By: Quinn Potter
First of all, let’s address this right up front – Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded is *not* Minecraft with guns. Yes, it’s a voxel-based sandbox game and the name ends in “craft,” but that’s about where the similarities end. You will not be collecting supplies and crafting items, and you will not be wandering, free-form, around a world to discover its features.
Instead, Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded is a new version of an older PC game that’s now moving to the Xbox 360. It’s a first-person shooter format that gives you a clear objective and limited building options.
There are a ton of controls, but they are easy to learn and well placed. Normally, in first-person shooters, you’d press the left stick down to sprint, but here you press and hold the left bumper. A nice addition for this game is to press and hold A for your parachute when you’re falling, so it slows down your fall. This could come in handy in quite a few other games I’ve played, too.
Voxel-based gaming has its own unique graphic style. Everything consists of blocks that vary in color to build the impression of depth. On the positive side, graphics here are sweet when you destroy a block and small bits go flying in all directions. Another thing going for Guncraft is that you have over 50 maps to explore. Worlds range from alien abductions and Atlantis to WWII, ice caves, lighthouse, haunted house, neon arena, pirates, lava pits, suburbia and more.
On the downside, a lot of the maps are a bit dark, which makes it hard to see the terrain or what you are shooting at. Also, it’s hard to move around as a ghost because the screen is a little shaky, which makes it visually jarring.
Most of the background music is rather repetitive and uninspired, in the style of a marching band. The one-minute mark at each game cues the dark, moody “epic” music, which is pretty cool. Other than music, most sound effects you’ll hear are good, because those would be the sounds of gunfire, explosions, tanks getting blown up, or characters dying.
Tutorials are user friendly so it’s easy to acquire the skills you need. There’s no intense narrative or overly-complicated map to learn, nor are there any specific guides to study on how to get weapons or build. Instead, you jump right in to the action with some first-person shooting by taking out blocks and people.
For your next step, choose a map and a mode. As mentioned earlier, there are tons of worlds to explore either solo or with friends (locally or online). The key to enjoying any kind of sandbox game is going to be in the level of entertainment value you get from building and creating your own levels, weapons, and characters. Playing locally, you’ll have a split-screen format for two players.
For mode, you’ll have all the traditional options (Multiplayer Shooter, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch) as well as some more unique modes. In Lava Survival, you can freeze players and watch them drop into red-hot magma. Onslaught lets four players work together to fight off robot spiders, soldiers and more. Spleef is all about the building – build near or under your enemy to make them fall to their death while trying to avoid the same fate yourself.
For this review, I participated in a few online matches with the Exato Games developers. Deathmatch with unlimited respawns was fun, fast, and super-aggressive. (Minor gripe – taking out a tank with two grenades? Not such a great trade-off for such a slow defensive vehicle.) We got a sneak peek at Lava Survival Mode, which has got some mind-bending graphics that really pop.
It’s cool to see others climbing up the glowing red or blue arrows on the elevator in the center of the building. In this mode, you’ll freeze when injured. After dying and falling into lava, you become a ghost. As a ghost, you still have the ability to remove blocks under those who are alive and playing, but you can’t shoot weapons.
For matches, you can control the time limit, so you can decide how intense you want each situation to be. If you want to crank the timer down to see a one-minute Lava match, for example, you’d better be prepared to climb as high and fast as possible because the lava will immerse everything in exactly one minute.
Basically, you have a lot of control over the type of gaming experience you’ll have. Bring that warped sense of humor that you share with a few buddies and set to work creating your own highly individualized world and weapons – then blast it to bits with bombs, bullets, grenades, tanks, helicopters and laser swords. If you really want to get into some strategy, dig tunnels or build fortresses to escape, evade, or defend yourself against others.
Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded is a lively first-person shooter that’s quick to learn, fun to explore and is only limited by what your imagination can build. It has a nice, solid base of gameplay that’s going to grow in appeal as you explore all the variables with friends.