Weapon of Choice has been held aloft for a while now as an example of what Community Games can be with some development know-how and a lot of effort. It is one of the most professional looking games to have come from the XNA program, and the fact that ex-Insomniac developer Nathan Fouts was the brain behind it gives the title plenty of clout.
Professional looks and name value can get a title pretty far, but it's no shield against a critical mauling. Does Weapon of Choice have what it takes to be worth 400 Microsoft Points, or is this a choice you shouldn't really make?
Read on and you'll find out.
Weapon of Choice (Xbox 360 Community Games)
Developed by Mommy's Best Games
Released on December 15, 2008
Costs 400 MS Points
Read more about our Community Games Review Challenge
Weapon of Choice takes the form of a run n' gun scrolling shooter, something which will be instantly familiar to those who grew up with the likes of Contra and Metal Slug. However, rather than embrace the retro look and feel of those games, Choice has instead used hand-drawn art and Flash-esque animation to give the game a suitably fresh look and feel.
While this has certainly helped give Weapon of Choice a unique aesthetic vibe, it has to be said that the style has had a somewhat adverse effect on the gameplay itself. The most important issue is that WoC simply doesn't feel as tight as the games it was inspired by. The cardboard cut-out nature of the characters lends them a strange floaty feeling that seems a bit too loose for a running shooter.
Fortunately, Weapon of Choice is so out of its own frigging mind that floaty handling won't be an issue for many people. They'll be too busy trying to make sense of the absolutely insane enemy designs and the ridiculous weaponry that is on offer.
Each character carries their own "Weapon of Choice" and each one is unnecessarily ludicrous. One particular gun fires at least ten giant knives a second, while another is a collection of energy beams that consistently spin and rev from the hilt like a giant blue chainsaw. Every weapon has a secondary fire option, and each character also has a backup rapid fire weapon ... which can also be kept on a leash and fly ahead of you ... just because.
As well as weaponry, each character has access to a spiderpack which is like any normal backpack, except it can crawl on walls with you hanging from it like some nefarious grape. Deft use of this arachnid ability will be crucial for dealing with some of the game's incredibly tricky bosses.
There are no lives in WoC, instead using a rather cool "Brush with Death" gimmick. The Brush with Death allows you to escape from the jaws of doom by slowing the whole game down and zooming in on you and the cause of your potential demise. You then have a window of time within which to maneuver your character away from the threat. It works surprisingly well, even though it might take a little getting used to. If you do happen to perish, another one of the characters can be selected, along with a "revenge missile" to take out whatever killed you. Each operative can carry a downed comrade on his or her back, allowing you to save the life of a fallen character -- should you make it out in one piece.
The game has its tough spots, but even so, you'll be hard pressed to find more than a day's worth of content in Weapon of Choice. While the campaign has three alternate paths and a potential four endings, each playthrough can be surpassed in a matter of minutes, with only an extra difficulty level providing any incentive for replay.
It's a shame because, on the whole, Weapon of Choice is a pretty good game, and certainly one of the most slickly produced experiences that the Community Games Channel has to offer. However, without a score, or leaderboards, or co-op, the whole thing feels a bit bare-bones despite the the lavish visuals.
If you want some completely shameless macho shooting fun, then Weapon of Choice is definitely worth at least the free download. It's a solid game, with only negligible flaws. However, the lack of length and replay value makes it hard to recommend as a buy for all but the most dedicated of shooter fans.
Score: 7.0 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
reviewed by Jim Sterling