Armed and Dangerous is the latest game from Planet Moon Studios, the company behind the goofy, imaginative, and well-received PC and PS2 shooter, Giants: Citizen Kabuto. Humor in games can be a pretty hit-and-miss affair, and while not every single joke in Giants was laugh-out-loud funny, it still managed to be a funny game without feeling fake or forced. Armed and Dangerous features the same humorous spirit as Giants while it also produces a fairly good--though somewhat simplistic--mission-based third-person shooter.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2003/reviews/914793_20031202_embed002.jpgThe Lionhearts are a motley bunch of ruffians with a variety of different European accents.
Armed and Dangerous puts you in the role of Roman, a man in charge of a group called the Lionhearts. This four-member group of thieves, made up of Roman, a Scottish moleman named Jonesy, a British robot named Q, and a stinky little blind mystic named Rexus, is on a quest to steal the all-powerful Book of Rule from the evil King Forge. Along the way you'll encounter objectives that sidetrack you from your quest, most of which involve you saving local villagers who have been enslaved or kidnapped by the king's men. Additionally, you'll blow up a lot of stuff.
In motion, Armed and Dangerous is a pretty straightforward behind-the-back third-person shooter. There are some twists to the formula. For instance, in some missions you'll have a jet pack that lets you jump and glide, while in others, you're able to issue basic attack and defend commands to the rest of your team. There are a few stationary turret levels, but, for the most part, your job is to look at your compass, run in the direction it indicates, and shoot anything that gets in your way.
The arsenal at your disposal adds some individuality to the gameplay, but most of the more unique weapons go underused due to the insanely useful machine gun you start almost every single mission with. The machine gun has a wide aiming circle, and the game's auto-aim is so accurate that you'll rarely miss a shot. Even the sniper rifle's usefulness is greatly reduced, as you merely need to point the machine gun in the direction of a faraway target, move forward until the reticle lights up, and pull the trigger until your target falls. You can disable the auto-aim (if you're feeling tough), but at that point, the game's hundreds of troops become a little too difficult to hit, thus swinging the difficulty scale a little too far in the "maddeningly difficult" direction.
Aside from your basic gun and the incredibly handy machine gun, you'll encounter a sniper rifle, a rocket launcher, a mortar cannon, and a land shark launcher, which causes a shark to "swim" under the ground's surface before attacking enemy soldiers from below. You also have secondary weapons, like standard sticky bombs, a portable black hole, a traitor bomb (which makes enemies attack each other), a knockout bomb, and a weapon that lets you turn the entire world upside down for a few seconds, thus causing enemies to fall into the sky while you hang on for dear life to a corkscrew that's been drilled into the earth.
Beyond the arsenal, the gameplay in Armed and Dangerous is pretty standard. The game throws a ton of troops at you, and it's up to you to mow them all down with your machine gun. Each mission starts you out with a different weapon set, and you sometimes find new weapons along the way at a midlevel pub, which serves as a checkpoint where you can save your game and rearm. The various weapons are good for a few laughs, but since the machine gun is so useful, the action gets a little ho-hum after about half of the game's 20-plus missions. The jet-pack levels certainly liven things up a bit, but the way the game gives it to you for some missions and then takes it away for others gets a little annoying. Though the levels do throw hundreds of enemy soldiers your way, the game isn't very hard--as long as you take it slowly and don't rush into the middle of a cross fire, which chews through your health pretty quickly. Most players will be able to cruise through the game in around 10 hours, but there is some replay value to be uncovered in the form of bonus missions, additional difficulty settings, and the ever-popular big head mode.
The game's story is told through cutscenes, and it's here where most of the script's charm lies. The game tells a standard tale of rebellion against an evil king, but it does so in a funny way. There are a lot of "from out of left field" laughs in the script, including a few well-placed Star Wars references. Like Giants before it, not every single joke is laugh-out-loud funny, but the hits cover the misses reasonably well, and the game's quirky sense of humor never seems forced or fake, as it is in most other games that attempt to draw laughs. Unfortunately, the cutscenes are marred by some pretty awful quality problems. The audio is great, and the voice acting is well-played, but the visuals are pretty terrible. The character models used in the cutscenes look pretty poor, and the animation isn't much better. You'll see arms clipping through bodies, and you'll witness other instances of poor animation as well. This lack of quality really takes away from the overall impact of the cutscenes, which otherwise could have been the game's strongest point.
Graphically, Armed and Dangerous looks good. It sports a nice, long draw distance, which is handy since some enemies can fire at you from pretty far away--if they spot you. The textures and enemy models are passable, though you'll probably get tired of shooting down the same three or four enemy troops by the end of the game. Larger enemies, like the giant robots on patrol in some levels, definitely look cool. Also, a lot of buildings in the game are completely destructible, so you can use your heavier weapons or nearby turrets to completely raze them. The explosions that destroy buildings and the rubble that remains afterward both look very good. The animation looks OK, though, for some reason, the villagers who follow you around after you rescue them do so while floating around and lying down, so they're completely limp. This looks pretty stupid and doesn't really make much sense.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2003/reviews/914793_20031202_embed003.jpgThe story in Armed and Dangerous is more interesting than its gameplay or mission design.
As far as sound goes, the aforementioned voice work does a great job. The rest of the game's sound effects, however, are pretty run-of-the-mill, save for some good, loud explosions. The game is surprisingly quiet, music-wise. Most of the cutscenes are voices-only, and though you'll hear some music pop-up in combat, it tends to cut on and off almost at random. So sometimes you'll go from silence, to five seconds of music, and then back to silence again. That's a little annoying, and, at times, it almost seems like a bug in the game.
Armed and Dangerous is a good game, but toward the end of it, you'll likely be far more interested in seeing how the story ends--and the jokes it tells along the way--than in its gameplay. For fans of frantic shooters, this is a game worth renting, but its gameplay isn't remarkable enough to recommend as a purchase.