Hard Corps: Uprising hands-on

We recently got another chance for some hands-on time with Hard Corps: Uprising, and like many retro updates of late, it’s fast, difficult, beautiful, and fun. The level we played wasn’t horrendously difficult, but wasn’t a cake walk either. It wasn’t as tough as Shattered Soldier, which in our minds is a good thing, but we’ll have to see later levels to get an idea for how punishing things get.

Above: Purty and atmospheric... plus robo-crocs?

We’ve mentioned the controls before, but let’s get into some more detail into exactly how they work. The actual shooting is something we’re not sure how we feel about: in order to get your maximum fire rate, it goes with the very old-school mechanic that requires you to constantly mash on the button. If you just hold it down, you get a slightly reduced auto-fire rate. This type of shooterizing works pretty well on an arcade cabinet where you can hammer the button with an index finger, but with the shoulder buttons coming into play on the controller, constantly mashing with your thumb gets tiring on the hands.

Everything else, however, is either a great hand-me down from Contras past, or a clever addition we’ve never seen before. One shoulder button locks you in place so you can precisely fire in whatever direction you chose, while the other shoulder button locks your firing angle so you can jump around (these mechanics are practically ancient now, having been introduced in Contra III). The dash maneuver allows the game to up the ante in speed of enemy attacks since you can avoid things easily. On the ground, it initiates a sprint that’s a bit hard to control, so we didn’t have a lot of success using it in normal combat, but against a boss that leaps into the air and comes crashing down on you, it’s a handy escape mechanism. In the air, the dash gives you a short horizontal boost, which can be used to extend the length of your jumps, make a critical change of direction, and helps you avoid the charge attacks of minibosses who like to try to steamroll you.

You also have a double jump, which could turn out to be huge for how the whole game comes together, since it gives you even more maneuverability and agility, so again the game can throw even crazier attacks at you without being too difficult. Then you have your reflect move. We’re not sure yet if it’s hugely practical, but it surely has the badass factor covered. If you want to look cool playing Uprising, master the reflect. With a properly timed button tap, your character swats an enemy bullet back in their face. It has a small cooldown, so you can’t just run around slapping everything away. We used it a number of times, and it seems to have a good balance of being not too easy to pull off while not impossible for the less than super hardcore.

Above: The reflect move in action. The purple streak is the bullet bouncing back at the sniper up top

The hand-drawn art style, which also features anime cutscenes, doesn’t quite feel like the Contra we’re used to, but damn if it doesn’t look luscious. And it should: it’s done by the people behind BlazBlue, so not only is it crisp, bright, and colorful, but it also has ridiculously detailed and fluid animations.

The weapons we encountered were a bit of old and a bit of new. You can carry up to two weapons, and you’ll lose whichever one you have equipped if you take a single hit (although you don’t die from one hit, since now you have a life bar). Weapons show up in typical Contra fashion, carried by floating, swooping thingamajigs that will disappear off the screen in a couple of seconds if you don’t shoot them down. From these we got to try out the machine gun, spread shot (of course), cluster bombs, flame thrower, and the lasers. The laser was the most fun for us because it reflects off of the scenery, allowing for some weird bullet patterns thatlet you to nail enemies from safe locations.

Above: Here you can see the laser bouncing off the environment. It eerily seems to know exactly where you want it to go

The main boss we fought was a mechanical snake thing that emerged from a sand trap. Fighting it wasn’t too hard, but the biggest danger was not paying attention to the quicksand that drags you to your doom. The boss had a ton of attack patterns: rising from the ground to reveal turrets on its body segments, spitting out mini snake-mechs, leaping into the air to come crushing down, and arching over the player to “cage” you in. If this is an early boss, we can’t wait to see what the others will be like.

Hard Corps: Uprising will have local and online co-op, an XP-earning mode, plans for more characters through DLC, and is set to release sometime this winter.

Aug 31, 2010

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.