Rocketmen: Axis of Evil Preview
Both the PlayStation Network Store and Xbox Live Marketplace are shaping up to be essentials for any gamer, as they're continually updated with demos, trailers, and even full original titles, like Calling All Cars and flOw for the Network. Due to the success of such games, Capcom - with the help of ACRONYM Games - has decided to leap into the warm waters of reasonably-priced downloadable productions: as revealed at their Gamer's Day in San Francisco last week, they're bringing Rocketmen: Axis of Evil to both the Store and the Marketplace.
If you like the old-fashioned top-down action style, you'll probably love the idea of this game. Now, you're gonna have to understand it's all about the analog sticks, in that you'll control both movement and shooting with the left and right analog sticks, respectively. But this is a new generation, after all, so it won't end there. Despite the classic setup, there's going to be plenty of freshness included in Rocketmen, so it shouldn't play like any standard top-down shooter. There will be multiple pick-ups available as you progress through the levels, and you use the left trigger (possibly the L2 button on the Sixaxis) to swap weapons, and the right trigger (R2?) to access whatever special weapon you have. Those specials include things like mines that will rip into the steady onslaught of enemies.
The game should play a lot like a huge blast-away action-fest reminiscent of a time long past, complete with a seemingly countless swarm of enemies and increasingly cool upgrades. But instead of old-school graphics, we'll get some really sharp cel-shaded visuals for this one. The presentation resembles that of a comic book, what with the dialogue bubbles and off-the-wall space battles, and there are even several cut-scenes to be on the lookout for. The key to success will rely on your finely honed reflexes; i.e., your dodging and aiming ability. Rocketmen will always have plenty going on, so there's really no way you'll be bored...we only wonder if the gameplay will be refined enough to offer a fast-paced and addictive style of entertainment. Hey, that's the point of a game like this, right?
In looking at some of the early screenshots, it becomes very clear that much of your time will be spent on the battlefield, despite the cut-scenes and character interaction. But while games of this nature have the tendency to get repetitive, this one should offer a variety of challenges that might actually require a bit more thought and ingenuity. For example, you may have to be clever when going about tackling certain bosses or a particularly tricky wave of enemies. Given your multiple weapon pick-ups and special weapons, there should also be different ways of dealing with such difficulties, so don't expect the same ‘ol same ‘ol from Rocketmen. Provided the game is robust and long enough to satisfy its target audience, it should be well worth the time. At this point, it appears it's going to hinge on the control...as usual.
Now, if you find the control is solid and the game is fun, you might want to invite a few buddies over to play. The game will support up to four players at once, and those players can jump in and out whenever they wish, even in the single-player campaign. Also, despite its heavy arcade influence, there is some customization involved: before you kick off your multiplayer session, each player will be able to select from a diverse set of character looks and abilities. Now, that last bit intrigues us. We can choose certain abilities from the start? Does that mean some characters will have skills others don't? Or do we have full control; can we simply select whatever we want for whichever character we choose? It'll be interesting to see just how much customization is allowed in a game that focuses so heavily on a simple, straightforward, arcade-style action format.
Rocketmen: Axis of Evil is currently scheduled for a fall release, and we're hoping it turns out to be a top-notch little title. There are plenty of questions that have yet to be answered, but right now, we're willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. After all, we're talking about robots, spaceships, freaky enemies, and non-stop action...how bad could it possibly be? We're thinkin' it might be pretty darn good, if the team ensures great control and solid level design, so let's all cross our fingers.
4/16/2007 Ben Dutka