Hands-onContra: Shattered Soldier

We take a shot at a couple of levels from Konami's forthcoming classic-styled shooter. New media and details inside.

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Fans of classic gaming were overjoyed when Konami announced earlier this year that it was bringing the Contra series to the PlayStation 2. The original Contra was a definitive sci-fi-themed arcade side scroller, giving one or two players tons of enemy targets to shoot at and a variety of powerful weapons to use. The game spawned a number of sequels, all of which focused on nonstop action, two-player simultaneous gameplay, and lots of variety from level to level. The spirit of Contra will soon return in Contra: Shattered Soldier for the PlayStation 2, scheduled for release this November. Anyone who's played classic Contra games will be immediately familiar with the gameplay in this new installment. We recently got our hands on a two-level build of the game that was looking pretty far along, and while 2873342we saw the game some weeks ago at E3 , we're here with further details--and plenty of new media.

Contra: Shattered Soldier again lets one or two players join forces in a series of action-packed levels filled with tons of enemies. You can easily run and jump around and switch between three weapons--a machine gun, a grenade launcher, and a flamethrower--at any time. These weapons also each have a power-up attack that you can pull off. Without the cacophony of E3, we were able to get a better sense of the game's audio, particularly the hard-hitting, fast-tempo soundtrack, which consists of equal parts heavy metal guitars and electronic beats. It seems to be a fitting soundtrack to what's by all means looking like an intense game.

At E3, we witnessed a level where the heroes were snowmobiling away from a gigantic wormlike creature. One of the new levels we've seen here puts the heroes on a couple of high-tech motorcycles, firing on an enemy train off to the side. The train defends itself by sending out powerful, transforming robots and by firing some nasty-looking cannons. Fortunately, the heroes can jump to avoid taking damage and can fire in any of eight directions. As in the classic Contra games, all it takes is one shot to take you out--there are no life meters.

Though Contra: Shattered Soldier plays like a 2D game, the action will often switch to noninteractive cutscenes as the camera perspective moves to another angle. Though the train level begins with the heroes driving toward the screen, it eventually switches to a more traditional side-scrolling scenario.

The boss battles in Shattered Soldier are looking pretty impressive, and if these levels are any indication, then the game will be full of surprises. At one point, the heroes happen on a giant, menacing, transforming robot...that suddenly gets crushed by an even bigger, more menacing turtlelike creature. After blowing off the turtle's head, suddenly the thing turns around to reveal another hideous face on what should be its backside. This creature then attacks in a rather unorthodox manner. Multistaged boss battles have been the hallmark of many of Konami's greatest games, so it's good to see them here. In another boss battle against a powerful robot foe, you'll witness the robot change to various forms and attack in a wide variety of fashions.

Contra: Shattered Soldier features a consistently silky-smooth frame rate and fully 3D graphics. It controls precisely and requires fast reflexes, like any self-respecting shooter. The one aspect of the gameplay that's been somewhat of a concern to us is that you always have access to the same three weapons and never pick up any power-ups. We miss the glory days of jumping out on a ledge in Contra, just to get the spread shot at that key moment when it would be most useful. Having all the weapons all the time makes Shattered Soldier a more tactical game, but you lose some of the incentive to do anything but just keep firing. Also, we still haven't confirmed how long the game will be. The levels we've seen are packed with interesting events but are also quite short. Stay tuned for more info on Contra: Shattered Soldier, and for now, check out this new media showing off the game in action.

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