by Michael Stallworth
reviewed on PC
Top Down Terror
In recent years, top-down shooters have seen a bit of a renaissance in the indie gaming scene. Games like Enter The Gungeon and the Hotline Miami series have shown that games like these can deliver fast, exciting, and challenging gameplay without needing highly complex mechanics or modern high-res graphics. Another way that these games seem to be able capture the hearts of their players is by using the game’s design, story, and general aesthetic to play on the nostalgia that many players have for retro gaming. A good example is the 80’s vibe that runs through the Hotline Miami games. Instead of taking the look and aesthetics of pixelated 80’s games, I Am Weapon: Revival jumps ahead to the mid 90’s by emulating action horror arcade shooters like House of the Dead and CarnEvil. Unfortunately, whereas a game like Hotline Miami gives its players a feeling of nostalgia and improves upon it with great gameplay, I Am Weapon: Revival fails on both of these counts.
Painkiller Meets Tinkerbell
In I Am Weapon: Revival, you take on the role of a nameless man who, as a child, had his life shattered when a group of criminals, dressed in clown masks, killed his parents during a bank robbery. From that point, your nameless character, dedicated his life to hunting these men down; becoming a bounty hunter and systematically bringing each of these clown killers to justice. Now the only clown that remains is the leader, who wears a joker mask (the kind from a card deck not the Batman villain) and fired the fatal bullet that took his parents away. The actual gameplay begins with your character waking up in a dark, twisted version of a carnival with no memories of where he is or how he got there.
The one thing he does remember is how to shoot, and he uses that knowledge to blow away hordes of monstrous clowns that attack him at every turn. Eventually you come upon a tinkerbell-esque figure who tells you that you are actually trapped inside of your own nightmare, and the only way to break free is to collect all of your memories that have been scattered throughout the game’s various levels. As a storyline, it’s a pretty decent setup, each memory fills in another piece of the story and does a fair job at keeping you interested in seeing what will happen next. Surprisingly the story is actually one of the game’s strong points, the narrative structure was one of the primary things that made me want to keep playing the game.
As effective as the story is at making you want to see what happens next, the gameplay will inversely make you quickly lose interest. I Am Weapon: Revival’s gameplay is riddled with mistakes big and small but the most egregious sin that the game commits is that it is too easy. Even when playing on the highest difficulty, the combat is never really challenging, when facing what should be an overwhelming number of enemies it never feels as if you’re in much danger. The reasons for this are twofold; the first is that despite your enemies being much faster than you, they seem to have a lot of trouble hitting you while you’re on the move. This effectively makes every fight feel the same, a group of enemies will attack, and you simply walk backwards while firing to cut down the horde and taking relatively little damage. Even in the rare instances where you find yourself encircled by enemies, you never feel trapped, wading through a group of enemies does not slow your walking speed, so you’ll only have to sacrifice some health to escape. The other main problem with the gameplay is that even though your enemies are monstrous, nightmare clowns; they seem very concerned with attacking in single file. No matter how many enemies swarm you, they almost always conveniently form a single file line which can easily be cut down.
But the gameplay isn’t all bad, early on in the story the game introduces some light RPG elements with customizable weapons and armor, and branching sidequests, which helps add some variety to the gameplay. Unfortunately, these elements aren’t enough to make up for the combat’s lack of difficulty, which is almost unforgivable in a top-down shooter, a genre that is almost defined by being on the edge of your seat, while spraying a chaos of bullets.
Pennywise on a Penny Budget
From a presentational standpoint, I Am Weapon: Revival doesn’t win many points. The look of a twisted carnival runs through every level of the game, and while it’s visually interesting in the first few levels, it quickly feels repetitive. The enemy designs are just as repetitive as the environments, every enemy is just a variation on the archetype of the killer clown, there’s a small fast clown, a slow moving high damage clown, etc. All of this is underscored by fairly generic heavy metal music, which when combined with the look of the enemies and environments, feels like the game was designed by someone who’s trying to emulate Rob Zombie’s aesthetic, but has never actually seen or heard any of his movies or music.
Gun and Run of the Mill
I know it may sound like I really hated I Am Weapon: Revival, but that’s not really accurate. The game isn’t so bad that it’ll make you throw down your controller in frustration, rather it's just bad enough that when you do stop playing, there’s little in the game to compel you to pick it back up again.
Interesting story, nice variety of weapons and quests
Unchallenging combat, boring game design