Review: Heavy Fire: Black Arms (WiiWare)

Kill 'em all

Remember Heavy Fire: Special Operations, that on-rails military shooter that was kind of not good at all? Well, it got a sequel. Don't ask us how, but somehow it convinced enough people to plunk down their cash to be worth another go for developer Teyon. While it does delight us to say that there have indeed been a few tweaks for the better in Heavy Fire: Black Arms, the game still struggles to elevate itself above a sub-par shooter.

Black Arms leaves the somewhat generic Middle Eastern setting of Special Operations in favour of a somewhat generic South American jungle, and the new greener scenery is a decent change of pace for the military-shooter spiel. You're there to break up an illegal arms ring, and by "break up" we mean "mindlessly shoot everyone in the face."

On paper, Black Arms has everything a good rail-shooter should. Powerful weapons? Check. Multiplayer and a high score table? Check. Borderline genocide? Quadruple-check. However, in practice, there is not a single interesting thing done with the genre.

As with Special Operations, Black Arms makes a great first impression. The environments are relatively well made for WiiWare — although enemies don't fare as well, looking and behaving like cardboard cut-outs — and the game's attempt at putting you in an action movie is somewhat convincing until you've mowed down your first enemy troop, shattering all illusions of grandeur with by and large the same brain-dead spray-and-spray gameplay as before: never are you in any real danger since your ammo is so bountiful, your enemies so static and your reloads so nigh-instantaneous. The masses of bad guys basically just run out waiting to get shot — with the same useless exclamation point alert of the first game appearing above their heads when they may or may not be almost close to hitting you.

Nearly every single arm in your arsenal is an aurally oomph-less automatic weapon of some sort, ensuring that you never need to lift your finger from the trigger and can instead just brush the screen with your crosshair, and even though you unlock new weapons the higher you score, you're always stuck with the most recent unlock. There's no challenge or thought whatsoever to combat: it's like someone spilled coffee on the "rail-shooter" button in development, slapped some military dudes into a jungle landscape and punted the whole shebang onto WiiWare.

Some of the issues that plagued the first game don't feel so bad here, though: camera movement is a bit more dynamic and lively, and the new sniper portions are welcome — if only for providing an ever-so-slightly different way of mowing people down — and mid-level checkpoints alleviate the frustration of dying in a completely random difficulty spike. These improvements are very minor in the scheme of things, but we suppose that if you're on the fence between Black Arms and predecessor Special Operations then you should probably go ahead and get this one. However, we strongly suggest you don't even bother, and instead try to either track down a cheap copy of one of Wii's better retail rail-shooters or stare blankly at the wall.

Conclusion

Heavy Fire: Black Arms is smack-dab in the lowest tier of the rail-shooter ladder, failing to offer anything of interest besides its attractive price. While the few tweaks help elevate the game ever-so-slightly above its predecessor, they're not near enough: the gameplay is still as basic as the genre will tolerate and really needs more fundamental changes in order to justify its existence. Who knows when or if that'll happen, but as it stands, Black Arms is a miserable little download best avoided.

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