I hate the name of this video game. I mean, c’mon, ‘Guns, Gore & Cannoli’, it sounds so, well, budget. When I saw it on our review list, I immediately skipped past it on the assumption that it was some second rate ID@Xbox title…..I’d leave it to somebody else. Yeah, some other poor schmoe would have to deal with this one (shit, I had just reviewed, Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume One – I deserved better). Problem is, nobody else wanted it (I suspect it was the name), so lo and behold, despite my best efforts, it fell to me to grind my way through what I expected to be some ill-conceived culinary-based gangster game.
Well, it is, as expected a video game about gangsters, and yes, there is food, but man, how wrong was I about everything else. Far from the hot trash I was expecting, Guns, Gore & Cannoli (despite the horrible name) turned out to be one of my favourite download only titles of year and a worthy successor to the 90s run and gun shooters of my youth.
Playing much like a gangster-inspired, 20s set version of SNK’s fantastic, Metal Slug series, the Claeys Brothers’, Guns, Gore & Cannoli takes the hyper violence, gun obsession and challenging fast paced action of Metal Slug and gives it a next-gen coat of paint, a new aesthetic and heck, even some story for good measure.
It arguably lacks the purity and pitch perfect gameplay of SNK’s classic shoot ‘em up, but despite falling slightly short of inspiration, Guns, Gore & Cannoli represents one of the finest modern day shooters currently available. The visuals are gorgeous, the simplistic but challenging gameplay is hugely entertaining and the story, ok, the story is mince, but it manages to combine zombies with prohibition era gangsters to great effect, and in a game of this ilk, aesthetic always comes before common sense and the combination of zombies and gangsters is unquestionably a great one. Much in the same way that SNK combined aliens with the military just for the shit of it, so to have the Claeys Brothers happily side-stepped common sense in the pursuit of a memorable aesthetic.
And isn’t that aesthetic just wonderful. The character design, the locations, the cartoony but very real violence, it all looks amazing. Whether it be a well-placed headshot or a satisfying explosion, few games make violence look this good. Yes, despite an array of occasionally entertaining movie references, the dialogue is mostly risible (and far too repetitive) and the story is largely pointless, but the setting is great and the character design really shines with an array of gangsters, WWI era soldiers and a whole bunch of zombies all offering unique and largely impressive designs. Like the dialogue, the enemies are repeated a tad too often, but I’d take quality over quantity any day of the week and the enemies here are almost universally brilliant.
The lead too, while slightly annoying at times, is home to an array of different outfits that, while hardly befitting of the era, again emphasise the games’ commitment to fun above all else. Be it the Terminator, a Stormtrooper or Rambo, the different outfits look great and certainly make the co-op local multiplayer all the more entertaining. Online co-op would have been nice, but if you’ve got the friends and controllers required, Guns, Gore & Cannoli delivers a genuinely entertaining couch co-op experience. It might get a tad manic with four players on screen, but for the most part, the extra players just add to the manic nature of the game.
There is a competitive multiplayer option that mirrors the games’ few boss battles, but despite delivering a relatively simplistic take on the Smash Bros. template i.e. there is a fixed screen and multiple platforms, this mode provides little more than a brief diversion from the core experience.
That’s fine though as the core experience is fantastically fun throughout. It’s not the longest game in the world, but thanks largely to the co-op options, it is the kind that you’ll likely return to time and again. Saying that, it’s not like you’re going to breeze through this game first time around – even on the normal difficulty setting, Guns, Gore & Cannoli offers plenty of challenge with attacks and enemies seemingly coming from every angle. The core mechanics are simple enough (shoot left and right, throw grenade), but as with the best games of this ilk, it’s all about timing and crowd management.
There are an array of guns to unlock, and while all useful in their own way, the majority have clear enough strengths and weaknesses to make them the gun of choice for very specific situations. Also, the reload mechanic (which can be actioned manually), actually plays a very big role as, while you might feel in control of any given situation, one poorly timed reload can see you overrun by a zombie horde or a particularly nasty group of gangsters. Simply put; while it remains fundamentally simplistic, Guns, Gore & Cannoli is home to a surprising amount of tactical depth. Be it picking the right gun for the job at hand, timing your attacks or carefully managing your vast collection of weaponry, this incredibly entertaining shooter is more than the sum of its simplistic but effective core mechanics.
The competitive multiplayer won’t keep you busy for long and the lack of online co-op is certainly a disappointment, but despite these relatively minor issues, the Claeys Brothers’ throwback run and gun shooter, Guns, Gore & Cannoli is a fantastic update of the Metal Slug template and brilliant shooter in its own right. The 2D cartoon style visuals are gorgeous, the gameplay slick and addictive and the tone (despite some dodgy dialogue), is pitch perfect throughout. Zombies fighting gangsters in prohibition era America might not make much sense, but when you’re having this much fun, sense doesn’t really matter,
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