Contra 4 (DS) review
"Contra 4 is probably the hardest game I've ever wanted to review. On one hand, it's incredibly stupid to dock a game points for being too hard - case in point, the infamous case of an IGN staff member that gave God Hand a 3/10 because he set the difficulty too high and the game kicked his ass. Yet, in this case, it's the difficulty that keeps Contra 4 from being anywhere near as good as Contra 3 was. "
Contra 4 is probably the hardest game I've ever wanted to review. On one hand, it's incredibly stupid to dock a game points for being too hard - case in point, the infamous case of an IGN staff member that gave God Hand a 3/10 because he set the difficulty too high and the game kicked his ass. Yet, in this case, it's the difficulty that keeps Contra 4 from being anywhere near as good as Contra 3 was.
For those of you who have been in a persistent vegetative state since the early 80s, Contra is a series of side-scrolling platformer/shooter games that are known for being some of the most difficult around. You play as a buff, shirtless, gun-wielding soldier who collects weapon powerups in order to kill absolutely everything you come across. Enemies in previous Contra games have consisted of everything from alien soldiers to zombie dogs to gigantic armor-plated monsters. The one thing that every Contra game shares is that you die in one hit from anything, be it a bullet or a gigantic tentacle stabbing through your soldier. The other thing shared is the uniqueness of the areas - Contra III being the best example, where you fought on everything from the streets of a ruined city to hanging off missiles being shot from a massive jet in order to kill a massive flying alien. Dogs jump out of the background to hit your backside, and bullets fly everywhere.
Contra 4 breaks all of that. Gone are the unique areas, gone are the awe-inspiring bossfights, gone is the capability of actually finishing the game. Instead, you progress through a series of repetitive and boring levels with the same enemy copied and pasted over and over again. For instance, the first level is a Jungle, with multiple points for your shiny new grappling hook to be used, and tons of holes and turret traps to die on. Then you get to the second level - an alien laboratory. You look around... and there's the same enemies that were in the first level, with one or two new additions. There's the same turret traps recolored to match the lab scenery. There's the same pits, the same death traps. Supposedly, this eventually gets better in the last two levels, but considering how much of an ordeal it is to even beat the first level on normal difficulty (one wonders why they even bothered putting in hard), it's doubtful that most people who play Contra 4 will ever actually see them.
Also gone is any possibility of beating the game without doing the console equivalent of creditspamming. The best example of this is the first boss, which is basically a giant pillar with a few guns on it and two red orbs that represent weak points. The first orb is extremely easy - you sit there in one spot on the ground, and the guns cannot hit you. Then the pillar rises up, and there's a second weak spot on the top screen. No problem, a helicopter arrives to give you something to grapple to, so you can reach the top screen and kill the second spot. Then you realize that while hanging from the helicopter's leg, you are essentially a sitting duck for bullets. You try to fall, but then hit the ground and die. No problem, you can use your grappling hook to pull yourself back up while falling. But wait, then you die to the bullets on your way back up to the chopper. It's design flaws like this that make the game basically impossible to beat, unless you use the 99 lives glitch or an Action Replay.
Does Contra 4 ever get better? Well, supposedly once you've beaten the game (which to my knowledge has not been done without use of an Action Replay or use of the 99 lives glitch), you unlock Challenge Mode, which lets you do such amazingly masochistic acts such as "Beat every level without using a weapon". There are a billion extras you can unlock with Challenge mode - things like the Contra equivalent of the Doom comic and developer interviews and such, as well as Super Contra and the original NES Contra. However, considering how much work it is to even beat the game on easy mode, it's difficult to see why anyone would bother putting themselves through more of the same torment they've already suffered through.
The last thing that takes away from Contra 4's score is the total lack of any real multiplayer. Every other Contra has a co-op mode, and Contra 4 is no exception. However, unlike the standard set by pretty much every other DS game in existence, Contra 4 does not make use of wi-fi for multiplayer, instead opting to use the DS's close-range wireless as the only way to play co-op. Good luck finding another person masochistic enough to have bought it.
Thus, Contra 4 gets a five out of ten from me. Supposedly, it's enjoyable if you take the six months to memorize every level down to the most minimal details and have the attention span to sit there for days on end to do so. Contra 4 is the kind of game you'd probably enjoy if your idea of a good time is being kicked in the balls by a dominatrix in high heels. For the rest of us, don't bother. World of Warcraft is more fun, and that's saying something.
Community review by timrod (December 17, 2007)
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