuza. And at this point there is wonder where the line is drawn between satire and the thing you are satirising. There is a strong sense of cynical irony running through the game – Bunnylord’s campaign of violence on a platform of peace and order, as well as his hatred and contempt for the people who vote for him at the core. Whether having the stereotypical depiction of three foreign criminal gangs is a further commentary on people’s separation between what they expect to see versus what is there, or just feeding into those stereotypes further… well, that’s a big debate.

Not A Hero screen

The concept of justice, reduced to its purest form.

On the subject of humour, it does get stretched a long way. Each mission begins and ends with a briefing held by Bunnylord, which takes a headlong leap into the absurdist end of the pool – bizarre words regularly fill in the grammatical gaps of sentences that are one step removed from feeling like nonsense yet somehow aren’t quite so. And some of it is actually very funny – especially when accompanied by some very imaginative slideshow presentations; but some of it just demonstrates how subjective humour is. That all said, the briefings can be skipped, taking you back to the far more solid content of the game itself.

You initially only have your “campaign manager” Steve, a former hitman, to throw into harm’s way. He shoots, laughs and swears his way through the levels in a mockney accent like he’s living out a Guy Ritchie movie. However, the more support your campaign gets (read: more objective you get completed) additional help joins the team, each with different abilities and personality quirks – Cletus carries a shotgun and pretends to be Scottish; Clive carries two pistols but cannot use special weapons found in the levels and passes scathing comments about the rest of the team; Jesus – “not that one” being a running joke in the game’s promotion – performs running executions while also seeming to be trying to rut the world; and so on.

The various team members do feel very different to play, and while any one of them can probably succeed in any level, difficult challenges can feel a lot easier when sometimes swapping on character for another. It does also give a sense of motivation to replay levels, to experience it with a different set of abilities (it helps that completions and failures for each level are also recorded per character, if you want to see where you have and haven’t made it through).

Not A Hero screen

Yes, that objective does read “Locate the cheese!”; the metagame is not afraid of some pretty absurd goals.

Graphically, it’s worth commenting how small everything is. Characters take up a very small portion of the screen, which is very useful in showing more of the playing field; but the character design is very well done, and even allowing for the minimal detail allowed on a very small pixel-art sprite there is a lot of personality in those characters.

Aurally, there’s more than just gunfire and shouting of course. The pixel art style is met with a chiptune soundtrack, which varies between deliberately annoying (team briefing are held to a tune more suited to the kind of lift that makes you prefer taking the stairs) to the more encouraging fast or bouncy tracks in the levels themselves.

In conclusion

Not a Hero is baked with many ingredients; taking a retro visual and aural style and adding modern game mechanics, using satire as a core part of the story and letting humour into the gameplay without it detracting from the experience (mostly), mixed for an audience that is adult if not entirely mature. Whether you enjoy the game will likely be based on how much any of those parts appeals or repels you; personally, I had a blast.


Peter

 
Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.