In order to really make sense of Square-Enix’s new fast paced third person shooter, Gun Loco, it is important to keep in mind that it is based on a Manga. Set on a future prison world the cast of characters range from the suit wearing Mafioso types to people in diapers with bunny ears. These aesthetic idiosyncrasies mixed with a fast loose pace of play means Gun Loco instantly feels different to its more somber Western counterparts as it’s Japanese roots shine through.
Gun Loco sets a frenetic pace to its action. As a third person shooter it bucks the current norm of cover-focused combat in favor of mobility. To ensure players follow this more crazed play style the game manages to do a good job of empowering players when they are moving and punishing them when stationary as the lack of cover leaves them exposed and vulnerable.
This emphasis on movement is highlighted by Gun Loco’s main game mechanics, toted by Square-Enix as ‘sprint-action-shoot’. Entering an arena everyone is instantly moving (or at least they should be) as they begin vaulting and sliding under the blue highlighted geometry of the world. During all of this everyone is constantly aiming and shooting as taking any time to consider a target invariably ends in death. This seeming lack of tactics may well be the reason for the team-based nature of the demo, to prevent everything being a target in this frantic mess. It is only by having team members that the action is is prevented from sinking into an unmitigated mess, allowing it to rise above a ‘twitch-shoot-die-respawn’ game, which is certainly less appealing as a tag line than Square-Enix’s current choice.
I will admit Gun Loco’s chaotic motion was fun for the short time I played. But within the small arena I found myself already bored as I finished my five minute induction. I had the distinct sense I had seen everything the level would offer within my short play and with nothing on show in the way of different weapons, tactics or modes it was hard to imagine anything being introduced that would significantly change the experience. A generally floaty feel to the action did nothing to help my opinion, as it left me feeling disconnected from the action further preventing me being drawn into the shallow gameplay.
As it stands Gun Loco’s quirky style does little to endear or set it apart from the other examples of the genre already on the market. While the optimist in me hopes the fluid motion will bring something to the formula the demo gave the nagging sense that it will struggle to raise itself above mediocre.