“War is cute” isn’t quite how the common phrase tends to go, but it is in Guns Up!. Working together with Sony San Diego Studio, Valkyrie Entertainment are busily working to take things that you might be familiar with in tower defence and strategy games and build it into something a bit fresher, a bit punchier and really quite adorable.
Oh sure, as the two sides are intent on setting each other aflame, peppering one another with bullets and sending rockets arcing through the sky to create large and invariably bloody explosions, but from the oversized helmets to the lightly cel shaded environments, it disguises the violence and gore behind otherwise child friendly visuals. Think of Fat Princess’ look and feel transposed to a WW2 setting.
This is actually a game with a few quite distinct layers to it. The most obvious is when you pick a mission from within the meta-game and attack an enemy base. The entire goal is to throw enough troops and firepower to push back the defending forces, fighting from left to right in a side-scrolling fashion, and eventually destroy their HQ.
As the General in charge of the battle, you don’t have the greatest amount of control over your troops, but rather spends coins to bring in everything from standard soldiers to machine gunners, flamethrowers and rocket wielding men. Then they simply amble from left to right until such a time as they see something to start shooting.
You can, however, guide and assist them to a certain degree, thanks to grabbing items that drop the defenders fall. These expendable and limited abilities allow you to set a rally point, to gather your guys all in one area if they’re spread out too far, to focus fire on a particular enemy, or call in various forms of fire support. Idiosyncratically placing a land mine under an opposing rocket soldier is particularly effective, especially if you manage to do so near to a set of stereotypically explosive red barrels – it’s really quite overpowered right now, a developer admitted to me – but there’s nothing quite like the full screen destruction that you can level with an air strike.
Though it’s relatively easy going, you still have to keep on your toes to deal with the endlessly spawning enemies, while calling in reinforcements to fill your ranks up to the limit. The twist here is that this entire battlefield was painstakingly put together by another human being. Yes, you’re asynchronously attacking a base that someone else has created, just as they might then return the favour and attack yours, and that opens a whole world of other possibilities and a potentially endless variety of battlefields to negotiate.
You’ll be able to create choke points with barricades and slow attackers with barbed wire as they approach a machine emplacement or a sniper nest. The onus really is on you to wield the buildings and units at your disposal to make the enemy’s life hell. Naturally, a degree of progression comes into play here, with more advanced units and buildings becoming available as you play.
That will also start to tie into the meta-game, with territories to conquer and the ability to form alliances with other players online. That side of things is still shrouded in mystery, as is the potential business model for Guns Up!. What is known is that it’s going to be free to play, but how Sony plan to make money isn’t quite clear.
During the presentation at last week’s showcase, Guns Up! was mentioned alongside the interesting 5v2v5 MOBA Killstrain and David Jaffe’s Drawn to Death as being in similar positions, where the developers were working with Sony San Diego on creating the game itself, but doing so alongside the community while aiming to find a way to monetise the game without being too objectionable. With private testing just around the corner – which you can sign up for via the Guns Up! website – it will be interesting to see where the game goes in that regard and also how the game changes with player feedback.
It’s a shame that it’s only heading to PS4, having originally been announced for PS3 and PS Vita as well, because I feel that this style of game would be a perfect fit for Sony’s handheld. Even though it will be shackled to a home console, it’s already shaping up to be a pleasant little time sink, which you can dip in and out of for 10 minutes at a time, whether it’s to polish a base layout and design or to throw your troops into the fray.