Analyzing MOTHERGUNSHIP would be hard without comparing it to its predecessor, Tower of Guns. Both titles involve the player dodging and weaving between massive bullets in an attempt to take down robotic enemies. However, MOTHERGUNSHIP makes many improvements—ranging across enemy design, humor, character, and gun customization—to offer a different experience from its precursor. The changes the new title brings helps to make it stand on its own merits while keeping the 3D bullet hell action that Tower of Guns is known for intact.
The biggest difference between MOTHERGUNSHIP and its predecessor is the absence of perks and weapon selection, alongside the addition of an upgradeable mech suit. The loss of perks is disappointing, as it takes away some of the enjoyment of exploring the dungeons. The player will be able to enter a run with a few gun parts, but ultimately has to build their own weapons with the parts purchased during each mission. Beginning a level with an attachment is helpful to creating a special weapon or starting with a basic weapon and growing it into something more creative.
In game, players are free to build their arsenal as they wish. For example, one hand can be set up with a rapid-fire shotgun for high-damage-per-second at a close range, while the other hand can be reserved for railguns, lightning rods, and lasers to deal pinpoint damage from a distance. Having two weapons influences the player’s movements, demanding they balance range and technique at any given time. As the guns fire, each hand’s energy will lower; if that energy fully depletes, the player must wait for a recharge. Guns built up with multiple barrels and other parts may only be able to fire once, dealing considerable damage but being rendered unusable until it recharges. In such instances, having the ability to send out a wall of projectiles feels powerful; while it may not fire often, such gun feels like a super weapon. This robust crafting system allows players to tackle missions in a multitude of ways, creating a more interesting combat experience.
Unlike its predecessor, MOTHERGUNSHIP offers a campaign that is fully voiced and filled with humor, allowing for a high degree of narrative immersion. The player begins their journey in a hub that features a black market to buy gun parts, an armory to upgrade the mech suit and test weapons, and a mission control to select quests from. The campaign lasts roughly seven hours and, after completion, the title really opens up. Beyond the story, two different endless modes are available: Endless Training Mode works like a normal mission where the player must purchase and attain weapons, while the Creative Endless Mode provides access to all of the gun parts without the risk of losing them. The endless modes are an effective method to kill time and see what the player can build. The Creative Endless Mode is especially useful, as it allows the player to safely experiment with their parts in a real situation, as opposed to the mundane training systems. All experience points gained during the endless training mission are retained upon death, ensuring each run provides a helping hand in levelling up. The player will also have access to a bigger variety of barrels and caps to customize their gun after finishing the campaign. The expansion of tools is a satisfying gift for finishing the game, but would not have gone amiss were the available from the outset.
Each ship the player tackles is, in effect, a dungeon consisting of rooms for fighting and exploring; that exploration is a little lacking, as no matter which direction the player travels, the paths inevitably lead to the same end point. Nevetheless, the design of rooms differ greatly, spanning from small to large, with varying heights and layouts. These spaces often come with multiple doors for the player to progress through and often contain a store that can be accessed after defeating all enemies. The store allows the player to buy gun parts with money collected during the mission, while also containing stations allowing the player to build and reconfigure their arsenal.
In addition to these core traits, MOTHERGUNSHIP features special locations, signified by challenge and gamble doors that alter the next room the player enters. Challenge doors require players to either complete or fail a task, such as destroying a number of enemies in a set period of time, before they can move on to the next are. Gamble rooms, meanwhile, display an icon that symbolizes the change in the next room, such as a lava floor, bouncy floors, or more jump upgrade drops, to name a few. Normally the pictures that describe the upcoming room are easy to understand, but several can be rather obtuse, even after entering them, which leads to frustration as the result of a breakdown in communication.
The dungeons within the game feature various difficulties and allow the player to start with a certain number of gun parts. One mission type gives the player a preset loadout, allowing them to retain those weapons if successful, which is pleasant way to guarantee high level equipment on success. However, dying in these levels results in the loss of those pieces, as well as any others bought in that dungeon, which much instead be found or purchased later. Mini-dungeons also become available for the player to tackle as time goes on, giving the game a rogue-like flair. In these, the player must take down three shield ships and a mother ship. Dying at any point in these dungeon causes progress to be reset, yet, upon winning, the player is granted a legendary weapon and another dungeon to tackle. These missions are an effective way to test skill, but can feel overly punishing after multiple deaths, especially when nearing completion.
Graphically, MOTHERGUNSHIP is far superior to Tower of Guns, but lacks some of the creativity that the latter brought in terms of the layout and variety of rooms. Even the secrets that can be found are no longer a passage, but instead a small cubby hidden in a wall that offers one of three upgrades: extra health, extra power, or an extra jump. Sometimes, secrets can be found by climbing to high places, but the creativity of level design and secrets has been reduced.
The array of opponents the user battles consists of walking, flying, and stationary enemies. Walking enemies chase the player and will either bite or shoot at the player; these enemies are a new addition since Tower of Guns, but do not function well on uneven ground—at times, a ramp will stop them from moving, leaving them as easier targets and less of a threat. The stationary and flying enemies are much more similar to those present in the earlier title, as they consist of various types of turrets and drones. However, MOTHERGUNSHIP has a bigger focus on mobile enemies than turrets. These moving enemies help to keep the player in motion, as slowing down or stopping can result in death, creating frantic action that stays fresh with the different ways the player will move to avoid projectiles. Some of the enemies act like minibosses, taking much damage and hitting hard, but offer powerful upgrades and a lot experience once defeated. These stronger enemies help make a room more dangerous, as the player has to focus on both the swarms of small foes as well as a large robot that can deal massive amounts of damage.
MOTHERGUNSHIP has done well to keep the fun bullet hell action that Tower of Guns offered while feeling like a different experience, giving players a game that stands on its own merits. The humor that has been introduced to the game is better delivered than its predecessor, and the gunplay is frantic and tricky with many options allowing players to find their preferred way to play. Even though the level design and secrets are not up to par, the levels are fun to explore and battle in, with a wide range of styles resulting in fundamentally different situations throughout. The game is great to sit down for a few hours and fight alien robots or, alternatively, to pick up and play a dungeon or two to kill time. All in all, MOTHERGUNSHIP has great combat and offers an experience most games have yet to provide.
American Fugitive Review — A Grand Tale of Theft and Auto
The original Grand Theft Auto rocked the virtual world with its violent gameplay from a birds-eye view perspective back in 1997. Once the series moved to a third-person, 3D perspective with Grand Theft Auto III, few gamers looked back and few developers attempted to replicate the original style. More than 20 years later, Fallen Tree Games has become of those few with American Fugitive.
Players control Will Riley, a man convicted for a crime he did not commit and filled with the desire for revenge. Once he has escaped from prison, Will must find old friends—and meet some new ones—to run errands and discover the person who killed his father.
The game is played from a top-down perspective in a 3D open world. More reminiscent of Chinatown Wars than the original Grand Theft Auto, the camera adds a level of complexity to American Fugitive, as players often will not see what lies beyond the edges of the screen. While a behind-the-character perspective would, at times, not go amiss, players will eventually grow to familiarise themselves with the camera, respecting the callback to classic open world titles.
The open world itself is also reminiscent of classic titles, with simplified designs regularly complimented by the detailed art style. The game’s animated, cartoon design scheme is fitting of its fast-paced action gameplay, always managing to keep the player on their toes and keen to discover more. Technically, the game plays almost flawlessly, with no significant performance issues to disrupt the player while they explore the map.
Players can explore the rural open world of Redrock County on foot or in a vehicle. The vehicular gameplay may take some time for players to familiarise themselves with, with some overly slippery mechanics leading to some unfortunate collisions, though fitting to the game’s tone. Thankfully, most environments in the game are destructible, so sliding off the road—if the player follows the road to begin with—does not often lead to disaster.
Despite beginning the game as a seemingly innocent man, Will doubles down on his criminal actions once he escapes from prison. Akin to Grand Theft Auto, the player can hijack cars, kill civilians, and attract the attention of police. Most residential buildings in the game can be robbed by the player, often leading to tense confrontations with the homeowners or police, so players must continue at their own risk.
The ‘wanted’ system in the game works similarly to Grand Theft Auto games, with players accumulating up to five stars depending on their behaviour. The stars often accumulate a little too quickly, however, with additional stars regularly added simply for evading police. Oftentimes, the player may possess a full wanted level—complete with large police vans and circling helicopters—within a minute of committing a minor offense. While this over-the-top gameplay design is fitting to the pace of the game, it may lead to frustrations within the main story missions by bringing the player’s progress to a halt.
The missions are also reminiscent of those in Grand Theft Auto, tasking the player with a wide variety of tasks to keep them busy while the story evolves. While many of these missions may seem disconnected to the main narrative structure, they are unique and regularly keep the player entertained, ranging from simple fetch quests and car robberies to full-scale shootouts. The game’s fast-paced gameplay and lack of loading screens also make the poorly-placed checkpoints bearable, especially when the beginning of missions require the player to drive to a certain location.
American Fugitive‘s storyline is simple in design but entertaining enough to keep the player engaged. The game’s ‘cutscenes’ exist in the form of text atop character designs; while some simple voice acting would elevate these scenes with more dramatic tension, they are short enough to maintain the player’s attention and continue the missions at a fast pace. Players will find themselves surprisingly engrossed in the story, wanting to see it through to its full conclusion.
Accompanying the fast-paced gameplay and narrative is the game’s music. From slow, explorative themes to fast-paced tracks, American Fugitive‘s original score is reminiscent of some of the best soundtracks across different media—from television’s True Detective to video gaming’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us. Each song accompanies the gameplay nicely, ramping up and down as the player makes the appropriate actions, and, along with the expert sound design, add the auditory sprinkles atop a visual and narrative treat.
American Fugitive, simply put, is fun. Fallen Tree Games has added its own unique twist to a classic gameplay formula, and utilised a simple but engaging narrative and a beautiful original score to maintain the player’s interest until the very end. Despite a few minor flaws in gameplay, the game stands strong against its competition. Players looking for a fast, fun, and mature sandbox game should not miss American Fugitive.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.
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