Where does Narco Terror stand in the twin-stick shooter genre: bottom, top or somewhere in the middle?
Narco Terror is an action-packed twin-stick shooter that thematically harkens back to classic action movies from the 80's and offers several arcade gameplay sequences. You play as ex-special ops Rick Quinn who is literally a one man army badass dude.
The game starts with a short cutscene where you hear Rick talk about The Cartel, the drugs and the way they are smuggled all over the world. Then he talks about The Cartel's latest way of smuggling the drugs, by using a frickin submarine. Your task, find and stop the submarine and end all of Cartel's drug operation. His beloved daughter was kidnapped by drug cartel leader Delgado, to prevent the use of a new tool that could expose the secret narcotics smuggling ring. Quinn is the deadliest weapon around, and will stop at nothing to get his daughter back.
This is your standart twin-stick shooter game, where you will have to kill countless enemies in order to progress through, but near the end a bullet-hell element is kinda added to the game which makes it (sometimes) extremely difficult. As far as I can remember, one twin-stick shooter that I really liked was Gatling Gears, fantastic gameplay, really cool upgrade system and overall just fun to play through. Narco Terror swims in similar waters, it has great gameplay, cool weapons and all of the things that should make it a really great game, but somehow it misses this opportunity.
As I said Rick is one crazy badass dude who faces impossible situations and still manages to survive. He has four weapons at his disposal, a pistol, shotgun, AR and a minigun and you can upgrade each weapon using currency you find in the level as form of collectibles or get for destroying things. However you don't get all of the weapons from the start, you get them as you play through. Each one of them feels great and has a satisfying impact on enemies and upgrading makes them even better. But the upgrading system is very limited because you don't get enough currency to upgrade all of the weapons. By the end of the game I had only upgraded each weapon only once cause the first upgrade is cheap, like a 1000 or so $, the other upgrades need from 3000-6000$ and getting this kind of currency is not possible on the first playthrough. So this kinda serves to increase the replay value of the game, making you replay the game to see and unlock everything, but as soon as I finished the game, that was it, I didn't want to continue playing the game.
Twin-stick shooting games need to have at least one thing perfect, the shooting mechanic. It need to be spot on with where you aim with the stick and need to be fully 360 degrees. Narco Terror shooting mechanic is spotty. It doesn't really let you to fire in a full 360 degree, when you aim your stick at an enemy your bullets doesn't really go where you aim. It's like your bullets travel in predefined corridors if that makes any sense. This and the spotty aim assist make hitting enemies kinda hard, especially the enemies that are higher than you. Apart from the straight up twin-stick shooting sequences, there are also some "minigames" that are more like tributes to games like Capcom's 1942 vertical shoot-em'-up games, where you pilot a plane or boat and destroy enemies vehicles. The controls on these "minigames" feel a little spotty, but these sequences do a good job on recalling that nostalgia for those types of games.
That came probably by the very annoying difficulty spikes. One moment you are mowing down enemies with your minigun and the next instant screen is filled with bulky machete dudes, kamikazes and OP mortar guys who will straight up murder you in an instant. And there are many moments like this, especially later in the game where I had to escape by rolling and getting to the next "area". Also the end boss was crazy difficult, so difficult that I spent 45 minutes trying to beat it. That was batshit crazy insane! I asked Deep Silver on Twitter if I can actually beat the final boss alone and they said that it is very hard but doable. In the end I beat it, but I was so angry and frustrated with the game, that replaying it again was the last thing in my mind. Today, before I started writing the review, my little cousin came and we played a little co-op and to say the truth I enjoyed it. Playing with another person was fun, especially when you can yell at him for how bad he is doing. So local drop in drop out co-op is fun, what about the online one? Well, I would have said something about it, but I haven't really tried it yet. I spent like an hour today, trying to find someone in the matchmaking to play, but nothing, it seems that no one is playing this game yet.
Presentation is very good. The menu is clean and with a pixelated font that, again, recalls the games of the 90's. Visually the game looks great. The environments looked amazing, very detailed with tons of stuff to blow up. Character models look OK for the most part. But the camera work was something that really stood out to me, it's like following the action from a helicopter. It moves, shifts, pans and it is really well done. Sometimes it will look like you are playing a side scrolling game, very interesting. The frame rate during most action sequences keeps itself together nicely, but during some of the most heavy ones where there are countless enemies on screen firing bullets and throwing grenades, it really really suffers dropping at maybe 10 or less frames. In the sounds department, it fares also well. The music pumps you to go into a rampage, the effects are well done too though I found the pistol firing sound annoying as f*ck. VO for Rick is fantastic, he feels like your typical rough and gruff 80's or 90's action hero, the other voices were really bad, fake spanish or latin american accents, meh.
Bottom Line: Narco Terror is a good twin-stick shooter, not great,but somewhere in the middle. For 5-6 hours you will be entertained as well as frustrated near the end. The difficulty spikes become a nuisance and the spotty shooting doesn't help either. So is this game for you? I don't know, if you liked games like Gatling Gears or are a fan of twin-stick shooting games in general or you just want to play a fun couch co-op game with someone, this game might is for you. For the casual gamer, I would advise playing the demo first.
Narco Terror was reviewed on a PS3 using a promo code provided by Deep Silver. Narco Terror is available now via digital download for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.