We probably have Sylvester Stallone and his ragtag team of Expendables to thank (or blame) for what seems to be a rekindled interest in Eighties-inspired over-the-top explosive action and meat-headed, one-dimensional Herculean heroes. A reluctance to miss out on current trends has meant we have recently seen a few titles looking back fondly on the era of Eighties’ action heroes, particularly with the recent Far Cry 3 downloadable spin-off title Blood Dragon. Are we really that fond of the Eighties? Deep Silver seems to think so with their new downloadable title Narco Terror which tries to put a modern spin on the retro charm of the “run and gun” genre.
Jack Quinn is a DEA agent that doesn’t play by the rules. Waging war on the drug cartels using submarines in their drug trafficking enterprise, he puts Operation: Endless Fury into action and embarks on a one-man mission to clean up the mean streets of his city once and for all. Narco Terror throws players into the action at breakneck speed, with only a brief introductory cutscene giving players the need-to-know basics of the ridiculous plotline before heading straight into the action after players press the start button. Before you can say “Get to the choppa!” you’ll find Quinn jumps off an exploding one and into a world of drug cartels, child abduction and of course, cheesy one-liners making for an entertaining, if rather outrageous storyline.
The gameplay itself is also a throwback to the arcade games of yesteryear, with Narco Terror drawing striking comparisons with run-and-gun games such as the cult classic Smash TV or the more recent PSN zombie-shooter Dead Nation. The action is all viewed from a pseudo birds-eye perspective as you navigate each level with a twin-stick control system, frantically gunning down wave after wave of enemies in order to boost that all important high score. Thankfully, there are plenty of explosive barrels and cars along the way that can be destroyed in order to send clusters of bad guys from here to kingdom come.
When the game begins, our man in the field seems to be a bit cocksure of himself, armed with nothing but a pistol. Thankfully it has unlimited ammo and as the game opens up, extra weapons such as shotguns, machine guns and rocket launchers can be added to your arsenal. Power ups, health packs and extra ammo can be found by either destroying crates or on the battlefield after dispatching hordes of cartel members. More often however, you’ll tend to revert back to the trusty pistol which, considering it’s your starting weapon of choice, has a surprisingly good firing rate.
Even with two difficulty settings and the option to view leaderboards, it all gets rather repetitive unfortunately, with only a few set pieces throughout the game breaking up the otherwise unchanging formula. The sheer amount of enemies on screen quickly turns the game from fun to frustrating with Quinn’s health meter dropping at an alarming rate as he takes bullets from all angles. Even trying to wipe out the hordes of cartel thugs with explosives becomes a challenging affair as Quinn can also be caught up in the backdraft, causing the already fragile health meter to dip even further.
The biggest problem with the gameplay in Narco Terror is the twin-stick control system. The left stick is used to control our hero whilst the right is used to both aim and fire your weapon. Even with bottomless pockets full of ammo, aiming at specific targets can prove tricky, especially when all enemies on screen need to be killed before moving on to the next area. Of course, the best way around this is to just hold the stick in any given direction, but for such a simple style of gameplay, it can still take some time to master the controls.
The game features a drop in/drop out multiplayer system, allowing players to jump into your game at any given point, turning this one man war on drugs into a cooperative battle. In fact, the two player team-up can help keep the game’s momentum in full flow, as one player can revive the other within five-second window should they get gunned down in a blaze of glory. However, it’s in the multiplayer mode that Narco Terror’s glitches really come into full view. The second player often bounces around the screen, getting trapped behind parts of the environment whilst your efforts to reach the next area are in vain. The explosive nature of the game also leads to some frustrating lag issues, as barrels and grenades ignite across the screen only for the gameplay to grind down to a halt.
The game also suffers from a number of presentation issues. The graphics are desperately trying to keep up with the times whilst the garish, pixelated HUD and in-game text mimic that of a retro title. Camera angles are sometimes difficult to negotiate with enemies shooting at you from higher ground verging on impossible to kill. Even the cheesy one-liners in the dialogue aren’t particularly memorable and certainly don’t make up for the poor predictable voice acting and repetitive backing music.
Narco Terror is a surprisingly fun little throwback title that makes no apologies for its exaggerated action and ridiculous plot line. It’s a short and sweet shooter that can be completed in an evening and a few online issues aside, is an experience that is much more enjoyable when played with a friend locally or online. However, to say it’s rough around the edges would be an understatement with difficult controls, repetitive gameplay and rather bland presentation as it attempts to straddle the line between the retro and the modern.