Despite a few issues, developer One More Level may well have just created one of the most satisfying top-down shooters since Hotline Miami. No, ladies and gents, I don’t say that lightly. God’s Trigger’s got style, depth, and a truck-load of glorious gore. In fact, it’s the pinnacle of that “one more go” structure that these games are often known for. It helps, of course, that it’s also got a fairly interesting story to back all of that up too. Though, perhaps we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves, so let’s take a step back and go from the top.
Now, you can take to God’s Trigger alone, or through local co-op with support for up to two players. This is true for not only the campaign, but the game’s rather solid arcade mode too. The campaign’s story tells of an angel and a demon teaming up to bust into heaven in order to put a stop to the apocalypse. Naturally, the four horsemen play a vital role in the plot, and it’s your job to hunt them down and put an end to their doings. Simply due to how the story is structured, it’s hard to dive too deeply into the story without giving too much away.
Instead of talking directly of any story beats, I’ll say this, God’s Trigger knows how to keep you gripped. Whilst its story isn’t going to be winning any awards any time soon, there’s certainly a decent framework on show to maintain player traction. This is all relayed to you through some rather gritty cutscenes and animated stills, both remain welcoming and fitting. There’s also some neat twists throughout the entirety of play, twists that, although slightly predictable when they infrequently emerge, are mostly met with a gratifying outcome.
Whatever the case, God’s Trigger sports a decent narrative. This all goes hand in glove with the game’s brutally delicious gameplay. Firstly, the game’s handling is absolutely sublime. The feedback is instant and sharp, leaving no room for excuses when death occurs, and often it will occur. The controls are well mapped too. Much like any given top-down shooter, movement is tethered to the left stick, with aiming to the right stick. You’ll melee with the use of LT, and shoot whatever weaponry you discover on your journey through the use of RT.
There’s a dash ability assigned to RB, and the option to look around via LB. Outside of that, you’ll utilize the face buttons to interact with the game’s core mechanics; interacting with objects via the A button, picking up and dropping weaponry via the X button, performing execution and stealth kills via the Y button, and character swapping via the B button. You can also utilize the D-Pad to switch special abilities, and if you’re playing in co-op, you can use the D-Pad to throw out some emotes. It’s a relatively straightforward affair to be honest.
The game is spread over multiple chapters, with several levels per-chapter to work through. These levels can take anywhere from 20 – 30 minutes to nuke on a moderate run. The gameplay is constantly fast-paced, and it wastes no time at throwing you into the thick of it throughout each and every level. Now, as alluded to above, make friends with death. God’s Trigger does not hold your hand, and it’s not shy of seeing you to your end. Mercifully, the game comes with a generous checkpoint system and instantly throws you back into the fray.
Dying here typically means being sent back a few rooms in the blink of an eye, ready and raring to go another round. Players take on the role of both Judy and Harry. Judy is the demon, an escapee of hell that wields a deadly bladed chain. Harry, on the other hand, is a disgraced soldier of heaven, and relies on his trusty sword to see most situations through. If you’re playing co-op, you and your partner will select a character each, whereas if you’re playing solo, you’ll have the ability to quick-swap between both Judy and Harry on the fly.
Judy and Harry sport their own distinct play-styles, and each come with an independent level-up system that’s tied to an independent skill-tree. Leveling up requires that you earn EXP via using each character, meaning that you’ll want to swap to and from Judy and Harry (when playing solo) to keep them on even ground. Still, that being said, it’s entirely possible to complete the game without relying on skills and abilities, so even if you advance one character far beyond the other, the field of play remains largely balanced nevertheless.
What’s particularly interesting about God’s Trigger is that everything is one-hit-death. Should you sustain an attack, you’re done for. The same can be said about the majority of the game’s enemies, being that a single blow is typically all it takes to send them to an early grave. This alone ramps up the tension, with vast enemy counts and devious enemy placement backing that up. You’ll move through the game’s environments with a few objectives in tow, most of which tend to revolve around destroying something or killing a set amount of enemies.
Whilst that sounds simple on paper, in practice, it’s anything but. The game’s levels are quite compact, and despite there usually being a few routes that you can take to reach a level’s end, most of them are heaving with foes. That, and most routes tend to shoehorn you to the same destination anyway. That’s not a bad thing by any means, in fact, I quite welcomed the idea of being able to test out different pathways to see what play-styles I could make use of. You see, Judy and Harry, as alluded to above, individually house fairly distinct pros and cons.
This isn’t just in place to overcome the game’s foes in different ways, but character swapping is often necessary for even basic progress. For instance, Harry is the only character that can smash through breakable walls, whereas Judy is the only character that can transfer through grids and gateways. The game regularly encourages that you play with both characters, but it never truly forces you to remain in the shoes of either or. There’s a good blend on show here, and no shortage of tools to make use of as you dive deeper into the experience at hand.
Judy’s bladed chain makes her the ideal character for disposing of enemies at a distance, which comes in especially useful when you’re up against enemies that can be blown to pieces via attacking an explosive back-tank. The same can be said about enemies that are situated near explosive barrels, being that Judy can hit said barrel and clear a full room at the drop of a hat. Harry, on the other hand, is your go-to character if you prefer getting your hands dirty. One swipe of his lethal sword is all it takes to bring an enemy to their knees.
The game’s fast-pace sits well with both characters, granting you plenty of breathing room but never really loosening up on the aforementioned tension. Weaponry can be picked up from the corpses of enemies, or via chests that you’ll locate throughout play. Weapons range the standard; pistols, sub machine guns, grenades, and so forth. There’s always an ammo cap to be mindful of, but this is never really an issue due to how much weaponry is thrown at you at any given time. This sits alongside using the special abilities that each character sports.
These abilities include the likes of invisibility, freezing enemies in place, and many more besides. You’re given the option to bulk up these abilities over in the skill-tree, which is padded out through simply leveling up and assigning some traits. Then there’s the perks. These are hidden in chests throughout play, and naturally need to be discovered before they can be assigned. Perks further allow you to improve character resilience, with options such as starting each level with a shield present to give you that extra kick. It’s all rather well struck.
The crux of play sees you moving through the game’s levels, killing hordes of foes, solving the occasional puzzle, and defeating a chapter-ending boss. There’s no shortage of enemies to take on; from standard grunts, right the way up to flamethrower-wielding assholes. Not a single enemy holds back. They’ll either rush you the moment the see you, or start lobbing bombs and blasting you with bullets before you can turn tail for safe ground. The game is set up in such a way that even making it to the next checkpoint feels like a puzzle in itself.
There’s a tactical blanket to be mindful of at all times, encouraging you to forward think rather than to burst into each room all guns blazing – its one-hit-death further backing that up. God’s Trigger is all about observation and playing to your strengths. That’s not to say that the speed-runners wont find value here, quite the contrary, but mindlessly kicking down doors isn’t the best way to play, and certainly wont yield the best results. It pays off to break everything in sight too, which often yields rewards that benefit you in specific ways.
Whilst not everything can be smashed and demolished, you would do well to break any objects that allow for it. Pick-ups will regularly drop from smashed items. These are all color coordinated, and include ammo, ability recharges, score multipliers, revival chargers (for use in co-op only) and lump sums of EXP. That said, you’ll get EXP for just kicking ass, and it’s handed out on a fairly lenient basis. My only gripe throughout all of this, however, is that it can be far too easy to circumvent the core difficulty by exploiting the game’s many enemies.
Most enemies will rush you when they’re aware of your presence, and you’ll know when that is via a telltale red outline that covers their body. However, it’s entirely possible to play peekaboo and lure them to a doorway whilst you stand back to the wall and dispose of them as they walk/run through. It’s a shame the game’s AI isn’t more robust, because as it stands, this one blemish holds the experience back a bit. It’s still a wonderful game, but it could have been much more than what it is if the developer fine-tuned enemy responsiveness.
Whatever the case, even with that in mind, God’s Trigger is an absolute joy to play. The game’s field of view allows for you to see a wide portion of your surroundings, ultimately enabling you to weigh up your choices long before you kick start the action. Choice is by no means exhaustive in God’s Trigger, meaning that you’re free to take to each and every situation however you see fit. Do you stand back and silently stealth kill a few grunts before busting in and taking care of the rest? Or, do you strategically blast them all from afar?
It pays off to know your enemy, and more specifically, know what they’re wielding. This is imperative for success, and a knowledge you’ll find yourselves relying on more often than not. The game makes a habit of introducing new mechanics as you get deeper in. What begins as a simple case of killing your way to a finishing point, soon becomes a much more intricate affair. This ranges the likes of needing to contend with giant insects protruding from the walls, right up to bubbles of energy that slow down time when you pass through.
The game’s puzzle aspects also climb in complexity nearer to the end too, and oftentimes sit inline with those aforementioned mechanics. It’s a very intelligently developed game that has wonderful pace and structure. I can say the same about the game’s boss encounters, all of which bring their own unique challenge, especially that of the final boss. There’s replay value to be found through improving your grade on each level, and by nabbing all of the game’s collectibles. That’s not to mention the game’s rather entertaining arcade mode.
The arcade mode plays out much like the campaign, only here, you’re presented with a collection of smaller levels in which you need only clear out a set number of enemies. The twist, however, is that enemy placement will alter whenever you dive in, further bolstering the game’s replay value. They’re quite tough overall, often presenting you with some very tricky environmental layouts and foes, but they’re never not fun to work through. This is also an ideal place to be if you want to get a feel for the game before you hit the campaign.
In regards to the game’s visual presentation, God’s Trigger gets a massive thumbs up from me. There’s a considerable amount of environmental variation per-chapter, with each and every location stunningly detailed throughout. The game’s details, textures, effects, and lighting remains on point, providing a journey that isn’t just great to play, but interesting to behold. Perhaps the best feature here is the level of gore within, being that every enemy you kill tends to paint floors and walls red, with body parts flying left, right and center.
It adds a satisfaction to the combat that few top-down shooters will likely match in the near future, and it rarely gets old. I’ll extend the same level of appreciation to the game’s audio design. Every weapon, every kill, and every cue between all sound sensationally distinct, further solidifying the game’s already impressive quality. Whilst it would have been nice to see a bit more length to the game’s campaign; weighing in at roughly four hours on a fair run, there’s no denying God’s Trigger of its overall value. In short – put this on your gaming radar, now.
Brutal, deep, and stylish, God’s Trigger is without a doubt one of the most compelling top-down shooters of the gen. The game’s depth and variation, together with its one-hit-death mechanic, collectively ensure that the experience remains constantly fresh and engaging throughout. The only drawback is that it’s too easy to circumvent much of the difficulty, but even then, the fun rarely gives up. If you enjoy the likes of Hotline Miami, you’re going to love this.
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.