Review: Reload (Nintendo Wii)

Reload
Publisher: Mastiff Games
Developer: Mastiff Games
Genre: Shooting Gallery
Release Date: 11/18/2010

Shooting stuff is fun.

It’s a simple fact of life. At least, shooting is fun for that segment of the population that appreciates the Three Stooges, CCR, and MMA. I would imagine shooting is less fun for that segment of the population who pay money to see young actresses keep their clothes on for the duration of a movie, but then again there is no understanding some people.

It must be noted, however, that while shooting things is fun, shooting things in a video game does not automatically make it fun. Bullet hell games can be joylessly difficult, first person shooters are often a chore, and light gun games-

-Well light gun games are almost always fun.

Provided they work, of course.

So does Reload work?

Let’s Review

Reload is a shooting gallery game. It’s called “reload” because the game will yell at you to reload whenever you run out of ammo. There is a separate button to do this thing, but just firing the empty gun will automatically make your character reload.

With Reload, you shoot at 2-dimensional targets: no animals, no people, nothing that bleeds. There are only flat targets that look like people, flat targets that kind of look like people, flat targets that look like targets, and skeet.

As such, any violence in this game is a few steps removed from actual violence. You are playing a video game where you shoot at videogame representatives of flat targets that are made to represent people. Layers of alienation protect the game from being akin to murder.

In a sense this is odd; let’s go on a tangent. Follow me, won’t you?

The makers of the U.S. version of The Office refer to their style of filming as “tofu hotdog”. They are trying to make a show that looks like a documentary, whereas most documentaries are trying to not look like documentaries.

And a tofu hot dog is the only thing that is trying to taste like a hot dog.

Reload is saddling itself with limitations that it need not. A shooting gallery uses wood cut-outs because realistic people shaped sculptures made out of ballistic gel are way more expensive. Real people are, of course, EVEN MORE expensive than those things, unless you use the homeless like in Surviving the Game. Although, then you run the risk of the crafty Ice-T ruining your whole operation.

Reload simulates the simulation, in lieu of skipping the middleman and just simulating what shooting galleries simulate. I’m not really sure why. The game is still carries a T for teen rating, even though there is no implied violence, just implied-implied violence. Even the “evil” cardboard cut-outs on the screen never do any worse than throw a paintball at you.

Or maybe shoot a paintball.

I’m not really sure.

There isn’t an animation for that, paint just splatters on the screen if you take to long to shoot those targets.

Maybe they spit it.

I guess nowadays there are more military games out there than military training games. By adopting the style of the latter, Reload can be a more simplistic game to play (and I am sure to code). There is quite a bit of appeal be able to play a game without twenty minutes of instruction.

Reload offers single player and multiplayer modes. With single player you have the option of playing a “career mode” or playing levels that have already been unlocked with career mode.

With multi-player you have the option of playing levels that have been unlocked via career mode. You can play with multiple remotes at once, or share a single wii-mote with the “hot-seat” option.

Now, if you were paying attention to the last two paragraphs, you might have seen the main problem with the game; everything has to be unlocked via career mode. This wouldn’t be a big problem, if it weren’t for the fact that career mode is completely linear, one level after another. If you want to play some multi-player games with a machine gun, you are going to have to invest a lot of time in career mode first. You’ll have to play through multiple handgun training levels, rifle training levels, skeet shooting levels, hostage rescue levels, and so forth.

Depending on your abilities and preferences, this can be tedious. Unlocking the next level of career mode requires a bronze medal or better. Some levels, I can do this thing on the first try without any difficulty. Very often I thought I did terribly, and ended up getting a silver medal. On the other hand, I often found myself without any medals for things like skeet shooting. I hate skeet shooting, but in order to progress in the game, I had to play skeet shooting for more time than things I actually enjoyed.

Another downside related to this thing is that the stages tend to be too long. One level will often have more than five rounds, and each of those rounds might consist of a number of waves. Playing a lot of these can be tedious, particularly if you are stressing about maintaining a high enough score to make it to the next level.

Many levels require quite a bit of target discrimination. A few of the stages are rail shooters, wherein you have to shoot the cut-outs of “bad guys” and not shoot “hostages” or “civilians”. In other levels like this, you will be stationary while a number of bad guys and hostages will be moving left and right at various speeds, various distances away. These levels are quite unforgiving. Particularly the one that gives you a shotgun, crowds the screen with civilians, tells you not to shoot these civilians and lasts EIGHT ROUNDS!

You’re allowed to hit seven hostages before Reload gives you Game Over. I killed a lot of hostages before I finally passed that level. Several dozen.

In fact, I found myself only firing twice on the last round just to preserve my bronze medal score and not kill any of the hostages.

By the by, the game uses the terms hostage and civilian inter-changeably. I find that kind of hilarious. The main way to tell them from the bad guys is that they wear brighter colors. The bad guys will carry guns or sometimes have dynamite strapped to their chests, but these things can be hard to see if the character is far in the background. As such, the rule of thumb is don’t shoot anything yellow, orange or purple.

Because of the game’s unlocking set up, it becomes more replayable the more you play it. More and more stages are unlocked for single and multi-player. Really, the game becomes more worth playing the more you play it. If you like this sort of a game, this would make it merit a buy instead of a rental. This is particularly true taking into consideration its under $20 price point.

The game also gives out trophies and badges, keeps track of high scores and a total score which can be shared and compared with an online leader board. This can be an interesting little thing; I jumped from 80th online to 40th in 90 minutes. It was exciting.

The internal high-scores are a little frustrating, though. The game keeps track of high scores for every level, but not who got them. There is no spot to put in your initials or anything of that sort. Even with the career mode levels, the high scores aren’t identified. Of course, you don’t enter a name when you start career mode, and there is only one slot for career mode.

Basically, you can have bragging rights with strangers, but not the people in your house.

In terms of visuals, the game is fine. The guns look like their real world counterparts. The cut-outs look like cut-outs; the targets look like targets. The game doesn’t raise the bar very high, and hardly bothers with animation, but what is there is perfectly acceptable.

Aurally, the game doesn’t offer much. The main song sounds like a direct -to-video action movie from 1989. A voice reads the instructions that are already written on the screen, and will tell you to reload. He’ll occasionally say things like “excellent shot” or “better luck next time”, but these things don’t always correspond to the proper occasion. The voice will tell me the former when I shoot three bad guys and a hostage with my shot gun. He’ll tell me the latter in the middle of level where I performed perfectly well.

You can play Reload with a wiimote, the wiimote and nunchuk combo, or with the wii zapper. All of these ways work. Essentially, all you need to do with any of them is point the remote at the screen and hit B. Id est, the controls aren’t very complicated.

The zapper makes life a lot easier though. My hand is a lot steadier with a gun shaped controller. Without it, I found myself trying to grip and steady the Wii-mote with two hands and it just isn’t shaped well for that. The only downside to the zapper is that I find the trigger more sensitive, and find myself more likely to put a load of buckshot into an innocent person’s eye.

All in all, Reload is a worthwhile budget game for the Wii. It doesn’t promise a lot, but delivers on what it does.

Because in the end, shooting stuff is fun.

The Scores
Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Good
Balance: Enjoyable
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Decent
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

Reload is a target shooting game. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel. It won’t blow you away with its audio or graphics, and doesn’t have enough unlocked from the get-go. On the other hand, the game is dirt cheap and the controls are simple yet effective. All in all, it is pick up and play, arcade style fun.

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