The notion of an honest politician is one that is generally met with a great deal of suspicion here in the UK. As our current blue-tied overlords slowly try to dismantle the welfare state and tell us “we’re in it together” while quaffing champagne in banquets halls and punishing the poor for having the gaul to not be born with a silver spoon stuck in their mouths. It’s clear that what the UK and its people are crying out for is the kind of straight talking, honest politics that actually look out for the people and not the financial interests of a few multimillionaires and their hedge fund buddies.
Roll7’s Not a Hero, originally released for PC in May of last year and recently out for PS4, presents us with an actual alternative to the usual Eton-educated, career politicians that only look after their own interests. The game asks us to put our faith in the Bunny Lord, a lunatic in a purple bunny mask (that may or may not actually be Jeremy Corbyn after the current media and political circus has driven him overboard. The game’s crackpot narrative is even more fun if you take it as fact).
Standing on a platform of eradicating crime, Bunny Lord and his supporters are not taking any chances. Rather than giving more money to community groups or the police, Bunny Lord and his supporters are taking the issue and the law into their own hands by reducing criminal activity at its source: by killing every last criminal they can lay their hands on; blowing up drug labs; massacring mobsters; and giving all their lamps and dogs to orphans…all in the name of winning hearts, minds, and eventually, votes.
On the surface at least, Not a Hero is a simple 2.5D shooter with faux 8-bit sprites in a similar fashion to Roll7’s previous title OlliiOlli, but there’s a surprising amount of depth to the running and gunning, and it owes just as much to modern shooters such as Max Payne or Gears as it does to Contra, mainly due to the fact that this is a cover based affair. You hit X to slide into cover or, if you’re using the right character, tackle enemies, while pushing R2 to briefly leave cover and shoot. If you get close, you can pull of critical hits which spray additional viscera all over the place as your foes fall to their knees, or knock them over with a slide before executing the buggers. Each encounter is fast, brutal and thoroughly entertaining. It’s a deliciously dark but thoroughly hilarious political satire, oddly reminiscent of something Chris Morris might have penned, with shades of Brass Eye, Four Lions, and a little Lock, Stock tossed in for good measure.
Also, like their insanely-addictive skateboarding sim, Not a Hero has a certain rhythm to its action and gameplay that you need to get into in order to get the most out of it. Though not on rails this time, the game’s cover based gunplay requires you to figure out the beats of the game’s legions of Russian mobsters, drug peddling Yardies, and all other manner of undesirables, to get that perfect run required to complete each mission’s three challenges, which improves Bunny Lord’s approval rating and, in turn, unlocks new characters.
Each “campaigner” has their own pros and cons, from angry cockney Steve who can knock down with every slide, to Valley Girl Samantha who can run and shoot at the same time, to the hip thrusting Jesus, who can slide and shoot but has absolutely no accuracy in his shots. Finding a character that suits your particular playstyle is half the battle, while being able to adapt to the myriad types of foes that the game throws at you is the other. Some will rebuff slides while others will soak up bullets; many hang back while others will simply charge headlong into the fray guns blazing. Experimenting with each character and finding what works is the key to survival and, moreover, the key to cracking the game’s trickier challenges. Like OlliOlli before it, the fast and addicting nature of the gameplay means that every setback will just push you on towards just one more try.
The game’s presentation also deserves praise, though the game’s neon colour palette is almost migraine-inducing at times. It all serves to heighten the ridiculous nature of the action. Likewise the whoops and hollers of the game’s cast, though stereotypical, is just the right side of silly. With Steve crying ‘you wot mate’ while Samantha bemoans that “WALES IS A REAL PLACE” (It’s true I’ve been there. There are hills and sheep…and not a lot else) while Bunny Lord Conducts each mission brief in an indecipherable mumble, fitting of any insane politician or crazed general, for that matter.
Though Not a Hero is a great fit for the PS4, running flawlessly on the system with the bugs present in the initial PC release last year long gone, I am a little saddened the Vita version’s been axed. The game’s bite-size bouts of gratuitous violence and retro aesthetics would have made it another fine indie addition to the handheld, especially if cross save/cross buy functions had been included.
Despite this, Not a Hero is an incredibly solid shooter regardless of platform. A marvelously-constructed satire replete with meticulously-crafted levels, a dark and chucklesome sense of humor, and the kind of raucous, addicting gameplay that will have you shooting up the mean streets ’til Election Day.
Publisher: Devolver Digital | Developer: Roll7 | Genre: Action Adventure | Platform: PC/ PS4 (reviewed)| ESRB/PEGI: Mature/18+ | Release Date: 14 May, 2015 (PC) / February 2, 2016 (PS4)
Review copy of Not a Hero was provided by the publisher and played on PS4