E3 2004: Neo Contra Hands-On
Fresh shooting action from Konami Tokyo. We give Neo Contra the hands-on treatment.
Update: Video coverage added.
After several botched attempts at a 32-bit Contra game, Konami of Japan finally stepped up to the plate and got it right somewhat with 2001's Contra: Shattered Soldier for the PS2. Featuring side scrolling shooting action the way Contra was meant to be played, the series had finally entered the next-generation on the right foot.
But now with Neo Contra, Konami appears to have taken their forward momentum with the Contra series and moved it a few steps back once again. While nowhere near as bad as the 32-bit turds developed by Apaloosa, Neo Contra is still a little on the disappointing side thanks in part to the 3D isometric viewpoint the action takes place in.
Neo Contra is the latest installment of Konami's much beloved Contra series and is being developed by the core team that brought players Contra: Hard Corps and Contra: Shattered Soldier.
The setting of Neo Contra takes place sometime in the distant future continuing with the adventures of Bill Rizer who is now joined by a new partner, a mysterious samurai named Genbei Jaguer Yaguy, who brings along with him new moves and weapons to the Contra universe.
At the start of the game you're provided with three groups of weapons to choose from, each one different than the other. During the game, players can cycle through their arsenal of weapons, settling on whichever is most effective. To tell you the truth, I much preferred the weapons upgrade system of the classic side scrolling Contra games in which players had to shoot down vessels containing different weapons upgrades.
The run n' gun gameplay of Neo Contra doesn't require much explanation as it is your standard arcade styled action-shooter and can be compared in some ways to the overhead levels of Contra III. So basically, you run, shoot, and blow s**t up while barreling your way through densely populated enemy terrains.
Quick reflexes are certainly in order as you contend with an almost relentless enemy assault, avoiding streams of bullets while engaged in intense fire fights. The game's new Hit Rate System follows the carnage and keeps track of the scoring, and players with enough patience and perseverance will be able to unlock additional surprises.
Initial impressions of the gameplay were not very good as the game's shooting mechanics just felt a little cumbersome at first. Most of the weapons just didn't seem to be very effective or fun to use. Even an old favorite like the spreader was no longer enjoyable thanks to its slow shooting frequency.
However, after playing through the demo several times, the game became a little more enjoyable. The E3 demo contained only two playable levels, both of which weren't that interesting to begin with but both ending with impressive boss battles. Unfortunately, even cool boss battles aren't enough to save what appears to be an average Contra game.
Visually, Neo Contra looked pretty average with moderately detailed backgrounds and generic-looking enemies making up the E3 demo we played through. The 3D intermission sequences and boss battles were the most impressive aspects of the game's visual design with one such sequence showing the Contra soldiers working their way into the stronghold of one of the bosses - a giant mutant plant-like creature with a sinister-looking head in the center of it that looked like a deranged Chucky doll from the movie, Child's Play.
Despite the game's average gameplay and graphic quality, the one area that stood out in a positive way was the audio. Neo Contra sports some highly energetic techno styled tracks accompanied by sharp sound effects to help drive the intense action.
Overall Neo Contra has the potential to be a good game, but the short playable demo reminded me a little too much of Expendable for the Dreamcast and just left me longing for the classic side scrolling 2D Contra games. One can only hope that in the future Konami sticks with the winning formulas that made the previous Contra games such classics and stops with these failed 3D experiments.
Neo Contra blasts its way into stores in November - stay tuned.
Staff Writer, Kikizo.com
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E3 2004: Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)