Since the heady days of immediacy presented by Wolfenstein and DOOM the first-person shooter (FPS) genre has changed substantially. Overly complicated and frequently far too linear, the genre has become bloated and cinematic for both its better and to its detriment. Here to save us from all the gung-ho military homoeroticism and overstretching of the term ‘realism’ are none other than PlayStation Mobile heroes Ripstone and their partners in crime, Green Hill.
Gun Commando is the antithesis of the modern FPS, a brash shoot-athon that returns to the 90s with an intentionally placed foot in the backside of the genre. This is a videogame that stares modern design in the face and refuses to accept that this is how things must be done, for better or worse.
The videogame begins with the introduction of our hero; a clichéd has-been, grizzled and beaten by life, living a solitary existence where all that matters is getting his next drink and kicking some ass on the battlefield. The art direction here is the finest moment of Gun Commando, with the dark comic book styling brushing aside the well worn story template. Sadly, from this point on Gun Commando is not the videogame it really should have been.
Designed to work across the full spectrum of PlayStation Mobile certified devices, Gun Commando can be played entirely on the touchscreen. However, even with the full set of PlayStation Vita controls at its disposal Gun Commando refuses to offer the player any of the commonly considered essentially functionality, such as weapon selection and manual height adjustment. The latter is overcome by simply not having a need to aim above or below the default position – there is no benefit from hitting specific body parts and the entire videogame is set on a single surface level – but this simplicity goes too far, way beyond that of the titles that acted as inspiration for Gun Commando.
The core experience of Gun Commando is taken down enemies that outnumber and outgun you. Sadly, that’s where it ends. There is no logistical challenge, no cerebral puzzles or lock-and-key hunting; this is a straight-forward, uncomplicated shooting videogame. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if it wasn’t for the fact that the gunplay itself is also far too simplistic.
The handful of enemy types vary in their available actions, but not their tactics. Difficulty is delivered by way of increasing numbers as opposed to enemy intelligence, resulting in a well timed strafe being far more important than developing any real tactics. Avoiding the pitfalls of modern FPS gaming is one thing, ignoring the past twenty years of technological progress is another.
Despite all the promise that a videogame looking back to the roots of FPS gaming automatically holds, Gun Commando has ended-up delivering less than a fraction of the potential its premise holds. Feeling like an optional extra mode offered alongside a deeper campaign, Gun Commando’s high-score gameplay dolled-out across bite-sized levels most certainly sounded better on paper than the final product that was delivered, relegating Ripstone and Green Hill’s latest to the league of good ideas poorly executed.