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