Extend Interactive Studios have finally moved their PC platformer over to the 360 in the form of A.R.E.S. Extinction Agenda EX. The PC version first came out 3 years ago and so in an effort to keep up with the times, A.R.E.S. has been given a bit of a makeover. But graphics and visuals aren’t everything, does the gameplay work on a console?
What we have is a fairly basic sci-fi platform/shooter with what can only be described as a plain old boring generic storyline. There doesn’t seem to have been an awful lot of effort put into the script writing and that really shows.
Run. Shoot. Fight. That’s the tagline of A.R.E.S and that really is all there is to it. You don’t need to worry about anything else!
You play as one of two robots, ARES or TARUS, who need to battle other machines whilst in a mission to rescue survivors from a deep space station. Now, this would be the prime opportunity to throw in two stories and two slightly different game modes, but instead, no matter which character you choose, the mission stages are the same throughout. The storyboard is altered very slightly to accommodate whichever robot you use, but to put two robots out there, with two different leaderboards and not use that chance to have two stories, is pretty criminal in my mind.
Graphically it is rather neat. It may be an XBLA title (and to be honest, that shows), but the visuals and audio are quite decent, with the stage backgrounds standing out nicely. I would like to see a bit of a voiceover in the rather bland cutscenes, but we instead get treated to a few blocks of subtitles to read. This is 2013 not 2003, and I really did think that sort of thing had gone away a long time ago.
Gameplay wise, it’s ok. You can run through each mission quite quickly, shooting away with your right stick as you would in any old skool platformer, and jumping with a hit of the A button. The problem is, to jump AND shoot at the same time is nigh on impossible. Us humans are normally born with only one thumb on our right hand and gamers like to use that thumb to either jump OR shoot, not both. It really doesn’t work and that in turn makes the whole game turn into a frustrating mess. Thankfully, the A.R.E.S is so short that even a big old issue like this can mean you will more than likely just bear with it to get to the end.
As with all 2D platform shooters like this, you’re treated to a range of bog standard enemies to get rid of before coming up against an end-of-level boss. None are even remotely interesting to look at and despite their size, the bosses are usually dispatched with ease. Thanks to your ability to replenish energy near enough at will, even if they were a bit harder to down, you’d still find your way past them eventually.
Pickups throughout the game consist of 3 things. ‘Datacubes’ unlock enemy information in the database, whilst ‘Chips’ are used to unlock the next level of a weapon. ‘Material’ is collected from every single enemy that dies and is therefore widely available. This is used to replenish that all important energy bar and also helps upgrade any weapons/abilities as you see fit. Whilst loads of the latter is thrown at you every time you kill an enemy, the two former collectibles will need you to go back and replay the level at a later date if you wish to pick them all up.
As you can probably tell, I’m not overly enamoured with A.R.E.S. Not only does it take an age to type it’s name properly, the control system quickly moves the game from the ‘could be fun’ category to the ‘damn annoying’ one. Yes, you can repeat any level to increase your score or go back to pick up those collectible you missed first time, but honestly, for ten pounds I don’t think you will.
Avoid unless it’s in a big sale sometime or you wish to grind some gamerscore out of it.