Of course, you’ll still be shooting men so that they do a back flip. And most of the time you’ll be doing this in slow-motion. Your ability to slow down time in the original was a consequence of you having been cloned from the magical Alma (the terrifying little girl who stalks you throughout both games), though this time you’ve been experimented on by Armacham: the game’s insidious high-tech megacorp responsible for Alma being so pouty in the first place.
The differences here aren’t apparent on the face of things: you’ll slam the slo-mo key in the heat of battle to transform the action to a sluggish, crawling dance. Bullets ripple through the air before connecting with your almost frozen enemies, the force of the impact lifting them from their feet as they enter the all-important back flip. Their clenched trigger finger causes their weapon to fire uncontrollably as they spin, creating a Catherine wheel of hot lead arcs from floor to wall to ceiling, tearing away lumps of masonry and filling the air with concrete dust. Your slow-motion ability expires, sound tears back to normality from its underwater glug, and the corpse of your enemy falls to floor with a thud.
That’s the game’s primary appeal: the cinematic violence coupled with Hong Kong gunplay and first-person martial arts. So it was with the first game, and so it is with the second. Even the weapons are largely similar affairs – though your dual pistols have been replaced with a single, oddly futuristic looking weapon you’ll rarely want to use. Your common submachine gun has a wide spread, which makes using iron sights almost essential, but it makes a wonderful clattering noise, feels weighty and has real impact.
Beyond the basic guns, Monolith have included some treats – the laser gun has returned, and with it comes the ability to sear enemies in twain (only at certain pre-ordained points though, such as the neck or waist). The nail gun is back, allowing you to pin enemies to walls by their faces using foot-long spikes. There are some new faces in the armory too: an awful napalm gun which gives you no sense of how it’s working or where it’s firing (and the resulting underwhelming “Help me I’m on fire” animation gives no feeling of satisfaction), and some sort of energy cannon jobbie. This fires an orb of blue energy, which explodes on contact with an enemy – like a shit rocket launcher. Initially you’ll be wary of using it due to the scarcity of ammo; later you’ll become wary of using it because it’s shit. Hardly an inspirational weapon rack then, with Monolith wheeling out the old favorites in lieu of anything decent and new.
Usually a last resort brought on by an untimely reload, the importance of melee attacks has been downplayed. Your repertoire of kicky-fighty moves has been greatly pared down to include a whack of your gun butt and a flying kick (lethal as ever, thankfully). We might also mention a pet annoyance here, as it won’t really fit anywhere else: grenades no longer explode on contact with an enemy. Instead – like real grenades – you need to prime one and hold on to it before throwing it at the last second. We think you’ll agree, this isn’t as much fun. Pah!
Lauded in previews was your ability to tip over shelves and kick tables on their sides to use them for cover. An excellent idea on paper – it’s something the enemies of the original game did to great effect, earning themselves the reputation of being some very clever AI routines indeed. With this ability now in your hands, furniture can be at first pulled away from a wall with the E key, before being kicked over with a second tap. This sequence can take up to five seconds to carry out. Meanwhile, your enemies gradually fill your face with round after round while you struggle to upturn a futon.