The first few games Glu published for Windows Phone 7 were all purchases you would pay for upfront – there were a couple back in 2010, around launch, and a few more across last year. This year, their three titles have all adopted Xbox Live and the ‘freemium’ model. They seem quite busy over in the iOS and Android camps, so have clearly decided this is the way to go. Their first freemium title this year was Bug Village, aptly named not just for the gameplay but for the way the game played – that is, it was bugged. There were reports of achievements glitching amongst other things. Last week they released Contract Killer, too – more on that later. This review focuses on Gun Bros, a title they released at the end of May but which I only visited now around the time of Contract Killer’s launch and the chatter it brought with it – mixed, to say the least.
First off, free Xbox Live games are great – a cheap way to get an extra 200G! Well, not quite – at least not if Glu has their way. Sure, it is possible to complete the game and unlock all the achievements without having to spend a penny. That goes without saying – everyone knows that. Certainly the people behind Monster Island now do. Back to Gun Bros – yes, it is possible, but that does not mean Glu are going to make it easy. They have very purposely made it so that it is going to take a substantial number of hours of gameplay to get anywhere near completion if going down the free route; this can, of course, be substantially reduced if you are willing to make a few in-app purchases.
Then again, that is not necessarily all that bad. I mean, longevity in a game is a sought-after quality. Glu has certainly published a game that will keep you going for many an hour if you want level 100 and to quash all 10 revolutions on any planet (both of which are achievements worthy of an… achievement). However, it does become incredibly difficult, especially as all of the better guns have to be bought using War Bucks, a sort of premium in-game currency. The only way to get war Bucks normally is as rewards, such as for daily and successive log-ins; after logging in for five days straight, I have collected six War Bucks. The most expensive gun? That costs 3,499 War Bucks, which is well beyond anything I could amass, ever. What if I were to cop out and purchase that gun? 1600MSP will buy you 72 War Bucks – that prices this gun at about 77,756MSP! I do not know exactly how much MSP costs in USD or AUD, but at least in pounds sterling (GBP) that prices this gun at some £780! Why anyone would buy that – and therefore why it is even included – is beyond me, unless there is some opportunist at Glu hoping someone is not going to do their maths right and purchase the gun, mistaking the price point for something much lower. Anyway, it is not as if this gun is vital to completion, so aside from noting it as bizarre I will not be considering it later.
However, the point remains that whilst the game is free to download (and a sizeable download at 190MB) Glu has done everything they can to tempt you away from playing for free. The game itself is not actually that bad, but it is testimony to the issues surrounding the gameplay that I am still leaving that aspect of the review for later.
Andrew Bares raised an interesting point over at WMPowerUser.com in his review of Contract Killer, which applies here too. He refers to Microsoft’s Technical Certification Requirements, which is a document laying out all criteria an application must pass for it to be allowed onto the Marketplace. He highlights two points, with the first being unexpected crashes – although I have not experienced that with Gun Bros. The second point is the phrase within Microsoft’s document that “within 20 seconds after launch, the application must be responsive to user input.” This is a fairly fundamental point as failure to adhere has both an adverse effect on the user’s experience of the app, but also on the perception of the Marketplace and the quality of apps therein.
My experience of the app as regards startup has been fairly mixed; one thing it has not been, though, is fast. Starting the game from the Games Hub (or start screen) it tries to connect to Xbox Live; I am certain this is in excess of a minute, very possibly more. More often than not, this will fail and it will load up a page saying “play Gun Bros every day for rewards,” from which I can retry connecting to Xbox Live. This takes a further minute or so, after which it seems to succeed but the game does not register it, but hitting retry again will usually trip it into realising it is actually connecting. Several minutes have passed before I can even really do anything. Sure, it is far quicker to start if you disable WiFi and stop it from even attempting to connect to Xbox Live, but really you will want to as offline gameplay is missing several features. Offline is not unplayable by any means, but it is far easier to amass coin with the extra refineries only available when connected to Live (more on these later). This is definitely nowhere near the 20 second start-up that Microsoft requires, and Glu should be forced to update. The title first appeared on iOS sometime in 2010 – surely this should not even be an issue.
I think I have covered all the surrounding issues, so now it is finally time for the actual gameplay to be reviewed. As mentioned, the gameplay is not actually too bad and there is enough of it to keep going strong for many hours. The premise is that a two man organisation, FRAGGED (Freakishly Rugged Advanced Genetics Galactic Enforcement Division), is trying to quell a series of invasions or revolutions by the TOOL (Tyrannical Oppressors of Life). Brothers Percy and Francis Gun are the only men in this Division and the game is a sort of co-op shooter where they try to stop a couple hundred invaders per level, using some oversized weapons. You pick one of them to play as (there is not much difference between the two, except that in their pictures one is smoking a cigar) and the AI controls the other (for the time being) as you try to stop dead waves of attackers.
The character is controlled using two analogue sticks; the left one controls movement, whilst the right one dictates the direction he is facing as he shoots. The controls are easy and work well, although I have had issues with the sticks being static. In trying to move quickly away from being cornered, I have slightly missed the stick (or moved my thumb too far away from its centre) and suddenly my character stops in his tracks. As a comparison, I still occasionally play PES 2012 (the football/soccer game) where the stick sets its centre at wherever I place my left thumb, meaning I never have the issue of unregistered movement and losing out because of it.
The enemies, the TOOL, seem only to have the intention of overwhelming you and your brother so prepared to be surrounded by them – and often. They do not exactly play to their strengths and just try to get as close to you as possible before shooting (or hacking and slicing, as in some cases, which in fairness actually demands proximity to the target). There is also plenty of variation between enemies, ranging from the very small who can only attack by slicing from nearby and who are killed with a single shot from pretty much anything to far bigger boss-like monsters.
There is also a large variety to be found in the armoury. There are several categories of guns, including pistols, shotguns, rifles, spreads, lasers, heavy and the ambiguously-named ‘special.’ For each of the first four, killing 1,000 enemies (or, as Glu puts it, “servicing” 1,000 enemies) with each gun type is worth its own achievement (that is, one achievement for 1,000 pistol kills, another for 1,000 shotgun kills and so on). Each gun type feels different, and there are a number in each category. Unfortunately, if you plan to play through Gun Bros for free, many will be out of reach as they demand payment in War Bucks which are hard to come by. Nevertheless, there is still a decent selection to pick from and if you plan to get achievements Omega (15G; quell all 10 revolutions on a planet) or Legend (30G; reach level 100), chances are you will get to experience most of them.
I have mentioned that there are 10 revolutions per planet. I do not actually know how many planets there are because some remain as big question marks (there are seven such question marks, but I cannot guarantee they all follow the same pattern), remaining locked, but I can see at least three each with its own 10 revolutions. Each revolution, in turn, consists of 50 waves. Generally, the first 20-30 waves can be done in one fell swoop, but the remaining lot tend to be more of a gruelling slog, picking off a maximum of five at a time until the very latter levels which involve plenty of deaths before any sort of completion of even one wave. There is also one planet, called Bokor, which differs from the others in that on this planet there is a zombie invasion. Here the aim is to clear ten hordes of zombies, each consisting of 100 zombies. Kill 1,000 zombies and it is complete. In practice it is far harder as in the later levels the 100 zombies tend to decide to turn up all at once and getting out of there is not that easy. There are many hours to be spent – or wasted – here.
I mentioned earlier that the AI will take the role of your bro. This is always the case, but in offline mode or without any friends in your contact list the other bro will just be randomly-generated with some alright-but-not-great weaponry. Whilst it is not quite online gameplay, if you happen to have a few Live friends who have also played Gun Bros they can act as your Bro on your phone, and their character will appear alongside you complete with all his gear. I had one friend at level 47 when I was just starting out. I am pretty sure that helped out significantly, as the gun his character was toting was far bigger and more menacing than the basic pistol and rifle my fledgling character had been equipped with.
As you are scouring the planets of any TOOL, your character collects an ore called Xplodium. Upon his death (that is, the current crusade abruptly ends) the Xplodium and experience is detailed and awarded. This Xplodium is then put into one of the many refineries. The very basic one offers an instant payout of as much coin as you put in Xplodium. Doing this will unlock the next one, which after a ten minute wait will offer about 120% as much coin as you put in Xplodium. Doing this repeatedly will eventually the sixth refinery; after 72 hours your return in coin is 400% of what you put in. Of course, by paying War Bucks you can unlock better refineries with shorter waiting times and bigger pay-outs. Also, with more friends playing Gun Bros your own rewards from the standard refineries increase (for instance, the game tells me I have five friends playing Gun Bros (form whom I can pick any one to accompany me into battle as a Bro) and this entitles me to a 30% bonus in the refineries’ pay-outs). In offline mode, however, only the instant refinery and, I believe, the premium refineries are available.
Those of you who caught the mini review of this by this site’s editor-in-chief Saijo George will have seen he found the buttons in the menu to be a bit on the small, but I personally did not have much issue with them. They are not exactly metro style over-sized buttons and I could lay my thumb flat and expect it to know where I meant to press, but using the ends of my thumbs I had no real issue and the game seemed to register the same thing I intended most of the time (there were a couple of mishaps where it completely missed me pressing, but only on the odd occasion).
The game also has a store – naturally. Here you can pay coin or War Bucks (whichever the game dictates, it does not seemingly permit choosing between the two payment methods) for various guns, pieces of armour or power-ups. The guns I have mentioned before. The pieces of armour are articles of clothing or hair-dos which affect the character’s stats, such as attack, defence and speed and can be a quick way to make him that bit tougher if your next desired gun is still a bit above you in terms of cost. Power-ups is a bit of an erroneous term, but largely encompasses miscellany such as health packs and grenades (freeze, frag, stun and so on). Naturally, some of the better stuff will demand War Bucks, but plenty of things are available for coin – although expect income to be a bit erratic as you put your truly massive winnings into the three-day refinery and small earnings in the ten-minute or instant variety.
All things considered, there are a number of issues with the game. The start time is excessive. I have even had issues exiting, and had to resort to utilising the limitations on number of apps I can have open in order to close it. However, once it is up and running, the game can be quite fun. I have myself spent several hours already on it. I do not plan to spend a whole load more, but I want to see if I can get a few more achievements before I am ready to pack it in. Its longevity means it can be a pick-up-and-play title. You can open any wave in any revolution (that you have previously played or unlocked) on a planet and just mindlessly shoot some TOOL to kill a few minutes (although opening the app might kill all the minutes you have to kill in the first place). It is a free title and there is no harm in giving it a try. If the problems in starting it put you off, you never have to revisit it again; but if the gameplay can hold you just enough engaged that the issues almost seem worth it, then it can be a good game to have.
Gun Bros xBox Live Achievements
- Ravager (10 points): Service 5,000 targets.
- Destroyer (15 points): Service 20,000 targets.
- Annihilator (20 points): Service 50,000 targets.
- Veteran (15 points): Reach level 20.
- Legend (30 points): Reach level 100.
- Hero (20 points): Reach level 50.
- Alpha (5 points): Complete Revolution 1 on any planet.
- Omega (15 points): Complete Revolution 10 on any planet.
- A Gun Rack (5 points): Purchase 8 guns from the store.
- Fashionista (5 points): Purchase 20 armor pieces from the store.
- Power Hour (5 points): Purchase 60 power ups from the store.
- Perfect 100 (10 points): Complete 100 unique perfect waves.
- Pistoleer (5 points): Service 1000 targets with pistols.
- Rifleman (5 points): Service 1000 targets with rifles.
- Shotgunner (5 points): Service 1000 targets with shotguns.
- Spreader (5 points): Service 1000 targets with spread guns.
- Royalty (10 points): Save 100,000 coin.
- Streaker (5 points): Destroy 30 Zombies in a single Streak.
- Bro-Up! (5 points): Complete a Bro-Op Challenge!.
- Buffed Up! (5 points): Get a Bro Buff.
Gun Bros Screenshots
Version Under Review: 126.96.36.199
Gun Bros is a FREE game for Windows Phone 7
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