In the midst of playing all the great disc-based titles, it’s nice to sometimes just find a quick fix from Xbox Live Arcade. Now I know it sometimes can be hard to decide what game to buy considering that each game is roughly $10, but thankfully you can always download the trial version to test the waters. Sometime last year, I did just that. The demo was of Assault Heroes and it quickly became one of my favorite arcade titles, even to this day. It had everything: great graphics, a good story, simple controls, and some humor, coupled with a solid online co-op mode and you had a package well worth the ten dollar price tag. So, when I heard that a sequel was on the way, my excitement was through the roof. Assault Heroes 2 is just as good as the first but adds a few other goodies to make an already great game even better.
For those who played the first game, you will feel right at home. The introduction scrolls across the screen Star Wars style and then you’re in the game ready to destroy baddies with your micro-machine from hell. Of course you’ll be treated to the same view point as the original: top-down, which works well for this soon-to-be classic, series.
Assault Heroes 2 doesn’t stray too far from the first. However, there are some new features added for the sequel. This time around, you get a new weapon-a freeze gun. This gun is by far my favorite weapon. It does exactly what the name implies; it freezes your enemies. While it will instantly freeze the standard enemies, it takes a few blasts to freeze the likes of tanks and helicopters. You can also freeze parts of the environment and sometimes use them to your advantage. This is a cool feature and one that appeals to my destructive nature.
One thing that made the first game memorable, were the boss battles and, at times, how difficult they could be. Well, the boss battles are back, and are bigger and badder than the original. This time you face some pretty strange bosses. The first boss, for example, is a gigantic robo-whale. Which, when you beat, you get an achievement called, yup; you guessed it, Moby Dick. Some bosses also have different forms that you have to beat in order to progress through the game. The one that sticks out in my mind is the ape fight. You approach a huge gate in a jungle, and you get the feeling that you are going to face King Kong. And you do just that…but a robotic King Kong. He rolls around trying to squish you, and instead of flinging pooh, he flings the kamikaze guys at you. Simply priceless.
Each level has enemies that are native to that zone. For example, going through the jungle, you see mini-monkeys running after you trying to pound you into submission with their big robotic monkey fists. But, old favorites, like those crazy kamikazes, return. This time, they do more than just run at you and try to blow you up; they will also jump off cliffs and try to land on top of you. Some even try to run you over in what looks like a Cadillac.
Like the first game, you aren’t confined to your destructo-buggy…you actually get to pilot a helicopter and drive in a huge tank that is a little hard to maneuver, but is completely awesome in its destructive power. And, just like in the original, you can upgrade your weapons to make them more kick-ass and destructible. But, it seems to me, the power-up icons are few and far between as compared to the first game. You’ll also notice little flags throughout the levels. What is the purpose of these little guys? Well if you collect them all, you get an achievement. This is one for you achievement whores. You know who you are.
Something else new to the game is that some levels have you actually get out of your vehicle, and kill some baddies on foot. If you remember, in the first game, the only time you got to leave you vehicle is to collect a power up or go to the teleporter that took you down to the bonus underground missions. Those underground missions return, but the on-foot levels I’m referring to are in the main story and use the top-down view. These parts of the game can be a little difficult, due to the fact that you aren’t protected by the armor of your vehicle, so one hit and your toast. Luckily there is a new dodge move that you can use to get out of the way of bullets and bombs and such. I found myself using that dodge move a lot…because my vehicle tends to get destroyed a lot more than anyone else. So I would dodge and shoot waiting for my vehicle to respawn.
The controls are just as simple as the original game. When in a vehicle, the right analog fires your weapon in whatever direction you rotate the stick. Of course the left analog stick moves your character/vehicle. Holding the right trigger lets you aim to where you want to throw your grenade, releasing the trigger lets you throw it. The left and right bumpers change the weapon you are using and the left trigger unleashes a devastating nuclear explosions reminiscent of a smart bomb with limited range. The controls stay the same when you are sans vehicle, except the A button lets you dodge.
The multiplayer returns for online and offline play of which I prefer to play online. Not only does it make the game a little easier, but it also adds a new co-op attack. When you have enough energy, both you and your friend have to press the X button. This releases a special attack that is more powerful and lasts for about a minute. However, if one of you gets hit by an enemy, the co-op attack will end. So, be careful…for this attack (depending on what weapon player one is using) is pretty powerful and can do a lot of damage to the baddies. Also, if you start off playing single player and switch to multiplayer, the story doesn’t change, it is identical so drop-in co-op is fully supported. So, go on, get online and make some friends…you have nothing to lose.
Overall, Assault Heroes 2 is essentially the same as the original with some added gameplay features. The harder boss fights, longer levels, destructible environments, and the on-foot levels add to the already amazingly fun to play and, in my opinion, one of the best XBLA games making it a must buy if you were a fan of the original and have some points to spare. And if you don’t, well, what are you waiting for? Go get some and download this game; trust me, you’ll love it.