Action News Heroes (XB1) Review

Justin Celani

When the news gets tough, the actions heroes get tougher?

Twin stick shooters are my jam. I was playing them before the second stick was even invented. Games like Gunsmoke, Smash TV, and more. Before the invention of the first person shooter genre, it was one that totally gave me that cathartic experience of just straight up action with little thought to interject. Action News Heroes wants to reclaim that feeling of older games and bring a sense of nostalgia with it. Unfortunately, everything is so frustratingly put together, the entire experience is more groan worthy than anything else.

The game being played is questionable…more at 11!

The premise seems simple enough: take on a variety of stages, using one of the multiple characters that have different stats but all look extremely ugly. Their job: to take out the various amount of criminals that appear on screen while racking up points to unlock more weapons and abilities. The news is watching though, and reporting live as players take on a gauntlet of evil doing bad guys. It has a simple enough and silly idea to give a nice vibe that this could possibly match something like Smash TV, but it just falls far from the pedestal, barely even registering as playable at moments.

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MSRP: $9.99
Price I’d Pay: $3.00
Multiplayer: Couch Co-op
How long to beat: 3+ hours

See, the idea of twin stick shooters to rack up points and unlock new ways of taking them out is always a great user feedback and reward system. Yet when the core gameplay mechanics of shooting with the twin sticks and moving feels extremely loose and downright unfair, things become a bit of a mixed bag. I can overlook the poor graphics, I can even ignore the poor soundtrack, but when the gameplay doesn’t shine either, it gives me little hope in trying to play the game any further than I did.

Enemies have a tendency to know exactly where the player is before they even appear on screen, or right after they make their appearance. It’s hard to fight what players can’t see, but I felt the struggle was real. Yes, there is a map at the bottom of the screen that shows where the enemies are going to come to, so this helps offset this fact, but it’s just not what I consider good action/reaction type gameplay. I want to stay focused on the screen with the action and not track a monitor at the bottom.

Gameplay in this genre has always felt more reactionary in how it’s handled, not pre-planned looking at the top and bottom of the screen, and that’s what I’m getting with Action News Heroes. There is a run button, but it feels more like a brisk jog, which seems to be the only way to avoid gunfire. Is there a dodge or roll move? Not that I could figure out, which led to me attempting to run and not get hit, which usually end well for me and I’d lose another life before I knew it.

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The fact that players are unable to buy new weapons or use the money they collect if they don’t finish the level adds to the frustration. For example, getting the first boss on the first stage, if the player dies, they have to start the entire level over. None of the money collected stays and its rinse repeat, back to the boss again. I tried three times before I gave up in a fit of frustration. There is a rating systems that reacts to passing up the action and enemies, which is a cool idea admittedly, but when I’d rather be using my special bombs to constantly clear the enemies as soon as I could versus using the twin stick mechanics to their fullest, it felt as if the game was entirely problematic.

Breaking news: This could have been better.

I love the genre, but I have a hard time recommending this to anyone. Yes, it has some very basic mechanics it nails down, but nothing feels like it’s done well. If you’re a hardcore fan of the genre and just simply need to add another twin stick notch in your action belt, by all means go for it, just know your mileage may vary. I’d rather watch the news than play Action News Heroes and that says enough. For maximum enjoyment, at least brings friends; co-op makes every game better right? This has been Justin reporting live about Action News Heroes gameplay, goodnight.

Favorite moment: Turning it off.

Worst moment: Realizing I had to replay the entire level to gain my money for upgrades. Time to start over.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

4.5

Sub-Par

Justin Celani
Justin is a long time passionate fan of games, not gaming drama. He loves anything horror related, archaeology inspired adventures, RPG goodness, Dr Pepper, and of course his family. When it comes to crunch time, he is a beast, yet rabies free we promise.
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