Sometimes you look at national politics and you decide that you just want something grander. Everybody's just so normal, so old, so boring. You want someone machiavellian like Frank Underwood in the first two seasons of House of Cards or unrealistically heroic like Jed Bartlet in The West Wing. In an alternate future, there is a candidate like that: The BunnyLord.
His majesty wants to become mayor of the city, but to do so he has to stand out. You are Steve, former professional assassin and the BunnyLord's current campaign manager. It's your job to stamp out crime in the city with extreme violence, all in the name of the BunnyLord. (Of course this seems to end up causing as much havoc as the crime you're stopping.)
Not a Hero is the latest game from OlliOlli developer Roll7. You choose between Steve and other available assassins and the game plays out in 2D cover-based shooting. You can walk in Not a Hero, but your primary method of movement should be sliding into cover. Tapping the slide button will have you skidding on blood-soaked floors into the nearest safe haven. Tap the button again to move into the next cover point.
You can shoot from cover (duh), which moves you into the line of fire briefly. Your best bet when it comes to staying alive is to shoot when your enemies aren't shooting at you. They'll use cover as well, so it's a matter of timing and positioning, as your weapons do more damage at point-blank range. You can also slide into enemies to knock them down, leaving them open for an execution-style killing. Random weapon drops let you trade in your basic weapon for a laser or a grenade launcher with limited ammo. You'll even pick up a few thrown weapons, like toasty molotovs.
The way Not a Hero's levels are laid out makes the game feel like a hyper-violent update of Taito's Elevator Action. You'll move up and down floors via stairwells or sliding through plate glass windows. My early runs at the game saw many a death as I tried to play the game as a straight shooter, walking into firefights and only occasionally using cover. After a couple of deaths, I started to realize that sliding all the time is how the game is meant to be played, like Platinum's Vanquish. In fact, it's far more integral to the current game than it was in Ur Not a Hero, this title's free predecessor.
Once I got past the early stages of demo, the game took the training wheels off. Not A Hero starts throwing specific objectives your way, like chasing down a guy holding valuable intel on the BunnyLord. These primary objectives are backed up by performance objectives, like only using 20 bullets in the level or not taking any damage. Not a Hero also begins to provide harder enemies, like the big bruisers who will throw you out of cover and gun you down.
As Not a Hero starts to turn up the heat, repeated deaths are the norm, making it feel like another Devolver Digital-published title, Hotline Miami. It has that same assault-die-repeat loop, but it's tone is completely different. While Hotline Miami is nihilistic, Not a Hero is hilarious. Your missions are bookended by mission briefings and a post-murder meal with the BunnyLord. I have no idea who is doing the writing for the game, but it's some cracking work as my colleagues at Eurogamer would say. (I'm not sure British people actually talk like that. TV British people do.) I looked forward to post-massacre breakfasts, where the BunnyLord would expound on the most inane concepts in his own narcissistic way.
Not a Hero is one of the titles on the PAX East showfloor that I didn't want to stop playing. The hyper-violence in a somewhat roguelike loop is like mana to my starving soul. A good headshot or execution feels satisfying, like it does in Hotline Miami. There's weight to seeing these little pixel people shuffle off their mortal coil in showers on blood. (Hey, I'm a peaceful soul in real life.)
Sadly, I had to put down the controller eventually. I looked up the game on Steam later that day only to find out that it's not launching on Steam until May 7, with the Playstation and Vita versions set for later this year. This did not make me happy.
I'm sure the BunnyLord would fix this if he were real.