Cardboard Duke Nukem.
Sometimes in the recesses of my subconscious I hear Jon St. John’s gravelly Duke utter out “Damn, those alien bastards are gonna pay for shootin’ up my ride” as his spaceship crashes in the distance. That might not even be the exact line, or the exact context it’s said in, but the memory has still stayed with me. I have fond memories of Duke Nukem’s charm, but not so much its gameplay.
Gun Commando attempts to spin a yarn about a caricature badass returning to duty to take down some aliens. As a parody, it doesn’t even chart, and as an homage, it only serves to remind few (if any) who missed to begin with. Static images with text you have to click to advance bookend each set of levels, and if you die during the first level in a set you’ll have to put up with the exposition a second time. Your character sometimes blurts out Duke-esque lines, but the dialogue is mediocre, the voicework is phoned-in, and half the time the words aren’t coherent anyway.
Gameplay is actually what you’d expect from this type of shooter. You can move and shoot, but not look up or down. You also have a slide move which allows you to go under lasers, though since it doesn’t damage enemies you’ll basically never use it. Since this system worked well 20 years ago, it’s that much more unacceptable that it’s basically broken here, since the touch controls destroy any chance for precision or real enjoyment. The whole game feels like a perpetual ice level. You’ll struggle to turn around fast enough when an enemy is behind you, and you’ll have to aim for the turrets’ invisible hit box since they’re shorter than your crosshair and you can’t look down. Each level contains three hidden trophies, but there’s no impetus to collect them. The sole redeeming facet of the gameplay is that streaks of accuracy power up your weapon, but that element isn’t properly explained.
Is this a shortcut or am I clipping through the wall? Is my finger covering the speaker or is the audio cutting out? Is there an enemy behind me? Am I retreating while I fire or am I actually unknowingly running backwards through the level? Even ignoring the incompatible touch controls, Gun Commando doesn’t satisfactorily accomplish any of what it set out to do. This is a play once and delete game, which is good because the controls don’t get better as the game gets more difficult. Just because the iPhone exists doesn’t mean first-person shooters need to be on it, and on the running list of genres we need more of, shooters are dead last.
- Admirable concept. System where accuracy increases gun power is appealing.
- Broken controls. Throwaway story and dialogue.