Gatling Gears was developed by Vanguard Games and published by EA. It was released on May 11th, 2011 for 1200MSP. A copy of the game was provided for review purposes.

Gatling Gears is a top-down, dual-stick shooter where you play as a retired Gatling Gear pilot, Max Brawley. Your objective is to shoot your way through 30 levels including six boss fights in order to stop the “Empire” from destroying your surrounding area and draining all natural resources. The story is lacking, but dual-stick games are all about the action, not the story. Gatling Gears certainly does bring hours of fun filled action, but the game also has its fair share of problems.

So here’s what we liked:

Great controls – The precision and controls in Gatling Gears are spot on. The character controls perfectly and the aiming is extremely responsive to the even the slightest movements. As more and more bullet patterns find their way on to the screen, the controls will really start to stand out. Maneuvering through lines of 10+ bullets is required at times and the ability to do so flawlessly is all up to the player’s patience and skill levels, not the limitations of the controls.

Consistent pacingGatling Gears brings the fun as soon as the game starts. After a brief tutorial in your shooting range, all hell breaks loose as your base is attacked and the action starts to build with great pacing.  Each level takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes and it makes the game very manageable while providing great stopping points. Right after the action peeks, the “Area Cleared” screen usually appears. Very few levels drag out too long. Short well-designed levels are always better than long streaks of redundancy. The shorter levels also make it very easy for co-op partners to jump in and out with minimal hassle.

Strong visualsGatling Gears is a beautiful game. The mech and enemy designs are great and the environments are gorgeous. Far too many games show progress and hint at upcoming difficulty with dark, dingy landscapes. However, the landscapes in Gatling Gears stay bright and colorful throughout the majority of the campaign. Every so often a nice set piece will steal your attention causing you to realize how much attention to detail actually went into the landscape designs.

And here’s what we didn’t like:

Limited maneuverability – Although there are some very well designed levels from a pacing and overall look perspective, you can’t help but notice some of the flaws in the terrain. Invisible walls are everywhere in Gatling Gears. It’s a constant reminder as you leave what you thought was just enough wiggle room only to find out you were actually pressed up against an invisible wall and dodging the bullet patterns will not be an option. There will also be little piles of rocks or rubble throughout the game that appear small enough to walk over. Sadly, they only appear to be small enough to navigate through. More often than not, these are just markers for invisible walls.

Questionable weaponsGatling Gears has some serious weapon flaws. The default machine gun weapon only reaches approximately one third of the screens real estate. Every other dual-stick game on XBLA has bullets that reach across the entire screen and this choice of a smaller attack range makes Gatling Gears stand out in a bad way. This forces gamers to play the game at a point-blank range. That’s fine if the player chooses to play the game in that manner, but most enthusiasts would likely side with playing the game at a generous range. Limiting the weapon range eliminates the player’s choice on how to approach the game and that’s never a good thing.

Aside from lacking range, there are logistical flaws with the grenades. A well-placed grenade can completely destroy an enemy tank. But that same grenade thrown into a group of foot soldiers doesn’t kill one soldier. Foot soldiers are rarely killed with any heavy weaponry. The default machine gun is clearly the correct weapon choice for these situations and there will be many times that players will be unable to get inside the required range in order to effectively use that weapon.

Odd upgrades – The weapon upgrade system works well until you unlock the last upgrade, which is a Mega Gatling Gear. The reason this upgrades seems strange is because you can’t alter anything about that Mega Gatling Gear. To be fair, the Mega Gatling Gear is superior in all weaponry. But at that point all your custom visual unlockables like character skins cannot be applied. However, the worst part is that you can’t turn off the custom pet. The custom pets add no value to the game. They follow you around and add nothing but extra confusion to an already action packed screen of chaos. If these pets would make themselves useful and collect score multipliers, they would be less of an annoyance.

Enemies can be hard to see – As mentioned above; the screen can fill up with tons of action in only a few seconds. The issue that these epic battles present is the simple fact that the foot soldiers are nearly impossible to see at times. Even though the soldiers wear orange jumpsuits and stand out very well against the background, they still blend in with the insane amount of explosions, fires and bullets on the screen. You’ll find yourself taking far more damage from little soldiers over the tanks and mechs that should pose the bigger threats.

The little things – There is a fair amount of polish flaws with Gatling Gears. Constant screen tearing will be noticeable throughout the game. Footprints left from your Gatling Gear will seem to float above the terrain and not actually embed into the ground. That’s only when using the Mega Gatling Gear, as it is strangely the only mech that actually does leave footprints. And the ponds tend to reflect the sky above very well but do not reflect Gatling Gear characters when walking through the pond. Instead the characters cast shadows, which just seems odd.

Gatling Gears is a fun game all the way through. The flaws and issues presented are constant but none of them are gamebreakers. They simply pose minor annoyances that can easily be overlooked. But at the $15 price point, Gatling Gears does nothing special to stand out in an XBLA world that has many similar games like Assault Heroes, Mutant Storm Empire and Wolf of the Battlefield all at lower prices. At a lower price, it would be an easier game to recommend. But in no way are you to skip over this game all together. The fun factor is far too high to ignore this one.

Score: Try It