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Hard Corps: Uprising [Review]

Overall Feeling: 

Hard Corps is a grueling, 2D, side-scrolling, bullet-hell of a shoot-'em-up and exactly what the Xbox Live Arcade needs. In a world of gamers gone soft, it is incredibly unforgiving in a way that makes you appreciate each step of the journey that you're able to complete.

The Pros: 

+Solid game mechanics

+Multiplayer Online/Offline

+Ability to upgrade your character's abilities/weapons through Uprising Mode

+Strong sense of accomplishment for any progress in the game

The Cons: 

-Very high learning curve

-Not a whole lot of help with the platforming

-Difficult for someone to jump into

-Not a game with 'wide-appeal' Rating : 

The one good thing about the over-saturation of video game/movie titles has become that there is truth in advertising these days. Starting back with Snakes On A Plane, the necessity to start naming media based on what it is, rather than a really super-cool sounding title with no attachment has become more and more prevalent. Still though, there are periods in time when a catch title can lead one to question what is in store. Enter Hard Corps Uprising, a rather ludicrous sounding name at first, but if you pick up what they put down in the “Hard-core” homonym… Then you know exactly what you’re in for.

Hard Corps Uprising launched on the Xbox Live Marketplace earlier this week as the start of the Xbox Live House Party promotion, and it’s only now that I’ve been able to work my way through enough of the game to submit my honest opinions. To be completely transparent, I still have not been able to actually COMPLETE the game. This is a gruelling up-hill battle of an experience, so ‘casual gamers’ beware. 

It took many, many play-throughs just to complete the game’s first level and many more to progress pass that. Hard Corps is a blend between bullet-hell style side-scrolling action shooters along with some fairly precise requirements for platform-gaming. While pushing your way through THOUSANDS of various types of enemies of all shapes and sizes you’ll be expected to jump, double-jump and air-dash your way through a series of obstacles. To help with this the game enlists a series of rather unconventional control settings. 

Left and right trigger on the Xbox don’t supply the firing buttons that one would commonly associate with a shooter title. Instead the firing/action buttons have relocated to the face of the controller, leaving the triggers open for “precision based shooting.” Holding down your left trigger locks your gun in place (in one of the eight-directions) allowing you to move in a different direction then you’re aiming. The right-hand trigger locks your feet in place, allowing you to tweak your shots without moving your character. 

At first both of these features seemed a little silly, and it was kind of unusual to wrap one’s head around. As you progress though you become painfully aware of the fact that these aren’t just handy little suggestions for tweaking your sniper-precision, but absolutely REQUIRED controls for being able to survive beyond the first round of the game. 

I’m a fan of platformers to be sure, and more-over I’m a fan of ‘schumps’. Hard Corps Uprising blends booth together in a beautifully masochistic package that makes me both want to throw my controller out the window, and make just -one- more attempt at passing the next level. I’d spoke in the past about ‘artificial’ senses of accomplishment through the doling out of random achievements and so forth. Hard Corps is not that type of a game. The achievements earned through completing this monster are sure to be worn on your gamer profile as a true badge of honor. 

So with its incredibly frustrating, but oddly satisfying nature, the question becomes “how much can you take?”

For me personally, I keep coming back for more. It’s hard, it’s gruelling, it’s difficult curve and sheer meanness cannot be understated… But I love it. 

The game features two ways to play (along with online multiplayer). Your basic ‘Arcade’ mode, which allows you an option to just push through the game normally, with no additions, and the ‘Uprising’ mode which lets you earn points to be spent on upgrades. Arcade mode is a special kind of hell, the only thing that allowed me to push through as far as I have so far was purchasing upgrades for the machine gun and spread-shot abilities. I cannot imagine the person that plays through without upgrades, whoever you are, wherever you are, my hat is off to you. 

The only thing that I would gripe about, and it’s kind of nit-picking, is that the game doesn’t do you a whole lot of favours in terms of understanding what’s required in the platforming. 

The most notable offense was at the end of the very first level. After working to understand the level’s layout and intricacies of the platforming throughout the level (required, as you only have three lives and then you’ll be restarting from the very beginning) reaching the end where you’re to jump at a helicopter and ride to safety. Unfortunately, there’s no real indicator where you jump to, or when to make your jump. Everything is very much “trial and error” which is rough when you only have the three lives to see you through until the end of the rather long levels. 

If you’re a fan of games that hate you, then Hard Corps Uprising will suit you nicely. It does not strike me as a game with mass appeal, and the price point puts it even further out of reach – as it is the most expensive game in the House Party line-up. A personal recommendation for the game is definitely put forth, but on the preface that you know what you’re getting into: a hard-core up-hill battle against a video game that hates you and the band you like.

Hard Corps Uprising is available exclusively on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 Microsoft Points ($15).