Friday, August 12, 2016

Action News Heroes Review (XONE)

Action News Heroes is an action game with twin-stick shooter controls along the same lines as Smash TV, Renegade Ops, and Halo: Spartan Assault.  Unlike those games that distinguish themselves by being over the top crazy, have gorgeous graphics, or are freaking Halo, respectively, Action News Heroes is disappointingly run of the mill.  Its most original feature, a newscast-style presentation where you have to kill and cause destruction to hold viewers’ attention, just isn’t all that interesting in practice.  Action News Heroes is just one of the most “eh, it’s okay” games we’ve seen in a while.  See our review for more.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Krewe Studios
  • Developer: Krewe Studios
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: Twin-stick shooter
  • Pros: Co-op rocks; solid shooting gameplay
  • Cons: TV rating concept is dumb; unspectacular in most respects
  • MSRP: $10
The story in Action News Heroes is about a TV network that uses brainwave stimulation media technology to essentially control the world by keeping the people stupid (think “Idiocracy”).  A new teleportation technology under development by this “Network X” has been stolen, so what better way to steal it back and keep the drooling masses placated than by hiring a band of mercenaries and broadcasting their murder and destruction spree live on TV!

Except you wouldn’t really know any of that from just playing the game.  The story is told through weird and mostly awful little comic strip panels between missions but it is pretty much incomprehensible.  All you really need to know is that there are 8 levels to play through because of “reasons”, so go do it.  It is a shame so much effort was put into the TV news theme the game uses because it is mostly pointless fluff.

The one way the game actually does use the TV news theme in the gameplay, however, is also one of the weakest aspects of the overall experience.  As mentioned above, your attacks on enemy compounds are being broadcast on live television and in order to keep viewers happy you have to string kills and destruction together.  Happy viewers means a full “Ratings” bar on top of the screen.  Unhappy viewers and a “0” rating, on the other hand, means game over.  The problem with this is that the rating system is the most arbitrary and random thing ever and adds literally nothing to the experience.  The whole point of these games is to kill stuff and blow stuff up!  You don’t need to provide us extra motivation!  And, in fact, the rating system actually hampers the enjoyment of the game because it can end in a game over if you don’t satisfy your extremely fickle viewers.

With all that said, however, the actual core twin-stick shooter gameplay is decent enough.  You move with the left stick, aim with the right stick, and shoot with the right trigger.  You also have a secondary weapon, grenades, and a screen clearing super attack.  The basic movement and shooting is just fine and pretty fun, though the game doesn’t really do anything particularly special.  It is a thoroughly by the numbers twin-stick experience.  Not bad.  Not great.  Just okay.  It can also be pretty difficult, too.  Enemies swarm in from offscreen and it can be hard to avoid getting hit (which lowers your ratings …).  

To make the difficulty a little easier to handle, and the game lot more fun overall, local co-op is also available and that is absolutely our recommended way to play.  Co-op always makes games more fun and Action News Heroes is no exception.

The presentation in Action News Heroes is similarly just okay.  The menus are very simply designed and, maybe, sort of vaguely oldschool “action news-y” looking.  In-game visuals are muddy and unimpressive, but I do like that the bullets – both your and enemy shots – are brightly colored so they’re easy to see.  Likewise with the bright glowing items enemies drop.  I’m not much of a fan of the “Breaking News” anchorman popping up in the corner of the screen now and then, nor the news ticker on the bottom of the screen.  You’re usually too busy to actually pay attention to any of it. 

Overall, Action News Heroes is decent but uninspiring and the whole action news theme actually holds it back rather than making it more interesting.  Ignoring the nonsensical story is easy enough, though, and the core gameplay, particularly with a co-op partner, can be fun for an afternoon.  It isn’t spectacular, but if you want to play co-op Action News Heroes isn’t a bad way to spend $10 on Xbox One.  
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.