Don't let the name fool you, this is close to a Contra 5 that we're going to get for the time being. Borrowing the subtitle from the Genesis classic Contra: Hard Corps, our hands on time confirmed to us yet again that the Contra series is the go to franchise for vintage run and gun action.
So why doesn't it have the Contra name attached to it? "We wanted to create a run and gun shooter on its own right and merits," said Pearl Lu, project manager for the game. Since the gameplay seemed easier and more accessible than past titles, it was probably a good decision.
Anyone who has played a Contra title in the last twenty years will be right at home with this one. The gameplay is refined but not revolutionized for the series. You still run from left to right, blasting countless enemies coming from every angle who really, really want you dead.
The game borrows elements from every Contra title while adding a few wrinkles of its own. There is the dual weapon switching from Contra III on the SNES. There's the charging weapons that were found in the PS2's Shattered Soldier. You're still shooting floating power ups to get new weapons, and yes, the trusty spread gun is here too.
That's not to say there isn't anything new here, because this is truly is a different beast for the series. The biggest new addition is the "New Rising" mode, which throws more than a few curveballs to the established formula. In this mode, you're given a life bar, allowing you to take several hits before actually losing a life. Fans of the series will recall that other games were always one hit, one life. Konami hasn't yet decided how many hits the system will allow, but the demo we played allowed for three. Also in the New Rising mode is the ability to earn points through skillful play, which allow you to upgrade various categories including weapons, armor, and abilities. There are dozens of upgrades available within the different categories as well; allowing players to create their own customized killing machines. Since the game is much longer than previous Contra titles, it provides an incentive to play with this mode.
Other new gameplay additions include the ability to double jump in mid air, and the ability to deflect and absorb enemy bullets with a press of the B or circle button.
Don't worry, Contra faithful, the game will still allow you to play in an arcade mode that retains the one hit one kill mechanics that you know, love, and loathe.
The game will also feature online global co-op player through the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, or local multiplayer from your couch, the way Contra was meant to be played.
Also new to the series is a striking visual style that looks a lot like a Saturday morning cartoon. The characters and enemies are beautifully animated, and stand out well against the 3D action going on in the backgrounds. The game has a visual style that is very similar to the Marvel vs. Capcom series, and it works astonishingly well with the over-the-top motif that is Contra.
The game will be released on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network in winter of 2010.