Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D (3DS eShop) - Review by Andrew
Teyon have had a considerable amount of success with their Black Arms franchise and the games have shifted a respectable tally of units on the Wii with the unique controller stepping in for the light-gun experience. With even a remote hit these days there's a guarantee that the game will be ported to other platforms and in addition to the PC, PS3 and 360, the previous title, Special Operations, even gained a 3DS outing. This was not without it's problems though and with gamers now offered a multitude of channels to let their voices be heard it will be interesting if the Black Arms developers have learnt from it's previous shortcomings.
Black Arms is split into a Campaign or six separate Missions with the former required to play before unlocking any of the single levels. If you've never encountered an 'on the rails' shooter before the object is simple enough: move through a collection of themed environments stopping occasionally in order to shoot (and hopefully hit) a given amount of targets. The location here is deep in the jungle where you appear to have been given the mission to clear the whole area of heavily armed rebels with only a handgun as your means of defense. As with most action movies this is remarkably effective and gunning down most would be assassins will cause you very little problems. You can also take five hits before meeting your maker and restarting the whole level and there is a little added pressure here due to the complete lack of health packs lying around the terrain. The combat is not all plain sailing though and leave an enemy for too long and a red '!' will appear above their heads meaning they are about to take a shot at you. Frustratingly there are parts of the game where there is very little warning that this is about to happen, with enemies jumping out from behind trees and shooting, which does seem a little unfair at times.
Completing a level gives you an overall score and cash to spend on better weapons although the only difference we can see is the amount of ammo each one can hold before forcing you to reload. You can improve your score greatly by hitting multiple targets or even destroying jeeps and helicopters but these move by very quickly usually when you are reloading. The shop isn't all about amassing weapons either and during each stage your current weapon will become damaged meaning you'll have to spend some of that valuable cash on a full or part service. Try and avoid this and your gun may jam during the next mission causing you no end of problems and damage to your health. That, sadly is it and there's no training missions, high score tables, multiplayer or indeed anything which may go some way to extending your gameplay experience. Much like the previous Special Operations outing really.
Actually controlling your shooting is very comfortable indeed and as this is an 'on the rails' affair, there's no need to worry about moving your solder around. Instead you'll simply have to aim your gun around the screen with the stylus. Shooting your weapon is given over to the shoulder buttons whilst reloading is up on the 'd' or circular pad. Simple, intuitive and, more importantly, very responsive.
Visually the developers have done a fine job of porting the various assets from the console version to the 3DS and the lush jungle environments help to immerse you in the games dense and unforgiving locations. The majority of the enemies have also been well animated and rendered but you will have the odd individual who simply 'pops' out from behind a tree appearing to have no relationship what so ever with his surroundings. One huge disappointment in the bare bones interface and overall presentation and there's been little effort here to tell a story with the levels simply ending and switching to a mission map. With that in mind I'm sure anyone buying this game is more interested in simply shooting things rather than sitting through an elaborate plot.
The sound is a little disappointing and the only music you'll hear is an incredibly short (and looped) military style score during the title screens. The rest of levels are limited to the odd mumbling from soldier, gunfire and the ambient background noises of the jungle.
The stylus controls your on-screen cross-hair and the whole system is very tight indeed with the action perfectly tracking your touch-screen movements which is essential given just how many enemies you'll have to take out. Elsewhere the 3D is perfectly passable but as with a great deal of the action titles on the eShop we found it much more comfortable to switch to 2D. The on board camera is also used to allow you to take a picture of yourself (complete with helmet) as an avatar. It's not much but this is yet another feature on the handheld which is so often overlooked.
While Black Arms is fine for a quick fix for any action junkies out there there's little here to keep you coming back repeatedly and after you've completed the main story mode and maxed out all the high scores you are unlikely to revisit the game again. This is not helped by the lack of any Multplayer or even on-line leader boards, which would have at least offered a few more options. It's still fun to play and probably worth the sub £5 download fee but the next outing for the Heavy Fire soldiers really must offer gamers a little more.
Pro: Great Visuals, Tight Controls
Con: Little Replay Value, No Multiplayer, Unfair Enemies
Final score: 5.1