Heavy Fire: Special Operations 3D is an entry in a series of arcade style rail shooters placed in a modern warfare setting. It’s a portable 3D update of Heavy Fire: Special Operations previously available for download on the Nintendo Wii. Set in the middle east, the object of Special Operations is an extremely simple one, kill or be killed. You begin your first mission as a First Class Private, riding into a dusty hostile town in the back of a truck and armed with a powerful mounted machine gun. However your rampage is cut short when your vehicle crashes leaving you stuck in the middle of a warzone with only a small pistol to fend off the enemy with.
The game consists of six missions which all look pretty similar for the most part but gradually increase in difficulty. The aim of each mission is simply to survive until your character reaches the end of a stage. You have no control over the character’s movement so all you need to concentrate on is the combat.
Soldiers will pop up all over the show (from behind cover, through doors and windows, from room tops, etc) which will test your reflexes and your aim. If you react quickly and precisely enough the enemies will drop without resistance, however leaving anyone on the screen for too long will result in them eventually getting the drop on you. This can be tricky as you can only be hit four times per mission. Get hit a fifth time and you have to restart from the beginning of the stage. There are no check points or health packs which may not seem like a big deal in the earlier stages, but as the stages become more enduring and the enemies get faster on the trigger most players may struggle towards the end.
The combat is surprisingly comfortable to control. The gameplay takes place on the top screen and you move a cursor by dragging your stylus around the touch pad. For some reason I didn’t believe that a 3DS touchpad would be sensitive or responsive enough to deal with a sharp arcade shooter, but it actually felt as comfortable and accurate as playing a shooter on a PC with a mouse. You fire the guns using either of the trigger buttons so if you’re left or right-handed you can still comfortably hold your stylus in one hand and shoot with the other. You can reload your gun with either the circle pad or a face button. Since reloading takes a little time to do you will be left vulnerable to attack, so strategically timing when you reload is key to success.
There are two gameplay modes. The first is the main campaign where you have to beat the six missions in sequence. You can break from this mode at any point to access the alternative mode which is simply replaying missions that you have previously completed. This may seem like a pointless exercise however beating a mission will always earn you a sum of money which can be used to buy more powerful guns, upgrades such as larger ammo clips and faster reload times, and you can also repair existing weapons as they do wear down over time. The harder the mission, the more you will earn.
As I played through the campaign I often paused to grind some of the previous missions in order purchase whatever the next more powerful weapon was. As the guns got more expensive I had to weigh up whether it was worth grinding for money to buy new ones or if I would be better off using what money I had to refurbish and improve the ones I already had, so there was a small element of strategy thrown into the mix.
Purchasing weapons aside Heavy Fire is not a very progressive game. The deal is the same on every stage and it lacks any sort of variety in gameplay. There are no alternative paths, no decisions that have to be made during stages, no collectables, no bosses, no hostages, no power ups etc. It is very repetitive, however what it lacks in progression it does make up for in simple, aggressive, shooting action. Heavy Fire took me back to when I used to play games like Virtual Cop or House of the Dead. OK, it does lack a lot of the charm and polish that those titles had, but it did capture the spirit of them and in the short time it took me to play through it I was having fun.
The graphics in this game are a little stale for a modern shooter. The landscapes and characters featured here resemble the type of 3D graphics you’d have seen in the Playstation / Sega Saturn era, which for a portable download title isn’t too bad I suppose. They’re not great, but they competently do the job.
The sound in this game was a bit of a disappointment. When you load up the game there is a lovely dramatic piece of music playing over the title screen which really got me in the mood for a bit of war-time action, unfortunately it all went downhill from there. Once the game begins there is no music whatsoever. This may have been a design choice but the game feels a bit baron without any accompanying music to help build some tension and suspense. Instead the only sounds you hear are bullets being fired, the occasional passing vehicle and a selection of very repetitive voice samples. You constantly hear the same calls and orders from other soldiers and the enemies’ taunts and screams also continuously repeat.
Heavy Fire: Special Operations 3D is short and if you’re skilled enough it’s possible to beat within an hour, however it took me a couple of hours to reach the end since I did struggle on a couple of levels and found myself either having to keep on restarting them or I had to spend time grinding the easier levels to get faster weapons.
The final stage was a bit of a nightmare. Not only does it outstay its welcome quite a bit but the enemies towards the end of the stage were merciless and fired at you the second they burst onto the screen. If you take one hit in the first half of the stage you’re better off quitting and starting it again as you’re going to need all the health you can save for the later segment.
Heavy Fire: Special Operations 3D may not be anything innovative or original, in fact it’s pretty shallow in content, but despite this I can’t deny that I did enjoy myself while playing it. It was a lot of fun just having a mindless blast and it’s relatively cheap. So if you fancy something quick that isn’t complicated to get into then I reckon this is worth a try.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - /10
Graphics - /10
Sound - /10
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