E3 2014: The Brilliant Chaos of Not a Hero

Roll7's 2D cover-based shooter is ridiculous, over-the-top fun.

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Roll7, developer of Olli Olli, has something brilliant in the works, and it's called Not a Hero. It's a 2D, pixel-art, cover-based shooter, and it's utterly ridiculous.

Although there are several environments in the game, the levels I saw all began in buildings. In Not a Hero, it is your job to clear out the enemies hiding behind every door. You might also have to collect a bunch of shoes, or you could be tasked with saving a bunch of illegally held puppies.

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But that's only where the humor starts. The gameplay and story take it even further. I got to play Not a Hero today, and what I saw was hilarious, chaotic, and downright fun.

The "cover system" in Not a Hero is composed of simply moving into the background at some strategic locations to hide from enemies. You can then pop out of cover to shoot bad guys when they are exposed, or slide like an action hero to another location. When I played it, gameplay quickly became a series of long slides punctuated by jumps into cover. Although it is possible to walk normally, I saw no reason to do so when I could slide swiftly between places of cover instead.

When I engaged in combat, chaos ensued. Bullets were flying everywhere, enemies were charging me, and I struggled to time my shots correctly so that I jumped out of cover right when the enemies stopped firing. The game is meant to be difficult, and it showed: the villains ruthlessly pursued me as soon as I paused to reload, jumping on the opportunity to sprint over, rip me out of cover, and beat me to death.

After one particularly heated battle, one of the developers directed me to an item on the ground. He told me to pick it up because it would come in handy soon. Sure enough, when I climbed the stairs in the building to the next floor, I found myself in a hallway between two doors, with about eight enemies contained within two rooms. The developer told me to deploy the item I had just picked up into one of the rooms. When the enemies stepped on it, a massive fireball engulfed the room. The item was a proximity mine.

That was my first encounter with items in Not a Hero. Most of the items I saw were bombs in different forms, and they caused explosions that wrought carnage throughout entire rooms. These were not localized explosions by any means; they were chaotic, uncontrollable, and undiscriminating. I died at the hands of my own explosive devices several times when I did not get out of the rooms before they detonated. But when it worked, I watched in awe as an area was consumed by flame.

At one point, when I stood in the rubble of a completed room, I found an item drop that changed things up even more. The next time I entered the fray, my bullets started flying around and bouncing off walls, stopping only when they hit an enemy. I had picked up ricochet bullets, which made each battle even more wild because all I had to do was shoot in a random direction and wait. Over the course of the demo, I also found explosive and incendiary rounds, which caused expectedly huge amounts of destruction.

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When I completed the level, a cutscene played, showing off a little of Not a Hero's story. According to the developer, this cutscene was brand new and a little rough. Even so, it contained some of the funniest text I've ever seen in a video game. Instead of attempting to create any semblance of cohesive narrative, the creator seems to have embraced the idea of making the cutscenes pretty much incomprehensible. The one I saw was composed of randomly selected words and phrases that the game pulls from a huge database of names, interjections, and colloquialisms. As a result, every cutscene is different, and the insults leveled at my character in the cutscene I saw ranged from the mundane to the absurd. It's a novel idea, and it's hilarious, and I can't wait to see how the other cutscenes play out.

Not a Hero follows in the punishing and chaotic footsteps of Hotline Miami and meshes beautiful destruction with an art style similar to Gunpoint's. Roll7's take on the 2D cover-based shooter is pure fun--something that I can imagine playing again and again just to see the fireballs rolling through the rooms, or to see my character flinging himself along the ground like he's in an action movie. It's only an advantage that there's strategy behind the chaos. Although its staying power is uncertain, underneath the absurdity of Not a Hero is a legitimately interesting game full of potential. I eagerly await Not a Hero's arrival in late 2014 for the PC and early 2015 for the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4.

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