The aptly named Retro Army Limited have rocked up onto the Xbox gaming scene with Verdict Guilty. It’s their retro-inspired, cops versus robbers themed fighting game aiming to capture the magic of the 90’s arcade offerings like Street Fighter and Fatal Fury. They hope it’s also easy to grasp for those who may be uninitiated with the genre or are just generally rubbish at combat.
Does Verdict Guilty have enough tricks up its sleeve to lure you in for a jolly good time, or will it be guilty of being a lame copycat of those that have come before it?
Welcome to Neo Seoul, South Korea, where police officers are regularly on patrol to protect the citizens from terrorist attacks amidst a serious new crime wave. You see, there are crooks and baddies everywhere – perhaps even closer than those law-abiding cops realise. It’s up to you whether you uncover the dark secrets of the city, and unveil the head honcho, while playing as a criminal or a copper in Verdict Guilty.
Sadly, the narrative won’t be winning any awards, nor will you be on the edge of your seat, but it does at least set the tone. It’s quite on-point to have corruption at its core though, as that’s a common trope in the plot of many Korean dramas. The little sub-stories told in the Story mode are rather more fun to watch unfold, with static scenes and bits of text dialogue acting as precursors to an upcoming encounter. Nevertheless, the storytelling is secondary because you’re here to kick ass and drink soju… and you’re all out of soju!
The best way to deal with conflict between two parties in Verdict Guilty is to battle it out until one combatant’s health is too low to continue. How this unfolds differs slightly depending on the mode, with single player modes Arcade, Story, Survival and Training available straight off the bat. While Training is self-explanatory, it’s actually not the best route to learn the ropes due to its barebones nature. That job is instead done more practically in the Story mode.
First and foremost, playing through the story of each fighter is essential to understanding who they are as well as their roles in society. It’s decent to see their tales interwoven into the rest of the featured characters and the majority of players should manage to witness it all due to having unlimited continues. Better yet, wrapping up a single run-through shouldn’t take more than half an hour, which feels just about the ideal length. The Story mode is also quite creative in terms of introducing the unorthodox manoeuvres setting Verdict Guilty apart from a lot of other fighters.
This is done through objectives that require you to do things like defeat an opponent using specific moves from your chosen character’s arsenal, survive for a limited amount of time, or win while low on health. It’s here where the handcuffs come out, which, if placed on a foe will render them helpless for a little bit. Applying handcuffs is merely the tip of the iceberg however, with homing pigeons, rifles, tasers and explosives ready to cause serious damage.
Pulling off such cool attacks isn’t difficult either, with holding a punch or kick button all that’s necessary sometimes. Occasionally, a slight rotation of a stick is needed alongside a button, or a few quick presses of a particular input, but rest assured it’s super easy to put into practice. So don’t worry about having to learn a ridiculous amount of complex combos and focus on ducking or blocking incoming attacks instead.
Outside of Story mode, everything else ends up becoming a tad underwhelming. There are Arcade offerings, with the standard type tasking you with defeating the rest of the roster and a handful of special bonus characters. The draw of Arcade is in completing it to unlock the alt version of whomever you chose, but given the alternate fighters appear to be only aesthetically different, it’s not a must.
Doing so will let you attempt the Duelling mode though, which is basically a ‘one-hit and it’s over’ style concept. Get past the big boss in the duels and the streamlined Turbo mode opens up, which in turn provides access to Master mode. By then, if you haven’t already, you’ll have had your fill of the Arcade, and that leaves you to have a pop at Survival. This is the ultimate test as the health bar is minimally restored between fights, putting emphasis on defence to make it through relatively unscathed.
Should you have a friend on hand, then venturing into Versus is the sole option; you’ll need to win two out of three to claim bragging rights. It’s definitely not going to hold your attention for long however; especially when online play isn’t an option.
As for the roster, there are eight diverse fighters to pick from and they each have their own quirks. Hyuk is a badass criminal equipped with a rifle, Yohan is the bomb expert looking to blow away the competition, Minso is accompanied by a loyal dog, and Si’u has a gun – as well as a bird – to call in. Some fighters are more dangerous at close proximity, while others are great for keeping the opposition at arm’s length. It might be a small roster by today’s standards, but it sure packs a punch.
The sprites used for the fighters and the animations in place for the unconventional attacks are done very well in a16-bit style. I do believe the environments are too dull unfortunately. Whether it’s the park, an industrial area, a prison, or even a subway, the colour palette is extremely bland and it makes most locations uninteresting. Otherwise it’s decent at visually and audibly paying homage to the fighters of yesteryear.
Despite my praise of the easy-to-grasp arsenals, the developers have made a glaring mistake in its own control lists and this could leave rookies baffled. According to Verdict Guilty, you apply handcuffs using the R button, which doesn’t exist on Xbox. Could it be R3? No. Maybe Right Trigger then? Apparently not. For reference, it’s the Right Bumper, but incorrectly displaying controls is a silly error to make.
Overall though, Verdict Guilty hits the mark as an enjoyable and unusual fighter full of surprises that won’t break the bank. Each character’s nifty arsenal is exciting, with moves performed easily to appease the less experienced gamers. The story is full of typical Korean drama tropes and is decent enough to make you want to get the lowdown on every character. Beyond that however, there’s not an immediate pull to keep you hooked long term and, due to the aforementioned mistake, some may be put off sooner.
Still, at £7.49, Verdict Guilty is fairly cheap and I would suggest you consider grabbing it to clean up the streets of Neo Seoul.