Japanese developers are not known for creating first person shooters. After all it is far from being a popular genre in the land of the rising sun. The few Japanese FPS games that spring to mind failed to compete with their Western counterparts. Considering the limitations of the WiiWare service, can Hudson succeed where so many other Japanese developers have failed?
Compared to the run-of-the-mill FPS game, Onslaught has some unique elements. As you might expect, it is divided into levels with missions such as reaching the end or protecting a target, but the main focus is on achieving a high score, not progression through the levels. The aim is to beat the levels as fast as possible, killing as many enemies as you can and taking as little damage as possible in order to achieve a good score and get a high rank.
To help you there are two AI controlled teammates who aid you against the Onslaught. They will shoot anything that comes from the direction you tell them to guard. To gang up on tougher enemies they can be told to shoot in the same direction as you, to protect your sides, or to protect your back. It’s a neat feature that adds a bit of strategy to the proceedings.
Another neat touch is that when you take out an enemy, they explode in a mess of green alien blood. If you are too close to enemies when they die your visor will be splattered with the stuff, so you have to shake the nunchuk to wipe it off before it starts chewing through your armour! Some enemies will also latch onto you by jumping at you. If this happens shaking both the nunchuk and Wii remote will shake them off.
There are a total of four regular weapons at your disposal: an assault rifle, which deals average but consistent damage, a submachine gun, which deals low damage but has a ton of ammo, a shotgun, which can take out large groups of enemies easily but is far less effective from a distance, and a rocket launcher, which deals devastating damage to big groups but has a very slow reload time.
There are also two sidearms that you can use if you’re in a bind. And, you have a small stock of grenades, and a beam whip, which instantly destroys any normal enemy if they are close enough. All weapons except the whip obviously have a limited supply of ammo. Each of the four main weapons is loaded with about ten cartridges initially, but when they are all used up you will have to find more ammo. Picking up ammo will refill your entire stock of cartridges for the weapon you currently have out, so be sure to switch to the weapon you want to refill! The whip automatically recharges over a period of time.
The controls are solid. As you might expect, you aim with the Wii remote, shoot with B and move around with the analogue stick. The D-pad lets you cycle between weapons, while C or Z plus a nunchuk shake lets you throw a grenade or swing the beam whip, respectively.
As you go through the levels in Story Mode you will occasionally find secret weapon caches. If you break these open and take the power-up inside, you will unlock a stronger version of one of the normal weapons or sidearms. Each of the six weapons has a total of two upgrades to find. While moving you can also perform a quick dash forward, backward or to the side by tapping the analogue stick in one direction twice.
In addition to this there is also an “ultimate” weapon. Some levels feature the BKD-G9, a jeep armed with two miniguns, which will mow down any enemy in a fraction of a second. Naturally this has some downsides. It only has a limited supply of ammo, which can’t be replenished, and your teammates will also get in the vehicle, which means you will not have any protection to the side or back! When it is out of ammo, the jeep can simply be abandoned. In defence missions it can serve as a handy barrier to slow down enemies.
The Story Mode is playable in single player only and contains thirteen levels divided into “tiers”. You start off with three, which you can attempt in any order, but you’ll have to beat all three to unlock the next section where you will face a boss. Beating the boss unlocks three more stages, and it continues like that until the end, which has two boss stages in a row. The Story Mode has a total of five difficulties: Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard and Ultra. Only the first three are playable right away, but don’t think that this a bad thing, the game gets hard very fast, even on Normal.
The Story Mode’s plot is the usual sci-fi guff: you have crash landed on a planet overrun by “insect cyborgs”, and soon encounter two other soldiers. You decide to help each other defeat the bugs and save the day! It’s all very silly, but the story is vital to the gameplay, as every enemy is part insect and part cyborg and their body is weaker in certain places. Shooting the green core on any enemy will kill it in a handful of shots. Shooting flesh will also kill it quickly, but not nearly as fast as shooting the core. Shooting metal does almost no damage, meaning you’ll waste a ton of ammo before the enemy dies. Always aim for the core!
One strange thing in Story Mode is the announcer. After landing several good hits, you’ll hear a strange voice yell out extremely weird stuff such as “That’s why you’re still a kid!” This doesn’t make any sense at all, but thankfully it can be disabled if you want.
The game’s main draw is the fact it has on-line multiplayer! There are two game modes available on-line: “Free Battle” and “Ranking Battle.”
Free Battle is the co-op mode. You can play with up to three others and try to beat any of the levels from Story Mode. Of course there are no AI teammates, so you’ll have to work together well, as the difficulty seems to always be set on Very Hard. Accidentally shooting teammates won’t hurt them, but it will hurt you, so it’s not recommended!
If a mission’s goal is to simply make it to the end, not all players actually have to make it. If just one player reaches the end, the mission will be completed. When a mission is over, every player gets a score based on his performance, and you can then part ways or play another mission together. If you die in co-op mode you will be revived, but you’ll lose a ton of points and probably will not be able to become first anymore!
“Ranking Battle” is more unusual. All players are pitted in a giant level filled with enemies and are given a time limit. The goal is simple: score more points than the other players before the time is up! Near the center of the stage you can also find a boss - Naturally he gives massive amounts of points, but he takes a while to beat, so you've got to figure out for yourself if it's worth the time killing him. As in co-op mode, hitting other players will damage you, so don’t do it. If you die here you will also be revived, but again, you will lose a ton of points!
Unlike most other Wi-Fi games, you don’t actually have to wait for a game to fill up before it starts. If there are two or three players and the game is still searching for others, you don’t HAVE to wait. If all currently found players press the 2 button, you can simply start with the people currently there. This will be quite handy when playing with friends!
Graphically, Onslaught is one of the better looking WiiWare games to date. Of course it would be an impossible task to compete with the visuals games developed using the Unreal Engine on PC/360/PS3, but if you take it for what it is the visuals do the job perfectly. The music is fairly upbeat and non-intrusive and the voiceovers add a touch of arcade style flair, even if it can get a bit repetitive after a while.
Onslaught provides an enjoyable single player experience. It has lots of unique features and is really fun to play. The Story Mode has a great deal of replay value due to its five difficulty settings and different ranks to achieve. The game really excels on-line and co-op is pretty much flawless. There is no lag to be found and the matchmaking is fast and without issues. Hudson has even provided online leaderboards on their website which should keep score freaks happy. The FPS genre is a perfect fit for the Wii, but due to the file size limit on WiiWare we never expected to see a downloadable one. Hudson has achieved the unthinkable and created an original and entertaining Japanese developed FPS which comes as a great surprise. This is a must-download for fans of the FPS genre, for only 1000 Wii points it is a real bargain.