Not A Hero shines in its gameplay but forced humor drags it down.
Not A Hero is as over-the-top as a game can get. Often, it will get on your nerves. Often, you will feel like the game is trying just a little too hard with its supposedly funny dialogue. Often, you will want to skip dialogue altogether. But never will you feel like you’re getting bored, or feel the urge to just stop playing altogether. While the game definitely has its faults in writing and execution of storytelling, it makes up for them with some great shooting mechanics and well-designed levels.
The premise of Not A Hero is not one that demands much investment from you- intellectually or in any other way. BunnyLord is a rabbit from the future who has travelled to the present day, and he’s convinced that he must become the mayor if he is to save humankind from certain doom. BunnyLord himself isn’t really a likeable guy- he’s obnoxious, says offensive stuff, but that’s really the point of his character. Neither him nor the story’s setting are meant to be taken seriously.
"The enemies you face aren’t pushovers either. While your health regenerates quickly, it can also go down to zero in the blink of an eye if you get sprayed with bullets."
And so, you work as his employees, who help him run his campaign. Most of these campaign activities usually devolve into the same mantra- gunning down everyone you see. There are several playable characters in Not A Hero, and each of them has their own unique ability. While one can move quickly but doesn’t carry a whole lot of ammo, there’s yet another character that carries a hell of a lot of ammo, but moves much slower. One character can run real fast with two guns equipped, while another can run while reloading (which is not something all the other characters can do).
The enemies you face aren’t pushovers either. While your health regenerates quickly, it can also go down to zero in the blink of an eye if you get sprayed with bullets. And while you can take cover, there’s always the danger that one of the bad guys gets a jump on you and takes you out- for example, you may be taking the time to reload, during which time an enemy will get up close and decide to shoot or punch you in the face.
Which brings me to the cover system. While the three dimensional cover based games of our age, such as Gears of War or Uncharted, mostly rely on you staying in cover pretty much all the time you’re in combat, Not A Hero simply makes staying in cover one of the several options. Mastering combat in Not A Hero is not so much about staying in cover as it is about movement and choosing your next move carefully.
Your characters also have the ability to slide while running, and if you slide into enemies, you can stun them and then take them out with one of the game’s insanely brutal and gleefully violent executions. It’s a fun mechanics that adds another layer to the shooting. Of course, the game often reads commands wrongly, and will leave you frustrated with its interpretation of what you wanted to do, but these instances are rare, and really not frequent enough to be a drag.
"The game tries to be humorous- problem is, it tries a little too hard. Almost every single line feels like it’s straining to be laugh-out-loud worthy, and it starts to get on your nerves at times."
All of these elements come together to make for a combat system that doesn’t just let the players jump in and run and gun, Contra style. No, there’s a certain level of strategy involved in the proceedings here. It’s not a tactical shooter by any means, but it lets players choose their own course of action, and it’s a welcome twist on the typical cover based shooters you see on the market these days.
Not A Hero also has to be commended on how well it translates cover-based mechanics to 2D games. Other indie titles like CounterSpy have attempted to do the same, and while CounterSpy’s cover mechanics were certainly well done, Not A Hero’s cover system feels like a much more polished mechanics since it’s not central to the shooting as much as it is peripheral to it.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, though, Not A Hero’s gameplay isn’t backed very well by its dialogue or story. The game tries to be humorous- problem is, it tries a little too hard. Almost every single line feels like it’s straining to be laugh-out-loud worthy, and it starts to get on your nerves at times. Every mission begins and ends with a briefing clip, and at some point, you’ll want to skip these altogether and just get to the action. Thankfully, the game lets you do that.
"By the time you’re done with Not A Hero, you’ll only have clocked in a few handful of hours, and you’ll certainly bemoan the lack of extra content in the game."
The level design in Not A Hero is also pretty good. While visually most of the levels don’t vary a lot, the simple addition of different enemy types- who’re weak and strong against different moves, attacks, weapons and such and posses their own unique abilities, much like the playable characters- and the fact that the game lets you decide the flow of the action on your own rather than forcing you into a cover based shooting fest makes for interesting levels.
Each level also has some added objectives, such as collecting an item, or defeating a certain number of enemies without taking any damage- nothing too whacky or out of the box, but this still adds to the game in its own unique way. None of these objectives are compulsory, nor do they determine your progression in the game in any way, so it’s possible to just skip them all entirely, but they still add a nice layer to the level design.
By the time you’re done with Not A Hero, you’ll only have clocked in a few handful of hours, and you’ll certainly bemoan the lack of extra content in the game. However, you will also look back on your playthrough and realize that Not A Hero, despite its flaws and inconsistencies, is a very enjoyable game. Its writing and forced humor let it down at times, but when you get to the action, the game shines.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Enjoyable gunplay with a number of mechanics that add a certain level of strategy; Levels are well designed; Doesn’t force you into a cycle of take cover-reload-shoot like so many cover shooters on the market; Good selection of playable characters
Writing tries too hard to be funny; A bit too over-the-top at times; Lack of extra content means you won’t get much playtime out of the game.
Not A Hero stumbles with its writing and forced humour, but is ultimately an enjoyable game thanks to some great gunplay.