By: Matthew Striplen
Remember the old days of brutally unforgiving arcade games? If you remember them fondly, Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D is for you. As a member of the now rare “rail shooter” genre, it feels like a game straight out of the early ’90s.
You take control of a soldier deployed in six different counter-terrorism missions in South America. Before beginning the game, however, you must take a very silly picture of yourself wearing a comically photo-shopped military helmet to serve as your profile. Then you are directed to a weapons screen. Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D offers a few unlockable guns ranging from the default pistol to various machine guns. Each gun can be upgraded, improving the reload time, clip size, etc.
Once dropped into the battlefield, you will be constantly attacked by terrorists. As an arcade rail shooter, the gameplay is very reminiscent of the Time Crisis series but without most of the finesse. As the missions progress, the player will find him or herself completely swarmed by enemies. Each enemy will die after being shot once, except for a few larger targets.
One of the stranger features of the game is how the enemies attack. As soon as a terrorist runs on screen, he will immediately start firing but will not deal damage until a large red exclamation point appears above him. While this makes the gameplay significantly easier, it is rather strange to have each dangerous enemy singled out. Many different objects in the environment can also be shot for point bonuses, such as cars and barrels, which explode, killing any nearby terrorists.
What this game lacks in length, it more than makes up for in difficulty. The player is only allowed to be shot five times per mission and no health packs exist in Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D. If you are defeated, you will be transported back to the title screen and forced to completely restart the mission. The game will only save after each completed mission, which is punishing but makes the successes much sweeter. After missions are finished, the option will be given to replay a previous mission to improve your score and earn spendable points.
The control scheme is very unusual and original. Aiming is controlled by the stylus, firing by R/L, and reloading by the circle pad. While these unconventional controls take time to become accustomed to, they work quite well. Beware of gripping the stylus too tightly, though, as it may cause hand cramps.
Graphically, Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D is nothing special. Environments appear grainy and textures are mostly flat. Enemies are nearly identical and lack discernible faces. Though the graphics look like they could be rendered by a NDS, they do not detract too much from the overall experience. The 3D aspect is completely useless. Sound is a mixture of ambient noise and a driving soundtrack. Voice acting is limited though very little dialogue or text is required for the game.
Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D takes me back to a different era of gaming. While the experience can be fun, unforgiving and exciting, it feels less like Time Crisis and more like Whac-a-Mole. A greater range of enemies and levels would’ve provided much more variety and interest. Ultimately, the entertainment provided by Heavy Fire: Black Arms 3D is enjoyable but short lived.