Bev Chen
31 May, 2011

Gatling Gears Review

360 Review | A steampunk delight.
With no shortage of arcade shooters available on the aptly named Xbox Live Arcade, some may view Gatling Gears, the latest game from Vanguard Entertainment Group (developers of Greed Corp) as being just another of these in the pile. Beware if you are one of these people though, because you could be missing out on one of the finer Arcade titles this year. Gatling Gears may be similar to other arena shooters such as Battle Tanks, yes, but its attention to detail, beautiful graphics and engaging gameplay makes it stand out.

Gatling Gears takes place in Mistbound, a world that oozes steampunk elements (and which the aforementioned Greed Corp was also set in). The game introduces you to Max Brawley, a retired soldier whose idyllic lifestyle in an ethereal village is shattered when the Empire razes the village and its surrounding regions for natural resources. Armed with his walking mech unit, a Gatling Gear and with the help of his niece, Zoe, Max sets out to stop the Empire and put a stop to the destruction of the land. Gatling Gears may not make use of any cutscenes or complex narrative devices, but the story is satisfying; it is told with loading screen art between each chapter or unobtrusive dialogue boxes that pop up during the quieter moments of gameplay. Mistbound is stunningly presented as well, with rich graphics and textures bringing Vanguard’s world to life.

Welcome to Mistbound, a beautiful world that is, unfortunately, in strife.

Welcome to Mistbound, a beautiful world that is, unfortunately, in strife.

Gatling Gears defines itself as an arena shooter with the use of twin control sticks for moving and shooting. Shooting aside however (which is done with your primary weapon, a gatling gun), you also have a missile launcher, grenades and a shock bomb at your disposal. The missile launcher, which is aimed with the right stick and discharged with the right trigger, is more powerful than your regular gun, being able to fire long range shots, at the cost of recharge time. The grenades, as expected, have an area-of-effect and can be aimed anywhere on the screen by using the left trigger. Both of these weapons, along with your regular gatling gun and mech’s armour, can be upgraded with the use of the gold bars scattered around each area. Finally, the spark bomb is used to clear the screen of all enemies proving to be indispensable, especially in later levels. We mostly found that the controls were tight and responsive. However, we did find controls for the missile launcher to be a bit hit and miss (pun intended). Unlike your grenades, the game doesn’t make the exact trajectory of your missile clear, and so when you think you’re firing straight at an enemy you may find that your missiles miss completely. Moreover, we found that missiles don’t really behave too well with close-range enemies. While this may seen counter-intuitive, believe us, there will come the time where you will instinctively pull the trigger on a looming mech... only to have it soar right over its head and somewhere offscreen. Thankfully, this seems to be a little bit better once you upgrade your missile launcher.



What is described above may seem familiar, but Gatling Gears manages to feel unique at the same time, as we found ourselves drawing parallels with Japanese shoot ‘em ups. For example, enemies don’t tend to shoot at you willy-nilly, but rather distinctive and highly visible bullets will form patterns and assault you that way. It’s much more noticeable in fights with less enemies (such as boss battles) than fights with huge waves, but this is one of the aspects of the games that took us by surprise, and for the better. This system makes for more controlled, yet challenging gameplay. However, the problem that arises with this is that unlike a Japanese shmup, you’re not in a sleek spaceship – you’re in a giant, clunky mech. Logically, this means that dodging scores of bullets isn’t as easy as it seems and we often found ourselves being grazed by bullets that we thought weren’t going to hit us. Compounding this problem is the camera. For the most part we agree with the developer’s decision to make it so that once the camera scrolls past a region, you can’t revisit it. However, this can be problematic if you’re in a huge firefight and need more space to manoeuvre, only to find yourself trapped between bullets and a blocked-off region. Furthermore, we sometimes found that where you can and can’t move to is poorly defined, which has resulted on a great deal of health lost in the long run.

The other major feature that sparked our comparison to Japanese shmups is the scoring system, which focuses more around collecting the items enemies drop (cogs) and increasing your multiplier rather than just the number of enemies you kill. Of course there other factors that come into play here, such as how many lives you have left at the end of an area. However, how many points you score determines how much XP you earn from each stage. XP determines your ranking on the Xbox Live scoreboards and unlocks neat little things such as skins and effects for your mech, and a pet that follows you around. Keep in mind however, that these are purely aesthetic.

An untimely death for a badass old man.

An untimely death for a badass old man.
What else did we like about Gatling Gears? Why, the boss fights, of course! The bosses are well-designed and equally importantly, original, ranging from a tree-wielding monstrosity to a flying fortress with saws attached to it. Each presented an appropriate amount of challenge and we never felt that they were cheap or unfair. In addition, co-op is a blast – somehow, the frantic action of a battlefield turned red with bullets is so much more fun with another person. While we had no problem finding and playing a game on Xbox Live, note that there is also a local co-op mode if you’re ever hankering for some offline, bullet-spamming fun.

Issues aside, Gatling Gears is a barrel of fun that immerses the player with its frantic gameplay and gorgeous graphics. What’s more, it’s also proved that Vanguard is able to develop its original world, Mistbound, for new and exciting prospects. We certainly can’t wait to see what’s next for the steampunk universe and how Vanguard fleshes it out.
The Score
With its awesome gameplay mechanics and game design, beautiful graphics and original setting, Gatling Gears is likely to be one of the better downloadable titles you’ll play this year. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 years ago
is there 2player? Looks like the kind of game that would be awesome with it.
2 years ago
when the PSN store comes back up i just might grab this.
2 years ago
Benza - It has 2 player co-op mate.

This game is simply excellent. I've been having a blast with it. Can't wait to try the co-op.
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