Us metalheads have always known that one day the world would require us. Shunned by the music industry after the crest of nu metal died down, it has become an underground genre once again, arguably just the way we like it. And in the world of Double Kick Heroes we find a planet in dire need of someone standing up and taking responsibility.
For metalheads, it’s what we’ve secretly been preparing for all this time: a zombie apocalypse.
Double Kick Heroes is the name of the game but also the name of the band that are the stars of this tale. It is a rhythm-based side-scroller shooter where the band have ingeniously hooked up their drum kit to car-mounted guns to blast away oncoming zombies. If you’ve ever tapped away to a blast beat or consider yourself the next Chris Adler, this is the game for you.
Oh, and the car isn’t a Cadillac, it is a Gundillac. That just so happens to be called Sheila.
At the bottom of the screen and across up to a maximum of three different tracks, blocks will scroll across the screen. The bottom track is for regular gun fire, the second can be powered up to throw grenades and the top one is for sniper shots. The higher the chosen difficulty, the more prevalent these second and third rows will be. And with five difficulties in total to choose from, you can bet those on the higher ones can be brutal.
But as well as keeping an eye on the incoming notes, the positioning of the car is also crucial. The bottom track has two inputs; the A button shoots guns at the lower portion and the B button shoots at the top. If we had a second pair of eyes this would be a breeze. Certain boss battles – even at the lower difficulties – also require you to move the car up and down to avoid strong attacks from the monstrosities chasing you down.
There are a number of modes to choose from, each one jam-packed with songs. Arcade mode gets you straight into the action, providing you have progressed far enough in Story mode, which is the biggest option in terms of gameplay. Hellgate mode features licenced music from the likes of Gojira, Carpenter Brut and Jinjer. Finally, Fury Road is a little bit like a survival mode, where players play through track after track until all lives are lost.
Story mode introduces the band: Lincoln, Derek, Randie, James and Snake. Almost instantly I had developed a disliking for them. The humour was off, their personalities annoying, and they got extremely grating very quickly. But the story features parodies of rock and metal legends and lots of pop-culture references; in terms of what was going on, this was far more entertaining.
By the end though, the band members had grown on me, or rather it was a case of tolerating their foibles.
The Double Kick Heroes are just about to start a performance when they notice the crowd is mainly full of flesh-eating zombies. After their escape, they embark on a road trip around – and underneath – the surface of Earth, mainly to avoid being eaten, but also to inadvertently discover just what exactly is going on, and perhaps even to save the world.
On their journey, the band will encounter all manner of undead creatures. These aren’t just your standard walking dead, and there is a lot of thought and imagination gone into the variety of enemies you will be facing. Depending on which part of the world you currently are in you could be facing off against zombified chickens, sharks or Vikings. Even the Nazis make an appearance because, well, of course they do.
But some of the larger enemies and bosses are very cleverly designed. Throughout your journey you will need to take down mutated planes, dinosaurs and even the Hell Train.
The character and monster designs are all created in a decent pixel art style. If you have a spare millisecond between kicks and snares to appreciate the action above the notes, take a look and see the effort gone into the art. It also makes the references to rock icons immediately noticeable when taking a pitstop to converse with them, such is the detail.
What is a pain though is having to scroll through the level select screen in Story mode after completing the final level. Because of the road-trip feel to things, this appears as a map and getting from the last level to the first again takes precious time away from potentially rocking out.
Double Kick Heroes features an original soundtrack that encompasses the full metal spectrum. Nu, death, black, core, operatic, groove, stoner, thrash, prog, satanic: it is all here. And it is all faithfully recreated and yet suitably tongue-in-cheek with the titles of the songs. Honestly, if you have any interest in heavy music, the soundtrack is stellar. Naturally though, this will not be to everyone’s taste.
Many of Double Kick Heroes’ 35 achievements are tied into defeating the bosses at higher difficulties, which means this isn’t an easy 1000G. There are some achievements related to finding certain details within the Story mode, but you’ll have fun exploring those for yourself.
If you’ve ever tapped along to the drum beat of heavier music, Double Kick Heroes on the Xbox One is perfect for you. At harder difficulties your controller will take an absolute beating, but the sheer diversity of metal music on offer here ensures that there is a track or three for all fans of the genre. Sometimes the characters are grating, but there are enough other modes here that you can always get your metal fix, even if it’s just for a song or two. It may cover a genre of music that isn’t for everyone, but if it is for you, Double Kick Heroes needs your attention.