Hard Corps: Uprising is aiming to kick your ass. In fact, there is a long history of games designed with the sole purpose of making you throw your controller violently through your television screen and this painstaking homage to the classic Contra is absolutely of that ilk. You are going to die. Frequently, hopelessly, impossibly often. You are, like some Shakespearean construction worker, going to utter curse words that you’ve only just then, in that single moment as the controller spins toward your LCD TV, invented. And you are very likely going to have lots and lots fun…At least until you’re picking broken bits of cathode ray tube from your knuckles.
We recently had a chance to sit down with Hard Corps: Uprising and found it to be a fun and faithful evolution of the Contra formula. Updated with a cleaner presentation and a more anime-style visual appeal, the control scheme of this 2D side-scroller is relatively the same, allowing gamers to fire at 45-degree angles, leap between levels and cling to ledges while blasting away at your enemies below. There is, however, a new strafing option that allows you to move in one direction while still shooting in another, a feature which became incredibly important in a few motorcycle sequences where firing behind you is key to surviving the terrain.
You can switch between two weapons at a given time and you’ll find the typical power-ups zooming by throughout each level. Simply shoot ‘em down and pick ‘em up to gather more health and momentarily increase some element of your weapon – its rate of fire, its range, its spray, its damage, etc. Machine guns, missiles, energy weapons, flamethrowers; they’re all present and accounted for in Hard Corps, but the real allure of the title comes in Rising Mode, which allows players to fully upgrade their characters and weapons with points gathered at the end of each level.
Want to up your health? Your speed? Your guns and ammo? Simply perform at your best and the total tally at the end of every zone will afford you the ability to power-up your player in more permanent and persistent ways. While the game will absolutely award players who can progress through the adventure without much help, the option exists for less skilled gamers – or perhaps just those who’ve gone through one new TV already – to play the game with an increasing set of advantages. Ultimately, it’s about balancing the hardcore Hard Corps experience with an ease of play that’ll allow less experienced or patient gamers to make it through to the end.
The levels themselves vary from desert bases, to jungle hideouts, to Mayan-inspired underground temples, and while the world is full of mindless foot soliders, mutant fauna and killer robots, the bosses never cease to impress. And yes, before you ask, there are indeed a handful of “Wall Bosses” to defeat throughout the game, precursors to the larger, end-of-level battles you’ll have to endure. In our time with the title, we took on a giant, metallic worm, leaping from the sand in a random attack pattern, as well as an environment-destroying industrial machine that required the quick, tactical transition from ledge-to-ledge in order to put down.
Lastly, the co-op experience is really a must with Hard Corps, proving a blast to play alongside friends. Because, well, why throw one controller when you can throw two?