"If you're mainly a solitary gamer, pass this one up. However, if you have a huge love (or even a passing liking) for loot-gathering dungeon-crawlers, are tired of the genre being taken up solely by medieval fantasy trappings, and have at least one friend or can tolerate random partners, then Rocketmen is actually not a bad buy."
Trying to play Rocketmen: Axis of Evil by oneself (as is the situation many video game reviewers, including myself, end up in) is an exercise in frustration at best, and bad game design at worst. Sure, the game's perfectly playable, if you don't mind the almost impossible odds. As in most shooters (and this particular trend really, really needs to change) your standard gun is quite horrible, with a slow rate of fire and zero damage potential. Just a quick note, A.C.R.O.N.Y.M: when four dozen killer robots gang up on you near the end of a stage and all you have is said gun as defense, causing you to lose almost all of the experience you've gathered up to that point with near-certainty, that translates into bad review scores really quickly.
The good news is, all of this goes away once even one extra player is added into the mix. Like most games of its type Rocketmen was made for co-op, and the ability to jump in online with random people as well as friends bodes well for the game's playability and longevity. With more players, the game becomes almost too easy. Sure, the balance shifts so that the enemy-to-firepower-potential ratio is still pretty much one-to-one, but just the fact that you now have people to watch your back transforms the game from its previous frustration showcase into something genuinely enjoyable.
The "Diablo Meets Smash TV" description has been used by at least a few people by now, and it certainly holds true. Using dual-stick controls, you blast away at enemies, and pick up mad amounts of dropped loot, which you then use to upgrade your created character's insane amount of stats. Said created characters contain a cel-shaded, artistic sci-fi flair to match the game's motif, and are characterized by good designs, animation, and (surprisingly!) voice acting in cutscenes. Said cutscenes, in turn, contain loads of laughs baked into a cohesive, if somewhat thin, storyline that serves more to provide excuses for moving down hordes of random alien scum than retelling War and Peace.
There are also lots of weapons to keep things fresh, which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Too many dungeon-crawls see fit to outfit characters with singular weapon types, or at least make them "proficient" only in a handful of weapons while lacking in all others. Rocketmen, however, goes the old-school arcade route of providing lots of weapons drops and power-up stations, which allow characters to switch between varied armaments (primary and secondary) on-the-fly. More weapons are added in later stages, and you'll get to see and use absolutely all of them in your travels. Not only does this keep the action fresh, but it provides an excuse to have a whole new bunch of stats to upgrade. Want your character to be a master of explosives? Turn their rockets stats up as high as they can between missions, then let people know that whenever rockets drop, to let you get them, and then get the hell out of your way.
About the only black mark against Rocketmen I can think of when more than one player is involved is that it suffers from the same "gets boring after a while" syndrome that most dungeon crawls suffer. Otherwise, it's a solid experience in the genre, with huge multiplayer firefights when enemies start pouring in. There isn't even any lag online; an impressive feat indeed.
If you're mainly a solitary gamer, pass this one up. However, if you have a huge love (or even a passing liking) for loot-gathering dungeon-crawlers, are tired of the genre being taken up solely by medieval fantasy trappings, and have at least one friend or can tolerate random partners, then Rocketmen is actually not a bad buy. At the very least, it's still a much better choice than Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom.
Freelance review by Jason Grant (May 07, 2008)
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