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Reload

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Mastiff
Developer: Jack of All Games
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ Shooter/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

Shooting games understandably have a rough time, when so many of them are confined to bloody kill-fest genres. We happen to appreciate a good bloody kill-fest when we find one, but there are other more responsible parents out there that feel differently. A challenging but "clean" shooting game, meaning one that doesn't have a "M" rating but isn't Duck Hunt, was a decent idea. Mastiff and Jack of All Trades deliver the goods with Reload, a game that makes it safe for those under age 17 to pick up the Wii Zapper and start blasting. Because you weren't letting them play those Mature-rated games, of course... The challenge is that Reload quickly becomes a game that aims (sorry, that pun was unavoidable) for something noble, but only delivers an average visual experience. The settings you shoot in are pretty bland, limited to inside and outside ranges that just don't show off much sophistication from the Wii. This console is capable of delivering more, as we've seen in other shooting games like the recent Goldeneye: 007. The weapons sound realistic and do realistic damage to targets, albeit paper cutouts typical of a shooting range. Hearing the report of a rifle and feeling the buzz from the controller help improve realism, but the graphics just won't lure players from readily available gallery shooters like last year's awesome Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and Dead Space: Extraction. The difference may be in the level of intensity those games displayed, combined with some mature content that parents would have steered younger kids away from. Reload looks and sounds approximately like the real thing, real enough at least for the living room.

Gameplay:

At least in the world of Reload, kids are only subjected to the physical violence of a shooting range, and the relatively bland paper targets that pop up for target practice. Several distinct challenges make up the Career mode. You'll run through drills with simple paper targets to learn the basics of your weapon and techniques like the double-tap, which uses two quick pulls of the trigger for knock-downs. Scenarios move into outdoor ranges, or through twisty passages inside where you'll be rushed through a series of rooms, shooting on rails while targets pop up in front of you. These segments and some of the ranges where you shoot from a standing position incorporate good/bad targets with images of people. We would have liked a version of Reload that allowed players to disable these targets or scenarios, because shooting at people takes the gun-realism up a notch. Without the people-targets, Reload could address an even more family-friendly rating than it currently has, much like some action games have settings to disable blood effects. Parents will have to make their own decisions, of course. Up to four players can take turns competing for the best score, or can play in real time through competitive modes. As an individual, any unlocked Career modes can be played through again for special pickups and ranking in the online leaderboards. Reload does as good a job as any Wii game we've played in rewarding players for achievement, reinforcing the idea that this is a game about shooting prowess rather than blowing people/monsters/aliens to smithereens. The collection of weapons you'll sample is also a nice reward for players, including some heavy artillery and sniping equipment.

Difficulty:

The pacing in Reload needs a bit of fine tuning, as the early levels tend to drag for players more experienced in traditional Shooter games. Even for experienced players, there are elements to the game that become challenging quickly. Doing well earns you the so-called Wiley X item, which shows hidden targets in each level. These pop up quickly from unexpected places and will give you higher point scores when you nail them. Later levels introduce targets with offensive capability, firing paintballs or paint "bombs" at you. This ups the challenge greatly, making Reload palatable for veteran shooters. Perfect execution isn't required to move through Career, in any event. You can score a decent percentage to move forward, and this generally means hitting most of the targets that appear. Targets that pop up in the distance can be a real bear to hit, especially with no scope to zoom in or auto-aiming. Reload makes you appreciate the helper features packed into most mainstream shooting/action games now. Features you won't find here are the auto-center, auto-aim, or scopes that help you zoom in quickly with any weapon. Reload is striving for simulation, but also wants to keep things fun. It's not a hard game to pick up and play, but it stresses accurate targeting and realism in the way you move, aim, and take down targets.

Game Mechanics:

Reload supports any configuration of controller you can imagine, short of the Classic Controller. Playing with the Zapper is great, considering this is mostly an on-rails experience. Freeing the player from worries about movement through the level allows the Zapper to do what it does best: Provide the realistic feeling of holding a weapon. Playing with the Wii-mote or a combination of this and the Nunchuk controller isn't bad, but it won't hold up to the Zapper. Even the reload button controls when using the Zapper are conveniently placed in front of your rear finger on the (C) button, rather than the (A) button on the Wii-mote. You can still use the (A) button to reload, but there's no point when you have an easier option available. All the same, we missed the shake-to-reload fixture that's been used in several games. It's hard to say why shaking is less realistic than tapping a button, but we expect this was just an easier implementation by the developers. Realism would be taking apart and reassembling the Zapper to reload, and where's the fun in that? Controls are explained early on in the game, and the on-screen interface gives you plenty of feedback on rounds remaining, score, and objective for each level. The overall package is a niche product, but well executed. Without the campy fun of a Duck Hunt or the excitement of a packed-in gun or peripheral, Reload may not leap off the shelf as a showpiece game, but it has some solid gameplay and competitive modes. The real question is whether an audience at this T-Rating level will be compelled to pull themselves away from the more exciting, story-driven Shooters and spend some time on the more sedate shooting range. Reload does what it can to build excitement, but we suspect the adrenaline-fueled options will win out, for younger gamers at least.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

iPad Kingdom of the Blue Whale HD Nintendo DS Silly Bandz

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated