Armed and Dangerous
, a game from developer Planet Moon Studios, tried to do something different. Combining British humor, unique guns and gadgets, and third-person shooting, the game succeeded on several fronts and is still a worthwhile experience today.
Many aspects of the game pale in comparison to more recent releases—and even games of its era—but the story, voice acting, and script excel in often unparalleled ways, leaving most games in the dust in terms of sheer enjoyment and number of memorable scenes.
Videogames are not always about the levels, the graphics, or the gameplay; sometimes it's personality that defines the quality of a game, and Armed and Dangerous
certainly delivers in that regard.
Title: Armed and Dangerous
(Xbox, PC, backwards compatible on Xbox 360)
Developed by: Planet Moon Studios
Released: December 2nd, 2003
Bargain Binned: $4.99
at GameStop, 100 Goozex points (Xbox
Armed and Dangerous
sets forth in the country of Milola, placing you at the reigns of Roman, a criminal, weapons expert, and leader of the Lionhearts. The Lionhearts are a group of rebels set against the evil King Forge, and are comprised of Jonesy, an over-sized mole with a love for explosives, Q, a robot in denial with an obsession for tea, and Rexus, a smelly, ancient, and blind creature with latent psychic abilities. The secondary characters of Armed and Dangerous
are clearly unique, but it’s their voice acting and distinct personalities that make them truly exceptional characters. The jokes they tell, the relationships they have with each other, and the general quality of the voiceovers make the characters of Armed and Dangerous
quite memorable, and are probably the most appealing aspect of the game.
These characters have joined together for a simple purpose: to recover the Book of Rule and destroy King Forge’s empire. Rexus, who was responsible for losing the Book of Rule in the first place, is initially sought for capture by Forge’s army, but the Lionhearts help him escape and gain his assistance in their quest to unlock the book’s magical powers. Along their way they meet a number of strange allies and dastardly enemies, and uncover an ancient prophecy that only they can set into motion. Without spoiling anything, I can say with complete confidence that you will enjoy the story of Armed and Dangerous
, if nothing else. I've played a whole bunch of videogames, and few have had stories as clever or as humorous as the one you'll find here.
The story progresses through the game's many cutscenes, which occur between each level and provide some cohesion to the game's missions. For the most part, these cinematics are excellent, with a number of jokes, references, and hilarious situations mixed into the general storyline. Compression, at least in the Xbox version, causes problems with the video quality of these cutscenes, however, creating blurriness in many of them and noticeable artifacts in a few. This isn't a huge problem, but it slightly tarnishes what would otherwise be a nearly flawless aspect of the game.
Don't expect an incredible level of graphical quality from the rest of the game, either. Even at its release the game's graphics were below standards, and today their age is even more evident. The textures and character models in particular look antiquated, and the animations of NPCs and teammates alike look choppy and almost mechanical in nature. Occasionally you'll see some nice lighting effects—especially in the forest levels—but overall the look of the game is nowhere near its strongest feature.
The general run-and-gun gameplay leaves something to be desired, as well. There are a number of unique and funny armaments in Armed and Dangerous
, such as the Land Shark Gun that shoots a massive, enemy-eating shark and the Topsy Turvy Bomb that flips over the entire playing field, but these are far more entertaining than they are useful. The machine gun in Armed and Dangerous
is really the only weapon you'll ever need in most circumstances, as it is far too powerful and accurate for its own good. In some situations, the Vindaloo Rocket Launcher and Mortar Gun are preferable, but only a few types of enemies require their use. It's a shame that the game's more unique weapons are not that beneficial, though; with some better weapon balancing they surely would have provided more breadth and variation to the action.
This is another area where Armed and Dangerous
falters; the general gameplay is often repetitive, with missions that often consist of near-identical tasks. Saving peasants, blowing up buildings, defeating all of the enemies in an area and other activities become commonplace in no time at all, and over time the similar objectives may begin to wear on you. In some of the later levels you will gain access to a jet pack (similar to Giants: Citizen Kabuto
, another Planet Moon game), and though these levels are a lot of fun, there are simply not enough of them to go around. My favorite parts of Armed and Dangerous
involving actual gameplay take place during the jet pack levels, but there are only a few of those levels in the game.
My least favorite parts, on the other hand, occur in Planet Moon's other attempt to differentiate the gameplay: the turret levels. One of these levels would have been fine, but they exist in a far greater quantity than I would have liked. The universal objective in these levels is to shoot and destroy waves of enemies from a fixed turret, preventing them from climbing over the wall of whatever structure or area you are defending. If a certain number of enemies successfully ascend the wall you will have to replay the level, but the number of allowable enemies is so high that any potential challenge is swept away. In turret levels that accept 100 enemies passing over the wall, the most I ever allowed was five.
What's ironic is that, when playing the game's standard missions, Armed and Dangerous
can be fairly difficult. It's not that the enemies' AI is particularly advanced—in most cases they will just stand in one place and shoot at you—but their sheer numbers cause the game to be extremely challenging at times. Roman can be downed fairly easily, and a combination of infrequent save points and a low availability of health packs only adds to the struggle. The last few levels of the game are particularly hellish, and will provide a great deal of frustration to players without a knack for patience. Still, the game's challenge is never unfair, and skilled enough (or determined enough) players should be able to surmount the game's difficulty.
Once you have completed the game you'll have a few things left to do, but you won't find anything too enticing left over. There are four different difficulty levels, the most difficult of which are unlocked after completing the game on Normal, but if you had trouble with the standard difficulty setting you probably won't feel inclined to torture yourself with the Over The Top and Insane difficulties. There are also bonus missions that are unlocked as you play, but I personally did not enjoy them. All revolve around fighting the clock or fighting for survival to accomplish some task, and none of them really caught my interest. There is one piece of downloadable content available for the Xbox version, a level called “Summer Home”, but this is nothing more than another bonus level in disguise. Finally, the game features a number of cheat codes which actually do provide some added enjoyment to the game. Many are designed to make the game easier, but some have purely cosmetic effects, causing things like big heads, big hands, and an inverted screen, to name a few.
Though I had plenty of negative to things to say about this game, Armed and Dangerous
is unquestionably worth your time because it possesses a heart and soul that most games simply lack. It's not the standard gameplay, repetitive missions, or weak graphics that make this game special; the strength of Armed and Dangerous
lies in its great ability to entertain and amuse through its story and characters. With a bit of patience, and a willingness to forgive the game's flaws, a truly unique experience awaits you, one that should not be passed up now that the game is so cheap. Now, in the theoretical words of Jonesy, “Pick up the game, you filthy git!" read