Run-’n-gun shooters usually wind up one of three ways: either they’re totally crazy awesome with intense action, really really boring, or rock-solid efforts that do no real wrong but regardless fail to spark much of anything in players. B Team - Episode 1: Dust & Steel is the heart-breaking latter kind of game.
It isn’t that there is no fun to be had, as this slice of retail title B-Team: Metal Cartoon Squad can be enjoyable in a mindless kill-’em-all kind of way as you decimate villages full of armed and angry baddies who have surely made poor decisions in their lives. A goofy sense of humor drapes this downloadable, evident in everything from the functional story of a rag-tag mercenary army hired to go blow stuff up to the cartoony art style that mixes equal parts Rambo and Sergio Aragonés.
It isn’t that it doesn’t try anything new either, tying lives and firepower into one by putting you in command of a unit of three mercs who all fire simultaneously but can independently get killed — losing one or two puts a damper on your firepower, losing all three is stage over.
It certainly isn’t lacking for action either. Not a moment goes by without some kind of house exploding, army attacking or bomb going off, and shooting enough dudes builds up a rage-like meter for MAXIMUM ANGER SHOOTING. Multiplayer lets a friend take control of their own merc to blow stuff away, potentially extending the action into the real world as you surely punch each other in the arm.
It’s just that none of this really grabs you in any significant way. Level design is pretty basic, and when your main mechanic doesn’t go beyond essentially pointing at things it hurts to have a bland arena to point in. Strategy isn’t really a factor other than “shoot them before they shoot you” so it’s no matter for brain matter, and the cartoony style is rather brown, bland and doesn’t look particularly good on low-res screens.
Ironically, B Team couldn’t be a more appropriate name for this second-tier shoot-show. There are interesting ideas somewhere in this muddy, brown blaster, but they don’t have the firepower to make this worth your time. Unless you have an embarrassment of time to kill and find yourself all out of ammo, in which case B Team might be worth hiring.