Gunlok is a squad-based adventure designed to offer both fast action and strategic challenge. Rendered in 3D and viewed from a customizable third-person perspective, the game's gun-toting hero and his team of rogue robot "deputies" must make their way through 15 levels of dangerous territory. Some players will devise detailed, dynamic strategies to move the team through an area quickly and quietly while others will choose to just blast their way through a level, causing as much destruction as possible along the way. Most players will employ aspects of both styles of play before it's all said and done. The game features a variety of weapons and robot abilities and the real-time action can be paused at any time to consider strategy and issue complex orders.
The premise is a classic in the annals of science fiction: Mankind relies more and more upon technology and artificial intelligence to make life easier, not realizing that this also trusts the machines with greater and greater power. When the machines become cognizant of the autonomy they possess, they begin to work for themselves, looking upon the human race that created them as a mere leftover of an earlier time. That's when its time to call Gunlok, the game's robot blasting hero who may be humanity's last chance for survival in this frightening new world of heartless technocracy.
You are Gunlok, a soldier in the future. Gunlok finds himself in a world where intelligent robots have all but wiped out humans from the face of the Earth. What few humans left are being systematically hunted down by robot armies controlled by computers that are programmed with the values of corporate America (a little harsh since corporate America usually only wants your money). So you happily dawn your power armor, check your weapons, and make sure everything you encounter is dead, or soon will be. At first glance this game is pretty much cliché. A post-apocalyptic world where you are the only hope for the human race... yippee, again... turn the channel. However, "Outcast" is also a cliché theme, clearly a rip-off of "Tomb Raider" with a touch of "Quake". But no one in their right minds would ever speak badly about "Outcast" in my presence. Thus, legendary games are known for their substance and not their plots, and "Gunlok" is going to be legendary.
Gunlok is a real-time action game viewed from a third-person perspective. You command up to four team members: Gunlok, Elin, Hark, and Frend. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. Gunlok is a soldier, Frend is a tank, Hark is a scout and Elint is a stealthy character. You essentially have a command interface similar to "Syndicate"; click on things to blow them up. You can move your camera angle around from a top-down view to a profile view. You can also zoom the camera in and out as well as tilt it up or down. But there's a twist to all this, you have to command your team so they act as a team. I can't stress this point enough. Characters work in parallel! There is no serial progression of actions that might sum up a battle. "Everyone fights. No one quits."
To allow for all this fanciness, the game has a unique command console that allows you to queue up commands and then delay execution of them. Let me explain. Pausing the game will facilitate entering in a long list of commands. It will also switch the game to active pause mode. You can now enter commands for each team member. Entering more than one command will automatically make a list of queued commands. So far I have not been able to establish the upper limit on the number of commands you may queue. The fantastic thing about all this is that each team member need not start their commands immediately. If you un-pause the game, normally all your characters will start to execute their respective commands. But if you un-pause by selecting a team member, then only that team member will start to execute his commands; the other will wait until they are selected to start execution. The use of all this leads to the idea of timed actions, or delayed actions. For example, if you want to set-up an ambush point then you could queue up the following play: Gunlok will hide north of the ambush point with a heavy weapon. Elint will be south of the ambush point and fire a light weapon then run in a large circle around the ambush point, hopefully allowing the target to lock onto him instead of Gunlok. Hark will attract the target to the ambush point, entering it from the north and then hide when all the fighting is going on. Frend will be placed behind Gunlok and possibly serve several purposes: he can facilitate a retreat, he can cut off any reinforcements, and he can help out with the mop-up action. So ideally, you want the sequence to execute as follows: 1) Hark runs around and leads the target into the ambush, 2) Elint pops up and start firing and running around to cause a distraction, 3) Gunlok kills the target, and 4) Frend patrols the entrance of the ambush point. Much more complex plans may be devised using timed actions. This is truly the first game that I have seen where teamwork is possible and actually works. Usually, it is just a division of targets among your team members, but now each member may serve a unique purpose in the attack or defense of the team.
If this all seems a touch complex then you should know the faster you kill things, the less you have to worry about. So don't fret; you've got the equipment. You have three categories of equipment: guns, ammo, and other. There are many guns in the game, each with different types of ammo available. Your basics would be plasma guns, laser guns (aka: loser guns), grenade launchers, missile launchers, flamethrower, and nanofragmenters. The ammo is regular, enhanced, heavy, and auto-locking. As for others, you can have three types of mines: timed, proximity, and remote controlled. You can have decoys: audio and visual. You can have shield generators of different intensities. And finally, you can have detectors (radar, visual, and targeting). I should point out that the mines are extremely fun and bring a whole new depth to the game. They are ideal for ambushes because it seems the enemy can never detect them. However, it takes time to set and place the mine, which makes them almost useless for a fighting retreat. Lastly, living in a country that has banned the use of mines in warfare has made me critical of games that insist on including mines. I mean sure, they are cost-effective, but what if a small baby robot were playing in the trash heaps and got its leg blown off? But seriously, mines are the most important weapon in the game, but they do not play their traditional role of slowing pursuit. With all this in mind, it should be apparent that Gunlok can be a thinking game or it can be as basic as a simple squad skirmish game. The choice really is up to the player and his preferences, as the well-designed levels cater to no one.
As with most things this time of year, we all want something that comes in a nice pretty package. Let me assure you that Gunlok has insane graphics. Okay they aren't that intense, but they are fantastic. Look at a few of the screenshots now. You might not believe that those are actual screenshots. I had that feeling when I checked the game's website. They seemed too nice to be non-rendered scenes. But then again, legendary games have been amazing us for years with super non-rendered scenes (e.g: "Outcast"). The amazing bit is that they are absolutely smooth on my outdated system. That's right, someone has made great graphics requiring almost no hardware acceleration using only DirectX7 (who says you can't take something inherently slow and make it work properly for you? All without massive whips too!). The idea of smoothness is also well implemented (look at your cursor when you place order.... oh so smooth.... so smooth... smooth... must touch... no wait...).
The audio and multimedia content don't quite meet my standards though. The music is simply static audio tracks. Unlike many other games, the music is not scene dynamic (i.e. exciting music for battles and ambient music for exploration). Actually, all the music is there pretty much to set the mood of the game. The sound for the game is equally acceptable. It is there but nothing to rave nor rant about. The multimedia is laughable. The intro movie is heavily pixelated and blocky, and the in-game cut-scenes are rendered in real-time (which doesn't mean they aren't nice, but it just means they aren't rendered for kickass video quality). The noises in the game will definitely warn you of any attacks happening off screen, but don't expect to find the audio track to become a part of the pop culture like "Gran Turismo".
Annoyances are present in every game. Annoyances can be small gaps in the clipping of the textures, sound effects, which just saturate your speakers, or the simple fact that the game exists (e.g. "Deep Raider"). So what can you expect from Gunlok? Well, your characters will get stuck on things now and then; be it a wall, the floor, or a rock. Scenery such as huge satellites will obstruct your view of things and sometimes there is too much scenery to get an ideal camera angle. There's also the fact that your character will happily try to shoot through a wall to get at the enemy. They need not have a line of sight to start wasting ammo. The enemies have infinite amounts of ammo whilst you have a very limited amount of ammo. At times, your characters can occupy the same space, but for some reason they can't walk through each other making maneuvering difficult. These are, as you might already know, small annoyances, which a patch can easily fix.
As you can tell, Gunlok has already won over some people. Its smooth graphics, delayed action queues, and overall coolness make it a super fun game to play. However, its lack of a real plot, lack of a fully encompassing sci-fi world (e.g. the "Dune" novels' world or "Outcast"'s completeness of cities), and the sometimes overly simplistic levels leave the player with a simple fact: this is just a game. So though Gunlok is a legendary game in all respects, it will not be revered for more than a game. But by all means, do play the game as it is quite addictive and takes an innovative approach to commanding your team members.
People who downloaded Gunlok have also downloaded:
Ground Control II: Operation Exodus, Ground Control, Gorky 17 (a.k.a. Odium), Haegemonia: Legions of Iron, Ground Control: Dark Conspiracy, Great Invasions: The Darkages 350-1066 AD, Ghost Master, Glory of the Roman Empire
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