Narco Terror – Review

Title   Narco Terror
Developer  Rubicon Organization
Publisher  Deep Silver
Platform  Windows PC, Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3
Genre  Arcade Shooter
Release Date  July 31st 2013

“John, I’m not going to shoot you between the eyes. I’m going to shoot you between the balls.”

If that line doesn’t conjure up the tortured face of a ‘roided up Freddy Mercury then one, get out of my face, and two, Narco Terror may not be for you. This brilliantly-titled debut effort from dev team Rubicon Organization is a twin-stick shooter that does away with subtlety completely and instead focuses on the sort of high-octane super-violence that echoes Commando, the ’80s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that the above line is from (you’d know that if you spent more time being a man and less time playing Animal Crossing; that goes for you too, ladies).

The game’s plot is directly lifted from the movie too, and sees you playing as some sort of commando type who has to take on a drug cartel in order to rescue his daughter from a buddy-turned-psychopath but that soon becomes immaterial as the game descends into violence.

This is a scrolling twin-stick shooter that sees you travelling in various directions akin to Gatling Gears, Renegade Ops and Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando and, with so many other examples of the genre available on Xbox Live Arcade, you’d expect Narco Terror to add its own twist, which is does thanks to some vertically-scrolling vehicle sections (albeit not very good ones) and a weapon upgrading mechanic that helps add a little depth, as does the addition of various ammo types.

That said, this is still about as shallow a game as you can get. Each of the game’s eight levels sees you blasting through hundreds of enemies while accidentally, or intentionally, detonating cars and the often-spotted explosive red barrels. The occasional turret section and aforementioned vehicle sections punctuate the chaos a little but Narco Terror truly is just set to one setting. A particularly mental one.

Graphically they’ve gone for the highly detailed, relatively-hi-res style of backdrops (sort of like Renegade Ops but not quite as nice) while the character models themselves are often woefully poor, but there is a lot more destruction and action happening on-screen than most games of this type so you can forgive them for cutting a few corners (although a misspelled achievement description does give the impression this was a bit of a rush job).

The game itself is quite challenging even on ‘Casual’ (the easier of the two difficulty settings), especially on later levels where you find yourself surrounded by dozens of enemies at once. Thankfully the checkpoint system breaks each level down into bite-sized chunks, so dying doesn’t set you back too far. A handy roll/dodge move also lets you escape many a tricky situation too but sometimes just the sheer weight of numbers, of both enemies and their bullets, will scupper you, if only temporarily.

You can help even the odds a little by bringing in a co-op buddy either locally or online. Online co-op works reasonably well, especially considering all the on-screen chaos, although it occasionally gets confused and starts showing you the edge of the screen for no good reason. Throwing in another bullet-spewing commando doesn’t exactly help clarify the visuals, but you’ll be glad of the assistance.

While Narco Terror does an okay job, the real problem is that this genre is massively oversubscribed on XBLA these days and there are better, and cheaper, examples out there. Assault Heroes and Geometry Wars 2 are the genre standouts, Renegade Ops is the most polished example and, if you want something similar to this game but just a tad better, I’d recommend Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando. But there are worse examples too (Assault Heroes 2 being the most obvious) and for 800M$P, this is a mildly-diverting way to kill a few hours.

  • Refreshingly balls-out action
  • Online co-op
  • Generous checkpointing balances out the difficult spikes
  • Handy quicksaving
  • A bit generic
  • Vehicle sections aren't very good
  • Weapons lack a bit of 'oomph' even when upgraded
  • Can get a bit samey (but doesn't exactly out-stay its welcome)
  • Presentation can be a little clumsy

Narco Terror offers cheap thrills and brainless action as well as a sturdy challenge. I like it. It's not going to win any awards for originality, presentation or technical prowess and I imagine it will be dead to me within a week but its heart is in the right place and it has been a while since I've enjoyed a twin-stick shooter so this suits me fine for now. It is distinctly blaverage but it will appeal to anyone who fancies a few hours of old-school shooty fun.

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