SEGA Dreamcast: Expendable

gfzexpend1There are some types of games that seem to have fallen by the wayside and the arcade-style run-and-gun shooter is certainly one of them. Despite a number of ham-handed attempts to bring the thumb-busting 2D genre into the 3D realm, I’m still waiting for a truly good modern treatment. And here comes Expendable. Heavily influenced by games like Commando or Ikari Warriors, this is a sci-fi based run-and-gun game that’s pretty middle of the road when it comes to quality, but is definitely worth a look because it’s currently the only one of it’s kind on the Dreamcast.

Like Ikari Warriors, Expendables plays from a top-down perspective, more or less, where you run through the levels and shoot everything that moves. And even everything that doesn’t. You kill enemies, you grab power-ups and different types of weapons, and if you’re lucky you have a friend along in tow to do it all in the two-player mode. In a nutshell, that’s Expendable, all dressed up in a 3D engine with a few dynamic camera angles thrown in to keep things interesting.

Unfortunately, the control here could have been a wee bit tighter. The analog stick feels a little loose, while the D-pad isn’t precise enough. The result is that lining up shots can be difficult. Thankfully, the game does offer the ability to lock in your direction and strafe, by holding in the right trigger. This helps a lot, but it’s also a bit clumsy. I spend virtually the entire game with the strafe button held down, lifting it only when I need to refocus my fire in another direction. By the time I’m done with a game, my right index finger feels like it’s going to cramp up and fall off.

On the plus side, Expendable is quite a looker. Every level of the game trumpets across the screen with sharp resolution, crisp textures, and retina-dazzling pyrotechnics, all accompanied by thunderous explosions capable of rattling your walls. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot of variety to the levels and the background colors are mostly muted and gray, but it makes for a fine canvas to show off the vibrant death rays, beams of destruction, and combustion that litters the screen at any given moment. I also liked the way your player’s portrait slowly transforms into a skull as he takes damage. The only real issue I had with the visuals was the game seemed overly dark until I tweaked the settings and turned up the brightness.

Expendable is far from a great game, but I do enjoy playing it a lot, even with the clunky control. Maybe that’s partly because I’m so starved for these kinds of games. It can be sloppy and frustrating, and actually physically painful to play, but I find myself coming back to it over and over again.

Graphics: Eye candy galore! Crisp resolution, sharp textures and sizzling explosions. 

Audio: Ass-rock and wall-rattling explosions. What more could you want in an arcade shooter?

Control: Start exercising your right index finger, because you’re going to need it for that straif trigger. Seriously, this game should control better.

Overall Value: I damn well got my money’s worth out of this game. You may not. 

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