A world away from the pensive strategy of the original X-Com concept, Enforcer (we picked up a boxed copy in the US, as it's not out here until later this year) is a frantic third-person shooter that does for the genre what Serious Sam did for the FPS. That is, ignores ten years of progress, brushes over a storyline, and dispatches with any attempt at artificial intelligence. And like Serious Sam, it requires you to spend virtually the entire game (what there is of it) with your finger on the trigger as it throws a ludicrous amount of enemies directly into your path.
When we say there's no storyline, we're talking in terms of progressive plot and consistent narrative. There is of course the time-inoured filler, and it revolves around the Roswell incident. Some 50 years after the alleged alien landing, they're back, and there are absolutely thousands of them. Enemies come in many shapes and sizes, from the familiar 'greys' of X-Files lore, through dinosaur-like creatures, with even a couple of robotic behemoths thrown in for good measure. Something of a mixed bag then, although one thing they do have in common is a total disregard for their own welfare, simply making a beeline for you until stopped in their tracks by your hi-tech weaponry.
Et Go Home
You, if you hadn't worked it out, are the titular X-Com Enforcer, X-Com of course being short for extraterrestrial combat. Billed as the "ultimate robotic super soldier, endowed with specially enhanced and modified X-Com armament and equipment" you are essentially a big robot. In fact, not even that big, probably about the size of a normal man.
As for the armament, specially enhanced it may be, but you can only carry one weapon at a time. Said weapons appear in the form of power-ups, liberally strewn all over the ground of whatever level you are attempting to clear of alien infesters. As such, this can lead to the perverse situation of attempting to dodge a power-up if you are happy with the tool that you are wielding.
Not that you often will be, as despite the ability to upgrade them (see panel), the weapons are largely unsatisfying, and the damage caused by the various bits of hardware is scarcely discernible from one weapon to the next.
The default cannon is puny, the shotgun is probably the least convincing yet seen, the freeze gun is extremely annoying in that within seconds you can't move for frozen aliens, and the spinning blade thing is largely unimpressive. The flame-thrower and grenade launcher are both passable, the fusion rifle has a bit of purchase, and the so-called mass driver is useful for picking off targets at a distance, one of the few times you will actually use the aiming function. Generally you will wheel around, shooting constantly, often overwhelmed by the sheer weight of numbers, having to carve your way through them, at which point the VibroBlade becomes useful, if you've got it.
Spread over some 30 missions, the action takes place in a variety of locales, from a trailer park to a shopping mall and even in an aeroplane. The goal is usually to destroy the transporters that are homing the aliens in, or rescue some hapless humans (by walking up to them). And in a unique twist, some levels require you to both destroy transporters and rescue humans. Throw in the occasional boss level, and you can see where the game is coming from: unashamed, relentless arcade action.
Kickin'it Old Skool
It's a defiantly old-skool approach, and Enforceris little more than a 3D version of ancient arcade games such as Robotron or Gauntlet. You can't even look up and down, although to be honest, you wouldn't have time to. The levels tend to merge into one another and are fairly simplistic affairs, with further areas opening up once sections are cleared. And if you do get confused, a great big arrow appears at the top of the screen showing you where to go next. This is accompanied by the voice of the scientist that created you, who essentially commentates on the action, albeit with possibly one of the campest voices yet heard in a game. Ally this to the robot's own comments - monotone quips such as "Die Alien Scum" - and the whole thing is pretty damn stupid.
But that's the point. It's a mindless romp through a series of gaming and cultural cliches that requires only basic motor neurone functions. There are no mid-level saves, but even so, on the easy or normal setting at least, the whole thing can be comfortably completed within the space of a weekend. Depending on your outlook, this is either a damning indictment of the game's brevity, or a glowing endorsement of its playability. Admittedly, it's all too easy to spend several hours tearing through the missions, simply because there's no natural place to stop. It may be one-paced, but it's a pace that will keep you on your toes, and during the end sequence it can even bring you out in a sweat. However, once finished, it's unlikely to see the light of day again.