Unstomp: Quick Thoughts On Gatling Gears

Ah, that's good tea.
Not all EA games are absent from Steam. New releases are still appearing, such as Gatling Gears. Intriguing! I jumped in for a quick blast. It’s an extremely cute top down shooter of the “twin stick” school, so that means the user employs WASD to move about and the mouse to aim. It has local co-op, too, so they’re going to want a gamepad to play that. Fortunately I had a pad, and a conveniently bored girlfriend, to have a romp through some of the co-op with. Impressions below.

And those first impressions are, well: I was playing in Steam and had to log into EA’s downloader (which I suppose is some arm of Origin although it didn’t brand itself as such) TWICE to input my CD key before it unlocked. Once out of game, and once in game. Fine once we were past that, but silly! Once I got into the game things were smoother. It opens with a fun prologue in which you and your buddy exit a dieselpunk (let’s get our sub-genres right, reviewing press, I mean everyone called this Steampunk! There’s nothing even slightly Victorian about it) helicopter thing and board two walking tanks. From there they wander through railyards and training areas, learning how to use their gatling gun, cannon, grenade launcher and smartbomb to take out various targets. These four weapons, and variants thereof, are to be your companions in destruction for the rest of the game. They’re great: infinite or recharging ammo, allowing you to sear the screen with an never-ending torrent of bullets.

It’s at this point, the point where the game becomes about never-ending torrents of bullets – where you realise that this is actually putting one mechanical toe into the bullet-hell sort of shmup territory. The spray of bright red bullet patterns soon dominates the screen, and there’s an almost classical wave-based pattern to the arrival of baddies in what are beautifully detailed little environments, which you scroll through as you explode little dudes out of their trenches, knock over gun-towers, rip open armoured trains, and knock enormous, baroque tanks into the ground. And that’s not even mentioning the constant stream of gliders, airships and heli-contraptions that come flying in. At first glanced I’d imagined something a little less frentic, a little less shmupy, but no, this is wave and wave and wave and BOSS.

However, I was stuck with a nagging feeling that there was something wrong. While we’d quickly figured out the controls and marched happily through the opening of the game, cooing at the cuteness of the art and the detail in the production (that collapsing snow-mountain bit! That giant boss thing!) there was a feeling that the game should have been telling us a bit more about what was going on. It was only when I paused that I realised that was happening: the UI was missing! After some vague flailing in the menus, I backed out to see if there was a UI in the single-player. There was, all fine. And so back to co-op, and we brought the UI with us. Hmm. Yes, it’s one of those kinds of bugs. Difficult to replicate, and barely tarnishing this otherwise lovely port, but still thee and baffling.

So anyway, back to the main event, and man, it’s refreshing to be playing something like this and have it be not so hard that my brain overheats, and looking so bright and fresh. Local co-op on the PC, too. It’s almost free of depth, in that shmup way, but it’s more than just a points-grab, there’s a whole campaign here. And it’s often insanely pretty.

A few more waves of bright red criticism to wrap up with: It’s far too easy to lose sight of where you are, not least because you’re so often focused on your reticule. That’s often a problem with these games, but it seems particularly bad here, when you can sometimes wander off screen entirely, or be hidden behind a bit of a scenery, a particle effect, or even a passing aircraft. I suppose it wouldn’t matter bit it happens constantly, and neither of us seem to be able to adjust. A bright coloured tag on the two characters might have fixed things.

Worse, so much of the action takes place at the edge of the screen, and half the enemies you kill are blown up before they really make it into camera-shot. Sometimes the camera even pans in further, which seems like madness, obscure what is going on and reducing what you can see of the world. This is painful at times, even leaving some collectibles trapped behind scenery and so on. It’s made worse by your needing to push towards the edge of the screen to move onwards. I just doesn’t feel right.

Nor is there much in the way of additional unlocks or variety to brighten up this strictly linear shooter. Although you can buy power ups from a shop as you progress, you already have your arsenal (and the spectacular smart bomb) from the very first moments of the game, and there are a few cosmetic unlocks, but they’re just fluff. Gatling Gears really leaves itself nowhere to go. Throw in a couple of extremely fancy but ultimately irritating boss battles, and you have a recipe for indifference. Gatling Gears is cute as a button, but no classic. At £10 on Steam I’d say wait for a sale. Unless you really want a co-op shmup, which I kind of did. I enjoyed it, just not that much.

(I wish Kill Team had come out on PC.)


  1. Axyl says:

    “(I wish Kill Team had come out on PC.)”


    A thousand, million, billion times this. :(

  2. Tams80 says:

    “…romp” hehe!


  3. skinlo says:

    Not interested really.

  4. zergrush says:

    Is Kill Team really worth it? I got the demo but found it quite boring.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      I would say no. It depends. It’s sorely lacking the required feature which is network co-op. The co-op is local only. Unlike Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light it’s looking as though there are no plans to patch it in, so no sale to me.

      ** And if you’ve not tried it, TR: GoL is a fantastic game single player anyway, which Kill Team didn’t convince me it would be **

    • zergrush says:

      Aw, that sucks. I don’t even own a second gamepad ~.~

      ** TRGoL is very awesome indeed **

    • Diziet Sma says:

      I did contact the thq/developers about the possibility of adding live co-op, and received a distinctly unsatisfactory answer. A very corporate “Thanks for your comments and we’ve passed them on but we’re going to ignore you.” type reply.

    • malkav11 says:

      If they had to pick one type or the other (and really, there’s no such requirement, but still), on console I would far, far rather have local coop. I don’t have an Xbox Live subscription, and my friends mostly don’t own PS3s, and mostly in neither case do they own the games I want to play cooperatively anyway. On the other hand, local coop is easy.

      On PC, network coop is much more beneficial to me. It just depends.

  5. CMaster says:

    Sounds well done, but I want more coop adventure-em-ups like Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. That was great fun both remote and local coop, because you actually had to work together, got to save each other’s lives (or be needlessly cruel and end them) etc – and even LC:GoL suffered from too much combat really.

  6. aego says:

    If I remember correctly, this game is set in the same universe as Greed Corp., isn’t it? Which was a very nice strategy / boardgame, albeit a little rigid and limited with its tactical options, but the setting was quite appealing. Gatling Gears seems like a lot more fun, especially in local co-op (which Greed Corp. also had).

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Greed Corp had perhaps the most incoherent plot I’ve ever encountered, in games or elsewhere. No idea why you’d go back to it for setting of all things.

      Fine game, though.

  7. westyfield says:

    Ah, dieselpunk. The superior ‘punk.

    • Daiv says:

      Prepare to receive a slap across the face from the back of my ornate brass and ivory steam-gauntlet.

    • Starky says:

      Both of you can kiss my carbon nano-fibre coated arse.

      Cyber-punk is clearly the superior.

  8. Octaeder says:

    Not what I expected from the follow up up to Greed Corp.

  9. FakeAssName says:

    Gamersgate has got it for $9.95 …. just saying.

  10. Tom De Roeck says:

    Also, what did the girlfriend think of the coop experience?

  11. Gnoupi says:

    And like all “digital download only” releases published by EA… not available in France.

    Go figure.

    (Same thing happened with Deathspank and Shank)

  12. Squire says:

    Enjoying it right now while stuck in the house with a crusty face, love the guard tower explosions and the spark bomb.

    Also, tell me, does anyone elses girlfriend also get put off playing co-op with you after a while because she interprets your enthusiastic shouting and excited controller pointing as you complaining shes shit, or am I just a mean bastard?

    • FakeAssName says:

      nope, mine (wife) gets like that too.

      I try telling her that I get expressive when I’m having fun, but she still gets all hyper defensive and stops playing.

    • AmateurScience says:

      I have had to stop playing games with the other half, putting a controller in her hands brings out this terrifyingly single-minded score-attack demon who will stop at nothing until my name is expunged from all high score tables forever.

  13. faelnor says:

    Those screens remind me of something different than a bullet hell shooter:
    Has there been any attempt at making a good modern-day Chaos Engine clone?

  14. johnpeat says:

    I tried this on the 360 and whilst there’s nothing WRONG with it – neither did it really grab me by the throat and demand purchasing…

    Maybe I’m getting picky but hails of bullets don’t do enough for me anymore :)

  15. Coins says:

    Man, I wish they’d use this universe to make an RPG out of.

  16. shoptroll says:

    I played this at PAX East this year and had fun with it. Wasn’t exactly my girlfriend’s cup of tea (and Jamestown co-op was a fun 30-60 minutes with her but again… not her thing) so I think I’ll be waiting on a sale before grabbing this. Was something I was looking forward to this year but then we got swamped in other things! Also, this is a bit late compared to the console brethren.

    So does this require you to have Origin installed? How are updates being delivered?

    It’s odd that this is showing up on Steam given all the bad blood coming from EA. Something like this makes me think that the removal of Crysis and DA2 are more political or posturing than contractual. It also makes me wonder if I’m right in expecting ME3 and BF3 to appear on Steam on launch day or shortly after.

  17. squareking says:

    On the topic of cutesy shmup-types, the Gundemonium collection is coming to Steam shortly. The balls-hard and quirky Hitogata Happa is part of the pack and deserves some spotlighting. RPS Team, go!

  18. moarage says:

    man I thought it looked like a cool rts game from the front-page picture

  19. Howl says:

    I’m still praying at the altar of Jamestown most days. Is this gears thing worth bothering with? The Metacritic scores seemed a little “meh”.

    • Fumarole says:

      I rather think that’s the point of this article.

    • Howl says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, I had missed it completely.

      Or.. maybe I was joining in with the general discussion beneath the article that didn’t seem to have much feedback about the game from other people.

  20. Dao Jones says:

    “Not all EA games are absent from Steam. New releases are still appearing, such as Gatling Gears.”

    We’ll see what happens when they try to release DLC for this. :o

  21. TheGameSquid says:

    Bah, all the constant “I have a girlfriend” mentioning on RPS here is ruining our good reputation. Look at me for example! Cynical. Annoyed. Lonely. In terrible physical condition. Dirty. Ashamed of his lesser being. Traumatized. Weak, yet strong. Even a little misanthropic.

    I’m still doing it old school, men! ALL. BY. MY. SELF.



  22. Hyperion says:

    says it uses “EA Access. 5 Machine limit” for DRM.