Title: Gunfire Reborn
Developer: Duoyi Network
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: 10/27/22 (Xbox One and Series X/S)
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, iOS, Android, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5
Reviewed on: Xbox One via Xbox Game Pass
Price: $19.99 USD
I am a big fan of some quick playing, arcade-style games. When you sell most of your time to overlords, you try to fill in as much free time with fun as you can. So when Gunfire Reborn popped up on Xbox Game Pass, the description piqued my interest a tad bit. A First Person Shooter with the replayability of a rougelite and the skill tree of an RPG? This could be the next obsession! Any game where I look at the clock and realize, “Hey, I should be sleeping right now” is always a welcome addition.
Ummm, plot? Plot, plot, plot, is that the thing with the pedals? No, wait, that’s a bike. I mean, there are some mystical ninja puppies and kitties with a lot of firepower, for some reason. I honestly have no idea what’s going on in this game. The trailer talks about some really vague evil. The opening scene goes by in flash, without a lot of details about anything. It feels like this is a case of Diablo Story Syndrome, where the story truly is not the focus of the game. Figuring out the story is like using a broken needle, you’re completely missing the point.
The gameplay can best be described as a super fast FPS, mixed with slowly growing RPG stats. You start in a randomized dungeon, searching for stronger weapons, hidden power ups, and grinding out Soul Essence to level up your abilities after each run. The highest compliment I can give the game is the fact that the gameplay loop is both addicting enough to replay over and over, and fast enough for a very quick session in a limited amount of time. It has enough of an arcade feeling of getting a few runs in, or just trying to grind out some extra talent points that it makes it feel like you accomplished something, no matter how much or how little time you put into it.
The game certainly takes a lot of inspiration from some of the bigger loot-focused games in various ways. There is a lot of influence coming from the Borderlands series or even the Diablo games, with each of the characters having different abilities and skill sets to build. I also see a lot of Dead Cells systems, with the quickness and replayability of each run mixed with the weapons and power ups being randomized each time you play. There is some fun to the roll-the-dice element, playing with the best hand you’ve been dealt as best as you can.
However, there are some blemishes by design that hold back a truly fulfilling game. A lot of the in-game enhancements and abilities are stuck behind certain skill challenges–things like defeating certain enemies a number of times, or leveling up to a certain point. This results in a very shallow pool of powerups and weapons that can spawn at any point. This becomes frustrating when, at a certain point in time, you can only make it halfway through stage 2, and you just become a sandbag on the ground, waiting for no one to bring you back to life, and the only thing you can think of is, “a new machine gun would be really nice right now.”
The same issue is there with the characters you control. At the start, you only have one character to play as. Two are unlocked through grinding your player level as much as you can, and two more are locked behind a paywall, where you have to spend the same Soul Essence tokens instead of making your character stronger. As a comparison, Borderlands always would have 4 playable characters right from the start, with no extra costs or time-wasters tacked on. It’s a bit of a penalty for the inflation of the game, where you’ll be stuck on the first character for a while.
I also don’t know how truly random the game claims to be. Like a roguelite, the game claims to have random levels each time you play, so two runs will never be the same. The closest thing I can say is “maybe”. The game has a set series of levels that play in the same order, no matter what. And each of those stages has their own unique playset of enemies. It works in each small section, but it’s not truly random mayhem at all times. And with a keen eye, you start to pick up on what enemies spawn where and when. It’s not really full embrace-the-chaos random, but it works for replayability.
The graphics themselves are like being near-sighted. I can tell what everything is, but there is no detail whatsoever. The game is based on the Unity engine and goes with a cel-shaded design. Everything looks like lumpy mashed potatoes dipped in an art class sink. There aren’t a lot of strong, well-defined landmarks, or notable enemies–everything is different just enough that you can tell it’s two enemies. Imagine that entire stages were made from Play-Doh from a 4th grader’s science fair project, and you get the idea.
My other major issue stems from the entire nature of the game. I think the theming is very ill-fitting and doesn’t mix well. You have a story of supernatural enemies and mystical powers, delving into a fantasy setting. It’s entirely possible you could call this a kid’s game. But then, everything gets guns and grenades. Every loading screen has these Nickelodeon mascots packing heat, rushing headlong into battle. I’m not a prude, but they didn’t even try to cover up the hot lead aspect of the game. Look, I love puppies and kitties, but I think it’s a weird message having them dual wielding Glocks.
The game itself runs very well, even on my Xbox One, which is starting to struggle on games that aren’t graphic-intensive. The game runs a smooth 60 FPS, mostly because they have that counter on the screen most of the time. It’s very small, but it’s there. The only real issue I have is with the quality assurance, or the lack thereof. In certain runs, you will come across a red chest. It acts as a power up gamble, where the more you spend, in theory, the better the reward. The only problem is, they forget to translate the options, and everything is still in Chinese, so I have no idea what any of the choices are. Although I understand they were probably cramming to get the game done for a global release, when a solid section of game is forgotten and untouched, that’s a pretty hardy issue to ignore.
Overall, I have to give Gunfire Reborn a 2.5/5. The gameplay loop itself is very satisfying, with it’s arcade-like action and skill tree-building process. But don’t let that trick you into thinking it’s a fully fleshed out experience. Is it playable? Yes, but it’s not refined. There are a lot of little details and iffy design choices that show maybe a little bit of developer crunch or just rushing the game out to the market. It’s like a pair of glasses with good lenses, but a bad frame. It works for what it is, but its looks might make people stay away.
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Featured Image: 505 Games