Action News Heroes is a top-down twin stick shooter, published by a team of two, Krewe Studios and is available now on Xbox One.
In a day and age of instant gratification, it seems that the news station management team are sick of covering stories of ladies who reached their 300th birthday, and water-skiing hamsters that can also knit with one foot. Anecdotal stories don't get ratings; BLOOD, GUNS, EXPLOOOOSIONS are what the people want, and the Action News Heroes are here to deliver.
As the title may suggest, this game isn't so much about the reporting. It's far more important to take out every bad guy and keep those ratings blisteringly high. There is an evil Fast Food franchise in town, planning on enslaving the planet with their dollar menu delights. Such an evil and heinous thing cannot be allowed to happen.
For a debut game by Krewe Studios, the potential is definitely there. While graphically it is still a little reminiscent of Xbox 360 days-gone-by, they've drawn influences from retro franchises to push for a familiar yet new and passable offering. It's a little rough, but definitely interesting and in places, a lot of hard work.
Beefing up the Burger Lord Botherers
At new game state, each of the playable characters will have their own stats so you can pick what suits you best. High health and lower movement speed were my modus operandi until I got a feel for how the game works.
Each character starts off with basic weapons, and as you kill enemies and break open crates and containers you can collect money in ridiculous denominations. Small change is worth a couple of hundred dollars, while briefcases will be brimming with more than a million. If you should die before you make it to the end of the level, you lose all of your accumulated cash for that run. This is can be soul destroying since you need to have lots of cash on hand in order to buy better weapons. The only way around this is to not die.
When you have enough cash, you can use it to unlock new weapons at the player select screen. When you buy a new weapon, it is unlocked for all of the characters to use. There is a fairly decent selection of different guns, grenades, and accoutrement to purchase in order to make yourself a veritable typhoon of death.
The left stick controls the direction the character shoots in, and you fire your weapon with the right trigger. You can keep your finger pressed down in an unholy spray-and-pray attempt, and these do work if you happen to have perfect thumb control for your aiming like me (#humblebrag).
If you become surrounded, you can pop off a Super Attack which will flood the surrounding area in an area of effect blast, killing anyone nearby in a lightning storm that would make Raiden of Mortal Kombat proud.
If you've taken a bit of a bullet-battering, shooting crates and enemies will cause them to drop food and drinks which can be grabbed to refill your health. Drinks replenish less health than food items. Keep your eye out for pizza, as the food of the Gods refills a good chunk.
There are waypoints that point you to the resolution of the stage, which has a boss waiting for you at the end. The problem with the bosses is that they're just larger, more aggressive, and better-armed versions of smaller enemies. The first boss, for example, is just a large aproned man with a machine gun who fires bursts of bullets at you. And... you have to kill him back before he kills you. He doesn't have a glowing spot on the back of his neck or a weak point to attack, he's just a lean, mean burger flipping machine. This is also the downfall with later bosses too. They're just large enemies with more health and better guns than you. In a cruel touch, bosses from early levels will begin to show up in later levels as mini-bosses.
If you've not been successful enough to upgrade to better weapons, the enemies feel like bullet-sponges, making you potentially more reliant on Super Attacks early on. There are a few power-ups few and far between such as shields, and you can pick up extra lives.
Ratings are everything?
If you're hit by an enemy, your viewership ratings drop pretty quickly, and the game will be over if the ratings drop off completely, or your character runs out of lives. If you perform badly, at around 35% rating value, the audience will tease and boo you. I can't tell what's more annoying: playing badly or being constantly reminded of your awful performance.
Ratings will also decrease if you leave any bad guys alive, so kill literally everything you see. Letting the bad guys escape, or as is most likely the case, moving on without killing them is a surefire way to kill off your ratings. Once they're in position, they don't tend to do too much moving around beyond shooting at you, so the term sitting duck is really quite apt at this point. Running away (especially from an enemy who isn't even moving) is seen as an act of cowardice, and no-one watches Action News Heroes to see people act like chicken poop. It's Action News Heroes, not Action News Babies.
Ratings can soar if you make kills in quick succession or destroy props like electricity generators to cause huge explosions. In all honestly, the rating system doesn't seem to do much when it's in the positive. It's more of an early warning system for if you're playing like crap. As long as you don't continue to suck, you'll stay in the game.
Those complaining about a distinct lack of local multiplayer games may wish to invest in Action News Heroes for a couple of reasons. The game is pretty brutal when playing single player. The numbers of enemies don't change regardless of how many players are participating, so sometimes it's easy to quickly become overwhelmed. In my opinion, you really do need the extra firepower of another player to burn your way through the levels and earn some money. It's all about that cheddar since this is the only thing that is holding you back from being a gun-toting anchor of the Action News Heroes team. There is no post-game content, so the replayability comes from cash hoarding in order to unlock new weapons.
I think it's harsh to write Action News Heroes off as a completely bland and soulless experience because of its smaller follies, especially if you can see the similarities to older franchises. There are comparisons to be drawn with a number of old titles, but isn't there always? It has the top down shooter feel of Smash TV but on a much larger and free roaming scale, the Super Attack is reminiscent of Streets of Rage, and it also may remind you of other games like Commando or even Contra. For me, these only endear the game to me, as it's taken parts of my favourite games when I was younger and turned them into something modern. It isn't as polished as some Xbox One indie titles, but for a debut, it's playable and mostly enjoyable, if not ridiculously hard to play alone.
- Local co-op
- Ratings system is a little weak
- A little rough around the edges
- Lack of variety in how bosses perform
This review was conducted on Xbox One using a code provided by the developer.
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