Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D

What's the best part of a light gun game?

There's only one answer to that: the light gun. With it, you're a skilled and accurate gunman going through a world and taking out an army of henchmen. Without it, well, you're moving a reticule too slowly and travelling on a set path at a set speed killing set enemies without that immediate awesomeness of holding a gun in your hand that shoots things on the screen.

For some reason, though, companies have tried to do that sort of thing before on the DS and 3DS without much regard for how fun it actually is to play these on-rails games without that sort of hook. What sets these apart from actually good games like Kid Icarus: Uprising and Panzer Dragoon is the fact that in those, you actually control a character on the track, allowing him to dodge out of the way. Even more, you can do more than shoot-- you can cast spells or do melee attacks and even find split paths.

Rather than give you any hooks like that, Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D instead presents you with levels that stick to a straight path. Enemies spawn in the same place every time, and on top of that, each shooting spot has 4 or 5 places where they spawn from, and then around the same amount where they take cover.

So imagine you're running through a kind of OK looking jungle (that stutters badly when you turn on the 3D), and you turn a corner. You're looking at a group of enemy soldiers that are shooting straight ahead of them- the problem is, you're maybe 10 feet to the right of that position, so they're not shooting at anything. They're just shooting because that's what their AI tells them to do. And they're shooting in a direction where you aren't, because guess what, your pre-set path is going to take you right in front of them to stand there, in their direct line of fire, and shoot straight back at them.

The AI routines are pretty bad, but there's also nothing you can do to avoid shots except shoot fast. Since you're on a 3DS, when you're aiming, you're scraping the touch screen. After Dillon's Rolling Western destroyed my touch screen and scratched up the center of it, my 3DS isn't as sensitive as it should be, but it was still more than enough to take care of most of the enemies before they got me, but you'll still be constantly hit by enemies because there was just nothing you could do to avoid them.

Unfortunately, since the graphics are rather blurry, enemies have a bad habit of blending into the background (and especially on the night mission you go on). Fortunately, enemies pop a stupid, giant exclamation point above their heads when they're about to actually score a hit, so a lot of times it became a game of "wait for the exclamation and then shoot at it." It worked better than it should have. If they do hit you, well, you've only got 5 shots before you go down, and of course there are no health pick ups or anything.

I'm also pretty sure the last mission can't be beat unless you have the higher weapons, which is pretty dumb because you don't earn much money to get new weapons as you go, requiring unfortunate replaying of the same levels, same enemies, same everything. The trailer advertises interactive environments, but aside from a pot that I shot that fell apart, that's pretty untrue. Nothing collapses unless scripted. Nothing breaks unless the game wants it to. You can't just call exploding barrels an "interactive environment" and pretend that's something new and exhilarating, because it's not.

So Heavy Fire isn't a good game. It's an on-rails shooter that seems like it did as little as possible to be an actually sellable video game before being released, and I guess they succeeded, but they didn't make anything worth making. It's a game of cheap hits and endlessly replaying levels because you couldn't dodge or react to a bullet in any way. There's no real story, your character doesn't matter, weapon progression feels pointless, and the concept of an on-rails shooter on a 3DS using the touch screen to aim can be done well, but isn't here. Even worse, it requires you to play through old levels before you can advance, and these are not levels you WANT to replay. In fact, this isn't the kind of game you want to play period. It's the kind of game that's clearly trying to trade off on looking like better ones, but it just reminds you that you don't want to be playing this one.