sdoots's Hard Corps: Uprising (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

A lesson in bad design.

Most people would agree that bad checkpoints in a Contra style game is unforgivable. It is. What's even worse is when the developers seem to realize they made a big mistake, and take the easy way out. Arc System Works took the easy way out. 
 
 Hard Corps Uprising is Contra. You'll run and jump through levels absolutely swarming with bad guys, fight giant bosses, and use a spread gun. Somewhere among the 3 boss fights in a row during the first level, you'll probably run out of lives. Upon hitting continue at the game over screen, you'll be brought back to the first boss. In case it's been a while since you've played a Contra game, boss fights tend to be pretty challenging, and screwing up simple timing can cost you your life. What this means is, you'll inevitably hit a roadblock of respawning at the start of some ludicrous segment that just keeps beating you down. A smart developer would have taken the time to put some more checkpoints in the game. Arc System Works was apparently having a really bad lapse in judgement and decided it'd be easier to just give you more "credits" to the player the more time you've spent playing. 
 
Let me make sure you understand this. The players who persevere through the bullshit and can probably get past the harder segments of the game flawlessly as a result of their dedication, are given more chances to fail than new players. 
 
To put this in perspective, the first time I hit a game over I was given 5 credits. I've spent 8 hours with the game at this point, and now I have something like 20 credits available when I hit a game over. This isn't just a pool of credits that you're adding more too, either. That pool of credits is refreshed whenever you start playing. I will always have at least 20 credits to burn through, while the new player who probably needs them a lot more than me gets 5. 
 
The redeeming factor here comes in the form of Rising Mode, which suffers from the same bad checkpointing and odd credit system as the base Arcade Mode, but manages to still be fun. It accomplishes this by adding persistent character progression to the mix. The scores you earn during Rising Mode translate into "Corps Points", which can be used to buy upgrades for your character. Whereas the default character starts with 3 lives, 3 health segments, and the standard rifle, my upgraded character spawns with 30 lives, 5 health segments, a maxed out machine gun, and the ability to throw grenades. 
 
 I have a lot of problems with this game. The 2 DLC characters that were released the same day as the game are featured prominently in the games opening and closing cutscenes, so their exclusion from the base product is questionable. The checkpointing is atrocious, and the difficulty curve is a ridiculously steep drop downward the more time you spend with it, but the core gameplay is as fun as Contra ever was, and Rising Mode kept me entertained far longer than the rest of this game had any right to. The bottom line is that it is near offensive that they are asking 15 bucks for this.

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