You could say there are two types of games. Those that try and draw you into the experience to the point where you forget you are playing a game and those who make no apologies for being an artificially and often abstract set of parameters for you to play with. Almost every computer game made these days attempts to disguise itself with enough sophistication, or at least enough natural pointers, to make it seem real. Rebellion's Gunlok rebels against this wave of pretenders by going back to the primitive language of the old-skool arcade game. There's enough iconic information on screen to make any Pac-Man clone look starved in comparison. And, although Gunlok defies tight categorisation, it comes across as a mixture ot Commandos and Metal Gear Solid.
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It presents itself as strategy game, in real-time, but with a very necessary pause function, where you must solve each part of the map you move across. Enemies have so much visual information dripping from them, you're barely able to see the scrap of metal underneath. They also have a moving cone that delimits their visual range, an expanding circle that shows their hearing range and a great big energy bar to show how many shots it will take to destroy them. Almost everything on screen is colour coded, from the enemy signs to the bright dyes of your own team of rusty robots. There are no tactical battles per se, more choreographed shoot-outs planned out in the active pause mode to get you through to the next bit of the map. In a sense, it works like a complex version of Donkey Kong or Frogger (or almost any other old arcade game). But therein lies the main problem with the game. The beauty of those old classics lay in their simplicity. You had to learn to be good at them, but you could master the dynamics immediately. Gunlok is at times so fastidiously complicated and elaborate, it's hardly any fun to play.
Commandos' biggest problem was that it was too damn hard for you to get any real pleasure out of it, while Gunloks is that it's too artificial for you to care either way. Commandos was set in a recognisably real world, with a historical background and human enemies. Gunlok is set in yet another Terminator-type of future, where computers and robots have taken over the world and a small pocket of humanity, led by Gunlok, is rebelling (there's that word again) against them. The plot is a perfect summary of the game: a synthetic and unnatural world that works robotically against your human abilities. To balance this you are given some natural signs, such as Gunlok's face and Elint's robotic limp (which makes it irritatingly slow), but there's just not enough. The story ends up working as an excuse for instructions on how to solve a particular level and it's hard to get interested in it. The cut-scenes that drive it along are clumsy too, and the whole game works like a school-project electrical circuit.
The engine has its problems too, and is quite clunky to manoeuvre. The zoom lets you get as uncomfortably close to the characters as you want, which lets you see how every nut and bolt is assembled together. There's a first-person view that can be accessed (a bit like the one in Metal Gear Solid and not as good as the one in Vampirdj, but it does little to enhance the gameplay.
Rebellion should be praised for doing something a bit different to the flood of other strategy games out there, even if it ultimately doesn't end up working. There will certainly be some among you who will relish every minute of this challenge, but for the rest of us, Gunlok is a hard game to get into and an easy game to leave alone.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode
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