Guns, green afros and rabbit mannequins running around in their underpants; just three of the exotic ingredients thrown into the Gun Loco melting pot. Announced by Square Enix at this year's E3, the game is a third-person shooter that couldn't be more different from Gears of War and its endless entourage of recent clones. The game bills itself as a 'Sprint Action Shooter', with none of that cover-system malarkey, and a firm emphasis on legging it about the map as fast as your legs will carry you. It reminded me of Bizarre Creations' The Club in many ways, except with the crazy dial cranked up to 11.
The game is based on a line of figurines by Kenny Wong, a Hong-Kong based artist and toy designer, whose angular and exaggerated designs inspire some fantastic models. Gun Loco's stylised characters are actually criminals trapped on an abandoned prison planet in some desolate corner of the solar system. With no security, guards or rules, the prisoners are pretty much left to their own devices. The single-player campaign revolves around the inmates' plight to escape captivity, but other than telling you it takes the form of a stylistic third-person shooter there's not much else I can say. The TGS show floor only played host to a multiplayer demo of the game, but I took some time out of my schedule to check it out regardless.
Before jumping into a game, I was presented with a character select screen. The full game looks set to include 15 deranged individuals to take control of, but the demo only offered seven. Each character has their own weapon and special skill, meaning your choice will affect far more than just cosmetics. Choosing a bald fellow in a suit with a sinister smile (I didn't catch his name), I jumped into a game; a six on six team deathmatch with me and eleven Japanese dudes. Suffice to say, I really didn't fancy my chances of winning.
The first few minutes of the game were hell, not because it was flawed but because I was stuck with a non-inverted control scheme (all the pros play inverted, dontcha-know). Every time I encountered somebody from the opposing team, I found myself running around in circles staring at the sky, firing off bullets like a madman. After some clever sign language on my behalf, I managed to get one of the Square Enix chaps working on the booth to navigate the Japanese menus and change it for me, and then it was game on.
With the controls tailored to my liking, I surprised myself at how competent I was. Competent is actually an understatement; I was awsome, the crème de la crème of shooting people in the face. Perhaps it's because the Japanese aren't used to the genre, or perhaps I was just having a lucky day - but in the end of match break down I was the player with the highest jail sentence. This essentially meant that my kill/death ratio was better than anybody else's, and made me the most badass criminal in the booth at that time. I'm not usually one to blow my own trumpet, but considering it's a genre I normally get my ass kicked at, I thought I'd take the opportunity to boast.
Now back to the game. Holding the left trigger will make your character put away his gun, allowing him to sprint, leap over walls and duck under low hanging architecture. Movement feels organic, and your character will adjust to his environment appropriately as you tear around corners and rebound off walls. The camera bounces and jostles about the screen as it tries to keep up, a bit like Kane & Lynch 2 but not as nausea-inducing.
Whilst sprinting, you can press the right trigger to unleash your character's signature move. Unfortunately, I can only speak about the character I was playing as, which sees him sliding along the ground like a gun-slinging Jürgen Klinsmann. The reticule re-appears on the screen while doing this, and anybody caught behind it will suffer an instant kill. Considering that there was no limit to how often I used the move, I ended up doing it a hell of a lot - which is probably why I did so well.
When I was being fired at, I kept desperately trying to seek out cover - a natural thing to do when bullets are flying mere inches from your face. This will get you nowhere in Gun Loco, however. As mentioned earlier, there's no cover system, which means the best way to win is to tackle your opponents head on and hope you're quicker off the draw than they are. It's therefore an incredibly fast paced game; just as crazy and over the top as the characters that inhabit it. The combination of the two makes Gun Loco an altogether different experience to everything else on the market.
Gun Loco was horrendously good fun. Considering I hadn't the vaguest what it was a week ago, it was a very pleasant surprise indeed. I only got to try my hand at the multiplayer side of the experience, but if the demented and erratic (both in a good way) feel of the multiplayer translates to the campaign, it's worth getting excited about. Alongside Ni no Kuni, Gun Loco found itself getting a lot of attention at TGS, and rightly so indeed.
Gun Loco is due for release on Xbox 360 in 2011.