PopCap Games has been masterfully putting out highly addictive games for quite a while now. It was only a matter of time before they became a dominant force in the Xbox Live Arcade arena too. After all, their games make a perfect transition to XLA.
[i]Heavy Weapon Deluxe[/i], the original downloadable version of [i]Heavy Weapon[/i], came out quite a while ago and was a real treat to play on the PC. Its only downside was that it locked your movement and firing. To fire you would hold down the left mouse button and move the mouse around, your tank would follow the mouse as if on a leash. This worked at least marginally well. With [i]Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank[/i] now available on XLA the game has changed. Independent firing and movement along with HD support and enhanced sound effects take [i]Heavy Weapon[/i] and make it even better.
In this side scrolling shooter, you control a single atomic tank that has to blast through 19 story based missions and defeat the Red Star army that is threatening some unknown nation. Unlike the PC version, this version allows you to move and fire independently of each other. The left thumbstick handles movement and the right thumbstick handles your weapon fire. Each of the missions is carefully packaged chaos as you make your way to the boss at the end. Sometimes just getting to the level boss is the hard part as hundreds of planes fly overhead dropping bombs along the way. To make it even more complicated, a friendly helicopter flys through the war zone dropping power-ups and Nukes for you to collect and use during chaotic moments or against bosses. Your supply chopper does not like to be shot so try to avoid that. Be warned though, dying makes you lose all of those power-ups and all unused Nukes. The level bosses range from battleships to crazy jumping robots with some being easy and some being downright tough.
At the beginning you will only have your standard tank cannon to fend off the enemy vehicles, but at the end of each level you are awarded a point to allocate to a new type of weapon upgrade. There are 6 different weapon banks that you can allocate points to in order to build the best combination of weapons for the current level. The different weapon banks include lasers, homing missiles, standard missiles, protection orbs, a flak cannon, and lightning bolts that bounce from enemy to enemy. Allocating a single point in any of these weapon banks activates that particular weapon or feature on your atomic tank. Additional points added to already active weapons will increase the weapons power or effectiveness. In some levels, a level 3 laser coupled with your standard cannon may do the best job, but in other cases a level 1 laser, level 1 homing missile, and level 1 protection orb may be the only way you can actually make it to the boss. This dynamic weapon system adds a layer of complexity that, if used correctly, can give you the upper hand. In addition to your normally equipped weapons, the enemy will drop pieces of a mega laser. Collect all 4 pieces by catching them before they hit the ground to active the mega laser which instantly destroys anything it touches. The mega laser is short lived, but gives you yet another thing to keep an eye out for in each level.
[i]HW:AT[/i] sports a few different game modes to play. In addition to the standard Mission Mode there is a Survival Mode and a Boss Rush mode. Survival pits you against an unending stream of enemies to see how long you can last. Boss Rush is a new mode exclusive to this version of [i]Heavy Weapon[/i] that lets you challenge every boss from the game in succession, not an easy feat. [i]HW:AT[/i] also sports up to 4 player multiplayer over Xbox Live or locally.
[i]Heavy Weapon[/i] is a definitely a game that focuses on gameplay first, but that doesn’t mean that the visuals are garbage. PopCap delivered a nice cartoony feel to the game which fits well with the out of control chaos in the game. Each level you play through has a different look and theme which helps to cut down on the repetitive feel of the game.
At 800 points, [i]Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank[/i] is a bargain for what it delivers, but don’t expect to rush through this title on your first try. The difficultly level ramps up quickly and doesn’t budge, but with multiplayer modes to enjoy when you reach your breaking point HW:TA is sure to keep you playing for a while. If you are a big fan of arcade style shooters, you should at the very least give the demo a shot, after all it is free to try out.