Review: Gun Bros (Xbox Live)
It promises a lot, and in time Gun Bros could turn out to be a nice arcade hit for Xbox Live. Unfortunately many people won't find the true strength of the game because they'll avoid the title because of the freemium system, and those that do stick around around are going to find a game that needed another pass at it by the coders instead of being rushed out door onto Windows Phone.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
Let's start with those issues. Gun Bros has a number of issues in terms of speed, especially the loading speeds between screens and levels. These really need to be shortened as much as possible. It's not a good idea to leave your customers idle. Gun Bros also has some bugs popping up around inventory control and network connectivity - issues that developers Glu Mobile are aware of and should be addressed in an update.
If you can put that aside and focus on the game, you have a rather retro arcade shooter. Technically it's a top down view, but with the camera tilted at an angle to give a 3D effect to the world. It has quite a clean look, with a little hint of comic book to the action. It feels right, although with the detail in the terrain it can sometimes be unclear if you're facing a dead end as you walk through a level, or a metal bridge over some lava. Throw in a bundle of munitions and explosions, enemies firing back, a grenade or two lobbed into the action... and the screen can get pretty crowded and messy.
You control one of the two Gun Bros, advanced genetic supermen who are apart of the Freakishly Rugged Advanced Genetics Galactic Enforcement Division (AKA F.R.A.G.G.E.D) and will defend the universe from evil, or in this case an organisation called T.O.O.L. (that would be The Tyrannical Oppressors Of Life). Being a typical arcade game, you can buy into the story if you must, or just simply accept that there has to be some sort of premise, this is it, and the reality is you have to shoot everything that moves.
The game is controlled using a dual stick method, with your left thumb controlling the direction your character travels, and the right hand stick controlling the direction of fire - so it's possible to be running in one direction, while firing in as many other directions as required.
Of course there aren't dual sticks on a Windows Phone, so you'll be using virtual sticks on the touch screen, and frankly Glu Mobile haven't done a good job in programming the sticks. There are some games where the virtual stick feels pretty accurate, but Gun Bros is not one of them. I was constantly having to lift up my thumbs to check I was in the right part of the screen, and the whole control experience felt sluggish to respond.
And the right hand stick is so close to the back button of Windows Phone that you'll be glad that this title uses fast-app switching to return you to the game.
There is one big elephant in the room here, and that's the payment model. This is another Freemium game, one where you download the full game for free and can play through to a conclusion, but if you want to speed up the process, through better weaponry, armour, or add-ons, you can use cold hard cash to buy the power-ups.
It should be pointed out that you can complete Gun Bros without having to pay anything extra - as you play through the game you pick up smaller amounts of the in-game currency, but there will always be the temptation to change your own dollars or pounds into the game's coins and warbucks currency.
Some people love this gaming model, others think it's a bit of a cheat, hiding away the point where you feel you have to buy the bonuses to get through something that technically is possible, but requires accuracy and perfect game play to navigate 'for free'. Personally I'd like to see a half way house, where a flat fee 'purchase' increases the earning potential of playing the game levels, so that power-ups are abundant but not too easy to earn. I do take on board that this is a very traditional viewpoint, and Glu Mobile are right to try out different models and see which one earns them the most return on the development costs.
Gun Bros makes use of your Xbox Live friends list in an interesting way. While you can't play true multiplayer, you can pass challenges to your friends and both of you will share in whatever rewards are earned. This will help you boost your earnings from the game for upgrades, but also acts as a viral distribution method for promoting Gun Bros around your friends. It's a nice touch, but one that seems to serve the game's financial mechanics above the enjoyment of the players.
Gun Bros could be glorious, but for me there are too many little things that don't add up. Ignoring the freemium model, it's slow to play and can get confusing very easily (even in the menu structure). It's buggy into the bargain, and the loading time between games is horrendously long. If it was a paid for title I'd be ignoring it until the issues were fixed, and even then I'm not sure the control system would improve. Just because it's 'free' I'm not giving it a pass - not when it's an Xbox Live title from a leading developer who should in all honesty know better.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at