I’ll come right out and say it, AngerForce: Reloaded is just what the shmup doctor ordered. In the midst of so many flops, it’s refreshing to finally take on a shmup that’s every bit as interesting as it is exciting. Whilst it does have its issues, these issues are merely technical, and quite minor at that. There’s not much in the way of a story present, in fact, much of the plot is unlocked through natural play, and can be checked out in a hub of its own as players make progress and collect additional refinement. It works, but I wouldn’t say that it’s its defining aspect.
Moreover, shmups are not as renowned as they are for their ability to tell a story. If that was the case, many of the heavy hitters that we all know and love wouldn’t be sat at the proverbial high table. Yes, AngerForce has a tale to tell, but it’s a tale that you’re likely either going to forget about, or, will enjoy in your own time once you’ve lost several hours to the game itself. Booting up the game will take you to its clean menu, and along the way, you’re likely to bump into the aforementioned technical issues outlined above; slow and excessive loading times.
AngerForce is houses many of these moments, but it only appears to be apparent when the game showcases its steampunk-like loading screen. I’ve witnessed no issues with its loading when transitioning from level to level, only when navigating from the main menu to the game’s modes, and even then, this issue is fairly hit and miss. Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least point it out. There’s a number of choices to select from over on the main menu; campaign, arcade, practice, local co-op, collection, and options. It’s all standard stuff, really.
Over in the options, you’re free to alter some expected settings, or browse through a manual that informs you on how to play – should the brief yet informative tutorial fall from your memory. Collection is where your story beats will go as you collect unique pick-ups from the fields of play. Here, you’ll unlock character-specific intel, as well as some animated stills that relay the game’s plot; which tells the tale of a robot outbreak that sits on the backdrop of a 19th century human world. Once again, it’s pretty standard stuff as far as shmups go.
Then there’s local co-op, a mode that enables you to take to the story alongside a friend. In truth, I played the majority of the game via solo play, with just a few instances of co-op thrown in to test its performance. Playing in either solo or co-op is equally as fun, and in both, the performance is silky smooth. The practice feature arrives in varying difficulties and allows you to test your skills against hordes of opponents. This is especially useful if you’re switching up your characters and want to get some insight on how they handle before you dive into the main event.
You’ll need to unlock subsequent levels if you want to practice on them, as well as the game’s few difficulty tiers. This is all achieved through running the campaign. We’ll get to that shortly. Arcade mode serves itself as a quick dive into much of what you’ll get from the campaign; a journey through a collection of levels that remain action-packed, tense, and wonderfully varied. When all is said and done, most of the modes on offer don’t really differentiate from one another all that greatly, but even so, I cant recommend this to fans of shmups enough.
We have to consider the cost of the game here. AngerForce sports a very generous price tag, which certainly sits well with the content that it of offers up, and the quality of its play. Whether playing co-op, practice, arcade, or campaign, you’ll be given the choice of four characters to select from; Samhill, Asimo, Shin, and Echo. Each characters offers their own unique attacks, specials, and traits. Echo, for instance, has greater attack power, but lacks a decent health capacity, whereas Asimo is the direct opposite, trading power for a better pool of health.
The same can be said about the traits of each character’s abilities, being that each character’s pair of special attacks come with their own radius and power meters. There’s a fair balance on show, and it wont take long at all for you to find a character that best suits your tastes. I went with Samhill, who seems to be the best weighted character of the lot. Outside of their traits, you’ll also enjoy quite a deep and varied upgrade tree for all characters, as well as some useful upgrades that are character-specific. It just takes a while to pad them all out.
Throughout play, you’ll regularly come up against mid-level bosses and end-level bosses. Once you kill these enemies in particular, they’ll drop points that you can pick up and then spend on useful upgrades. These upgrades, as alluded to above, are broken down into general upgrades, and character specific upgrades. The former will apply to all characters that you play as. Here, you can bulk up health capacity, improve damage output, unlock additional slots for your special attacks, and much more. There’s no shortage of upgrades to work towards.
Many of these components can be upgraded several times over until capped, and you truly feel the benefits of each addition that you unlock. The character-specific upgrades tend to be fashioned on their weaponry; such as being able to destroy enemy projectiles with special attacks, unlocking the capability of performing several special attacks in rapid succession, and more besides. It takes a good while to gradually unlock these upgrades, but they are indeed permanent. This means that the more time that you put in, the more powerful you’ll become.
The game’s difficulty sits well with this system too. You’ll stand little chance at making it through the harsher stages of play with no upgrades unlocked, but as you become more resilient and more powerful, you’ll gradually climb further in. The campaign can be played via one of three difficulties. These difficulties determine how any levels you’re allowed to play. In essence, that means that in order to play through all seven of the game’s stages, you’ll need to beat the game’s noob difficulty (three levels) and its normal difficulty (five levels) before unlocking its final difficulty.
It sounds unnecessary, but it fits quite well. It helps that the game is fairly easy to gel with in regards to its handling. Movement is tethered to the left stick, with a low speed mode and a high speed move tied to LT and RT respectively. This collectively allows you to adjust your speed, which is imperative for when you’re bobbing and weaving through the onslaught of enemy fire. Your two special abilities can be utilized through the use of LB and RB, with a super (bomb) ability found through the use of the A button. Finally, you’ll attack with the X button, and charge with the B button.
You can indeed burst shot with the B button too, but I found this to be quite tedious due to the fact that most enemies sponge bullets. With its functionality out of the way, how does the game play? Magnificently. Much to be expected, you’ll start at the bottom of the screen and work your way up, taking down hordes of enemies that gun at you from all angles. There’s an impressive variation of enemies to tackle, all of which house their own behavior and attack patterns. Strategy and reflex play equal roles here, especially if you want to see success.
Whilst most enemies will slowly move through the environment and pop shots off at you, there’s a fair few that linger and unleash heavy attacks. General rule of thumb? Keep the screen as clear as you can. You’ll occasionally see mid-level bosses mixed in with the standard grunts, and killing these will net you some more points to go towards your upgrades. It also pays off not to blow all of your specials and supers from the get-go. You’ll want to reserve some of this power for the boss battles that sit at the end of each and every level within.
You’re always given a quick choice prior to each of these fights, being that you can replenish some health, or, pick up an additional super. Topping up your special attacks is fairly easy throughout. Your special attacks will eat up at your energy gauge, but to refill this, you need only pick up items that are dropped upon an enemy’s demise. Outside of that, it will slowly replenish as you’re dishing out damage. It’s a simple yet effective system nonetheless. The boss encounters are always grand, and are introduced via a brief and flashy cutscene to get you ready.
There’s not really any strategy needed here, simply fill them with bullets until they fall. Most bosses (difficulty depending) have various forms, all of which are equally as testing as the last. Once you’ve nuked a boss, you’ll get a lump-sum of energy and a heap of points to spend on upgrades. Then, you’ll move onto the next level. Should you die, you’ll be given one chance to bring yourself back to life, at the expense of some upgrade points. If you die after that, or, refuse to respawn, you’ll be scored based on how well you have performed across various aspects of play.
The game’s information panels are well laid out. Your scores are charted to the right of the screen, and here, you’ll be able to quickly glance at your current score, as well as the scores of your previous runs. The left of the screen charts all of your mandatory intel; combo count, kill rank, number of super and special left, and your current energy levels. You’ll find your HP at the lower center of the screen. You’re also free to pause the screen and browse your unlocked upgrades, as well as your shoot-down rate. It’s clean, it’s clutter free, and it’s very attractive.
I can say the same about the game’s overall visual and audio design. AngerForce is an absolute treat to behold. The game’s detail, whilst not extraordinary, certainly goes above and beyond that of most shmups as of late. The game’s levels are diverse, and very well detailed. There’s a nice distinction on show too, with no shortage of wow-moments born from all the visual effects that ensue as the action begins to pick up. I can say the same about the game’s audio presentation, which goes hand in glove with the visual quality to relay nonstop excitement.
It helps, through all of that, that AngerForce remains so responsive from start to finish. Many a times do we see shmups that fall flat due to poor hit detection, or something as irritating as a lack of fluidity. Here, however, AngerForce is on point. Not at one point did I feel as though my failures were due to poor design. I knew I had screwed up on each every death, which is a refreshing change from the genre-fillers we’ve seen hitting the Microsoft Store lately. Believe me, if you’re looking for the next good shmup, you owe it to yourselves to invest in this.
AngerForce is an accessible yet challenging shmup that frequently rewards its players whether they win or lose. Its gameplay is tight, responsive, constantly packed with action, and comes complete with diverse environments, heaps of enemy variations, and a shed-load of upgrades. Not only is it one of the best looking shmups in recent memory, it’s easily one of the most entertaining. Genre fans would do well to have this on their radar.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.