Sierra’s Assault Heroes was actually a rather nice little XBLA game, using the now well-worn twin-stick shooting style action so beloved of XBLA titles to good effect. Harking back to the old Amiga / ST days in style, but with plenty of graphical polish, it was definitely among the more pleasing games to arrive on ye olde Xbox Live Arcade.
Skip forward in time and Assault Heroes 2 takes the first game, runs a feather duster over it and basically dishes up more of the same. So is it a sequel or does it feel more like an add-on pack? Let’s pick this baby apart…
When it becomes clear that the weird enemies you encountered in the first game were just pawns for a massive alien task force, once again you must step into the breach and get up to your neck in the action. Assault Heroes 2 places you in control of a heavily armed mini-jeep which has a hefty arsenal at your disposal, everything from rapid firing rail guns to grenades to flamethrowers.
The game follows the original’s pattern of top down vertical shooting action, with plenty of enemies filtering down with the sole intent of destroying you and your jeep. Take enough hits and your jeep is destroyed and you must proceed on foot. Take a few more and you’re off to the boneyard.
The game feels a lot like the classic game Swiv, even down to the fact that you can ditch your 4 wheeled transport and nip off in a death-dealing helicopter with heat-seeking missiles backing up its rapid-firing chain guns.
Each of the levels in Assault Heroes 2 varies the way you approach certain goals, and there will be times when you’ve got no choice but to ditch your vehicles and wander through certain sections on foot. It’s actually quite a nice touch to get some internal environments to play in as well as traipsing through the detailed landscapes in the game (all the old favourites are here, deserts, snowscapes, jungles etc) and your little guy’s athletic enough to be able to dodge bullets and bombs before returning fire of his own.
At the end of each of the game’s levels, there are the inevitable boss monsters, mechanized machines of mayhem, which take some serious beating. The bosses are quite nicely designed (I particularly liked the mecha-ape thing) but with your main Jeep being so well armed, you can take those pussies down in no time at all.
In fact – that’s where things start to go wrong for Assault Heroes 2. If you beat the original game, the sequel’s a bit too damned close to it to actually mark itself out differently enough. So it doesn’t feel like a sequel at all, just more of the same perhaps with a few new creases here and there but not significant enough changes to make you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
The other thing is that it’s all a bit too easy. Sure enough, the action is relentless – recalling games like Total Carnage and even Ikari Warriors from the 8 and 16 bit era. But this non-stop action swiftly becomes a bit of a chore with very little incentive or reward for carrying on (unless you’re a bit of an achievement whore – there are plenty of points up for grabs).
It’s not fair to be completely negative about Assault Heroes 2 though. It’s a whole bunch of fun in co-op mode, with each player able to steal enemy vehicles and completely destroy huge chunks of the scenery, and silence those bloody annoying suicide units (you’ll hear them before you see them, believe me – and if you remember them from the first game they’re just as annoying in this one, better to put a bullet in ‘em as soon as they spawn!)
Co-op does give the game some legs and a bit more longevity and once again recalls classic shooters that have allowed you to team up with a buddy (this time over live though, or with a second controller on the same machine) to work through each level.
If you’ve not played the original, skip to the end and pick this up in preference because it offers a few changes that mark it out from Assault Heroes 1. If you have played the original, those changes perhaps don’t warrant you spending another 800 of your MS points to essentially repeat the same sort of gameplay all over again unless you’re a rabid fan and just can’t get enough of annihilating wave after wave of pixellated psychos.
Technically there’s nothing to pick at. Some of the sound effects are lazily just reproduced from the first game (I’ve already mentioned those annoying suicide units haven’t I? I’ll mention them again, just so you don’t forget how irritating they are) but there’s no tearing here, the action is swift and smooth and the environment destruction and overall chaos that ensues during busy battles is very nicely handled.
So in essence, I’m not really convinced that this is enough of a sequel to warrant spending your hard earned cash on, but fans of the original might want more – and those new to the game could do a lot worse than start here, because Assault Heroes 2 is actually one of the better XBLA titles on offer. Not ground breaking or genre-busting but certainly not completely hideous.