Guns Up



Dave! Come back! The pla­toon is making a care­fully planned as­sault on an enemy base; yes, you’re the can­non fod­der, a meat shield for our pri­mary dam­age-dealer with the grenade launcher, but war is sac­ri­fice. And wan­der­ing off on your own, di­rectly into the path of that sniper tower, is only go­ing to send you to your maker all the sooner. You’re sup­posed to stay with your com­rades, not split off from the group on the whim of a dice roll. War is hell, sure, but no one ever said any­thing about it be­ing this ran­dom.

Sony San Diego clearly has a bit of a thing for RNG. It’s what drags Dave need­lessly off course to his doom and de­cides whether his and his al­lies’ bul­lets will hit their tar­gets. It’s the driver of a Ti­tan­fall- style card mod­i­fier sys­tem that de­cides your end-of-level re­wards. It’s there in a light craft­ing sys­tem that lets you com­bine perk cards for a shot at a more pow­er­ful one. It’s the beat­ing heart of a game in a genre – pacy re­al­time strat­egy – that needs to be re­li­able, and many of its sys­tems have been de­signed around com­bat­ing ran­dom­ness first, and the enemy sec­ond. Perks im­prove ac­cu­racy, reload time and so on, ei­ther re­duc­ing the mar­gin of er­ror or the im­pact of it. Spe­cial moves – bomb­ing runs, fire­bombs, tear gas to stun enemy troops – act as smart bombs or stalling tac­tics for when your troops prove in­ca­pable of com­plet­ing the task at hand.

The con­cept’s a fine one, at least. Guns Up is an asyn­chro­nous mul­ti­player RTS in which you build a base, sur­round­ing your HQ with bunkers, sniper tow­ers and cover for your troops, un­lock­ing more toys as you rank up. Then you head off into bat­tle, at­tack­ing other play­ers’ creations, and wait for re­ports to come in on how your de­fences are hold­ing up. There’s noth­ing wrong with Guns Up on pa­per.

In prac­tice, there’s plenty. As­ton­ish­ingly, there’s no re­play func­tion for your de­fen­sive per­for­mances. On the at­tack you’re far too re­liant on spe­cials be­cause none of your men can shoot straight, and Dave’s got stuck be­hind a tree. And the whole thing is a tech­ni­cal mess, with the fram­er­ate plum­met­ing when you pan the cam­era across the battlefield, and tran­si­tions be­tween menu screens of­ten look­ing more like a shoddy GIF than a PS4 game. Guns Up is built around en­gage­ment – not of the mil­i­tary kind, but com­mit­ment, a will­ing­ness to play over and over to rank up and un­lock more pow­er­ful tools. But ev­ery­thing that’s laid on top of it has the op­po­site ef­fect, push­ing you away with an­noy­ing RNG, bad ideas and abysmal ex­e­cu­tion. Be­fore long, your troops will be wav­ing the white flag, go­ing off to play some­thing else, leav­ing Dave to his well-de­served ap­point­ment at the pearly gates.

The clos­est you get to a way of test­ing your de­fences is CPU De­fend mode, which has waves of AI min­ions as­sault your base. There are odd im­promptu as­saults to de­fend, too, but both grant you the use of spe­cial moves

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