Neo Contra Hands-On

Contra returns to the PlayStation 2 this October with a wide array of new perspectives.

Don't call it a comeback. Contra's been here for years. 17 years, in fact, have passed since the series' original introduction. While there have been a few weak links in the chain, the Contra series is known for its fast-action shooting and scrolling--with some occasional multiperspective action included for kicks. The latest game in the series, Neo Contra, is set up to deliver quick-paced gunplay from several different perspectives, thus giving you an ever-changing view of the action.

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Fans of the earlier Contra games might not recognize Neo Contra. The game opens by giving you a choice of four different levels, though the game will have more than just the four levels to choose from. The one level that Konami has been showing off in its entirety mainly positions its camera above the action, giving you a top-down or slightly three-quarters view of the action. You can run around and shoot in any direction, though instead of going with a more flexible "one stick runs, one stick shoots" dual-stick setup, the game instead requires you to use the X button to fire, while one of the shoulder buttons can be used to lock your direction of fire and other can be used to plant your feet in place and let you rotate around without moving. In addition to this level of fire control, you can also execute an evasive roll, as well as put up a very brief shield to dodge bullets.

Neo Contra lets you choose your weapons right at the beginning of the game instead of relying on power-ups to bring you extra firepower. The game originally gives you three different weapon sets to choose from, though, along with new characters and an alternate ending, more weapons--including a samurai sword--are unlocked as you play. You'll have two standard weapons to work with in each set, giving you access to flamethrowers, machine guns, a shotgun, and so on. Each set also has an aerial weapon that is used to take out flying enemies with a lock-on charge attack that functions similarly to the one found in the Panzer Dragoon series.

From what's been shown so far, Neo Contra seems like it will put an emphasis on dodging enemy fire. With two defensive tactics at your disposal, and instances where the screen fills with bullets and other deadly-to-the-touch obstacles, the game's focus on bullet-dodging makes it feel more like a scrolling space shooter at some points.

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Between one-hit deaths and a lot of enemies unloading in your direction, Neo Contra is designed to be difficult. However, the game will have a tutorial mode to show players the ropes. Additionally, it will have an easy mode that rebalances gameplay, but playing on easy won't let you see the entire game.

Big boss fights and lots of enemies in between them... These are the things that Neo Contra aims to deliver. From the brief look we've had, the game seems poised to deliver all that and more when it's released on the PlayStation 2 this October. We'll have more on Neo Contra as its release date approaches.

Written By

Jeff Gerstmann has been professionally covering the video game industry since 1994.

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