Militant is a run and gun side-scrolling shooter with platforming elements and comes from Xibalba Studios. The game feels familiar and as I recently reviewed the Metal Slug Anthology, I couldn’t help but make some comparisons. You play as a lone ant soldier that must protect his colony and home from attacking forces. The game clearly takes inspiration from side-scrolling shooters like Contra, but unfortunately this game doesn’t quite feel as smooth of an experience and it really gets too hard, to the point that it feels unfair.
The game is set during a war between the ants and the termites. The termites have teamed up with wasps, spiders and beetles to bring down the ants and its your job to stop this from happening. If you’ve ever seen or heard of the films A Bugs Life or Antz it has a similar style and premise. It is the duty of the Ants to guard their most precious resource, a substance called Crystalite. Crystalite is a rare element that provides power for the ants and as you can imagine the other insects want it for their own uses.
You move from left to right, you can jump onto ledges and shoot your way through hordes of enemy insects. The game is actually 3D to an extent, with enemies shooting from the background and boss battles taking place in different perspectives. The 3D elements are what makes this game unique and gives it any appeal, that being said the idea is simple, you run from start to finish, shooting everything whilst reaching checkpoints. This sounds simple enough but in fact the game is incredibly frustrating as when you’re shot you stagger, which happens continuously, meaning the gameplay feels clunky and awkward. I would have to simple stutter through stages and to be honest it’s almost easier to not shoot and just run as fast as possible. You fire your weapons with the two back triggers and you can switch weapons with triangle once one set overheats. As I said before the stages have a 3D feel with enemies in the background, so you can actually lock onto targets by flicking the right analog stick. You also aim using the right analog stick and run with the left. Unfortunately, the aiming doesn’t really work despite it being an interesting idea, as it does give depth to the battles and environments.
Each stage has different sets of insects to take on, along with boss battles which are much larger enemies. These boss battles are the most interesting aspects when it comes to combat as they offer slightly different challenges, like shooting off legs to reveal weak points. The stage is scored on how fast you complete it, how many deaths occurred and enemies killed. This grants you credit to buy new weapons, such as rocket launchers and machine guns. The story is on the thin side so the gameplay needed to feel much more important to make the game worthwhile, but it does lack the smooth and satisfying gameplay when compared to great side-scrolling shooters like metal Slug.
The weapons are varied but are very much what you would expect. You get things like flamethrowers, sentry guns, rocket launchers and a few others, but it would have been nice to have seen more playful takes on types of weapons, rather than just playing it safe. You can also perform melee attacks, which for some reason are more powerful than weapons. Every weapon has a cool-down timer, which does make you think about how much to shoot and when.
The game seemed like it was going to be great at first but I slowly started to notice some frustrating issues that impacted my overall enjoyment. Firstly, the targeting is awkward and unpredictable, enemies continually spawn right in front of you, meaning every time you attempt to run you’re stopped in your path. Enemies can shoot through objects like walls and ledges and for some reason you can’t. Also the platforming elements feel uninspired and the camera often obscures your view, panning in and out awkwardly and at the wrong time. This feels like a real shame considering the environments are well designed and have some unique styles. The framerate also tended to stutter, making the already tedious platforming even more tricky.
Even though the game does have some issues, I did actually like the idea behind the game and the 3D shooting was a nice idea, which could have been much better with smoother aiming and controls. The presentation is decent, with vibrant environments that are reminiscent of the film A Bug’s Life. The sound design is also good, with playful music and decent sound effects. I would have like to have seen more story elements and some sort of narrative running through the game to keep me more engaged.
Overall Militant is a game with some interesting gameplay ideas and unique takes on the classic side-scrolling shooter but unfortunately it doesn’t feel as intuitive as other classic games of this kind. The game does have some replayability with the challenges and scored levels but the irritating gameplay might stop you from doing so. The game is repetitive, which doesn’t always make a game bad because if you look at the Metal Slug series it is pretty much the same thing every time. What makes a game worthwhile playing is if it’s actually fun and if so the other aspects like the story can take a backseat, but the issues here did regrettably impact my overall enjoyment to an extent. The game is still worth checking out if you’re a fan of side-scrolling shooters, just don’t expect anything top-notch.
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