Hard Corps: Uprising, developed by Arc System Works and produced by Konami, is the latest game in the Contra series. Set in 2613, this side-scrolling shooter tells the story of a group of elite soldiers who fight against the oppressive Commonwealth Empire and seek to overthrow its emperor, Tiberius. The leader of the resistance forces, Bahamut, was a former Commonwealth soldier who defected from the Empire.
With run-and-gun games saturating the PSN and XBLA, how does Uprising distinguish itself from these other titles? Is it worth the $15 price tag, or would your hard-earned money be better spent on something else? Let’s take a look in the HOTs and NOTs of Hard Corps: Uprising.
Hard Corps: Uprising stands out as one of the best-looking games available on the PSN. The anime-inspired visuals look crisp and vivid, with high character detail and well-developed, interactive environments. There are several different color options for each character, although I wish there was a variety of costumes to choose from as well. The enemies are varied, with unique enemies and bosses for each stage. For example, robotic sand worms are found throughout the desert stage, and snipers hide in trees and bushes in the jungle stage. The environments are perhaps the strongest aspect of the graphics. Certain levels, like the desert and highway, feature highly detailed backgrounds and animated enemies that occasionally pop into the foreground. It’s a good thing the environments look so amazing, because most gamers will spend a considerable amount of time playing through them. Despite the insane amount of on-screen action, I never experienced any problems with the frame rate or any other graphical issues.
Multiple Game Modes
There are two different game modes in Uprising: Arcade and Rising. Arcade Mode will be familiar to anyone who has played a Contra game before. Although relatively simple in theory—shoot as many bad guys as you can, and try not to get hit because you’ll die—this mode is ridiculously difficult in reality. There are so many enemies and projectiles on the screen, not to mention the mini-bosses and bosses, that the average gamer is unlikely to advance past the second stage. It certainly isn’t impossible to beat the game in Arcade Mode, especially if you play cooperatively with friends online or locally, but this mode is definitely for hardcore gamers.
Rising Mode introduces several different features that make Uprising more manageable, although most players will still find this mode challenging. Players can earn points throughout levels by killing enemies and finding collectibles, which can then be spent on customizations and upgrades for their characters. Players can buy extra lives, upgrade a character’s speed or health, and power up weapons to make them more effective. Action moves, like the super tackle or dodge, can be purchased to give characters new abilities. Furthermore, each stage can be replayed after it’s been completed, allowing gamers to collect more customization points and buy better upgrades. Customizations that have been unlocked can be turned on or off, depending on the player’s preference. Rising Mode also introduces the health bar, which means your character can take more than one hit before dying.
Hard Corps: Uprising follows the same tried-and-true gameplay formula that makes the Contra series so popular. Players move from left to right through a level, shooting everything in their path, until they beat the boss and move on to the next stage. Power-ups occasionally float across the screen, which increase the firepower of the player’s main weapon. Up to two power-ups can be equipped at a time, and collecting additional power-ups of the same type will increase the intensity of the effect. However, getting hit will result in the loss of your power-up, so be careful!
In terms of gameplay, Uprising does not break new ground for the series. But then again, why would it want to? Contra’s brand of run-and-gun action is so much fun that there’s not much room for improvement. Of course, the game does bring some welcome additions, namely the new character actions, cooperative play, and the new Rising Mode. The ability to upgrade your character encourages replaying levels over and over to earn customization points. If that’s not enough, collectors will enjoy scouring levels for medals, and perfectionists will have their hands full trying to ace every stage. So while the gameplay remains fundamentally the same, there is still enough extra content to please veterans and newcomers alike.
Hard Corps: Uprising is not for everyone. Even with the ability to upgrade your character in Rising Mode, most gamers will struggle with the long levels and unforgiving bosses. The enemies aren’t so difficult individually, but they tend to come in clusters and projectile spam like crazy. The bosses, on the other hand, are very challenging, but they do get a little easier once you learn their attack patterns and develop a strategy. Still, expect to be killed often in boss battles. For most of the stages in Rising Mode, I earned the rank of D on my first play through. Even after replaying the levels several times, my highest grade is a B. I’ve had the game for a few days now, and I haven’t been able to get past the second stage in Arcade Mode, which is reserved for the die-hard Contra fans.
Hard Corps: Uprising is a great addition to the roster of PSN titles and stands far above most of the side-scrolling shooters available on the network. The crisp anime visuals make this game almost as enjoyable to watch as to play. The new Rising Mode, online co-op, and character actions are nice additions to the Contra series. The gameplay hasn’t changed much, but that is because it’s already perfect. The only problem with this game is the difficulty level, which limits its audience to serious gamers and elite Contra fans. If you fall into either of those groups, then Hard Corps: Uprising should definitely be on your list of games to purchase. Casual gamers need not apply.
[Editor’s Note: Hard Corps Uprising was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]