Ah, here we are again. It’s a world gone mad, where people of the near future get their kicks by watching other people kill each other on live TV. Is it The Running Man? Is it Smash TV? No, it’s Action News Heroes! Maybe with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura on board, this wouldn’t be the throwaway crapfest it is. Hey, at least it would have been funny.
Action News Heroes is a by-the-numbers top down shooter. You and a local buddy team up across twelve levels of tried-and-tested, cliched shooter environments, killing soldiers and blowing up structures with rifles, grenades and rocket launchers. Occasionally you’ll have a secondary objective – rescue some hostages, destroy a satellite dish, you know the drill – but mostly, you’ll be running across an open environment with little direction, killing stuff until you find an exit. Gameplay is exactly like Commandos or Ikari Warriors was twenty-five years ago except without the fun factor, and the visuals wouldn’t look out of place on the original Xbox.
There’s some stupid plot in place surrouding the taking down of a moronic despot (probably – I really didn’t care to pay attention) and the developer has even tied your ability to respawn to some cloning sub-plot, but I couldn’t care less about that either. And neither should you, because games like this are about the hook, the five seconds of fun that gets repeated with each encounter. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t care about that either, because instead of five seconds of fun we get several hours of frustrating mediocrity.
You see, instead of creating an arresting game, what the developers have done is run with an idea that’s all style over substance. That idea, and it’s far from original, is that the whole thing is being broadcast live around the world for our viewing pleasure. Instead of a gameshow or gambling facility, this time it’s the news team who are broadcasting the antics of our Action Heroes. Like any good corporation, all they care about is the bottom line, so your measure of in-game success comes from the Ratings Meter. This is displayed across the top of the screen at all times, and as long as you keep moving, fragging and killing, the ratings will stay high and you’ll get a decent amount of cash at the end of the level. Drop them low enough, or die of course, and you’ll fail and have to start the whole stage again.
The cash you accumulate can be used to buy new weapons and gear, hopefully keeping you alive a little longer next time, but again it’s all so very generic: Machine guns, explosives, shotguns… It’s just a basic and mediocre experience. The levels are formulaic too: A Jungle, a Mine, an Army Base, etc. Even the presentation – A ticker tape running along the bottom of the screen, showing headlines and statistics – fails to amuse, because you have to pay attention and move quickly to get the best ratings. You don’t have time to stop and read witty comments. Occasionally the news anchor will pop up as a talking head, but again, you can’t take notice because of the nature of the games scoring mechanic. Keep moving, keep killing, until you die. Probably of boredom.
So there you have it, short and sour: Action News Heroes isn’t worth your time. If you’re itching for the top down shooter experience, go and play Neon Chrome instead. It’s excellent.
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