We have multiple different VR platforms available right now, and not all games get released on all platforms. Gear VR has seen a couple of shooters in the form of the Bandit Six series. Now making their way to PlayStation VR, we get Bandit Six: Combined Arms. Does this shooter provide something new and interesting for PlayStation owners or should they not have bothered?
Bandit Six: Combined Arms is actually a compilation of two separate games: Bandit Six and its sequel Bandit Six: Salvo. Both games share some similarities in how they play. You'll either control an airplane's tail gunner or a turret and you'll look around to move a crosshair to aim your weapons and press a button to shoot. This is about where the similarities between the games end.
The original Bandit Six is easily the weaker of the two, despite having more content. This one puts you in the back of a World War 2 airplane and has you defending it from other airplanes. Over the course of over thirty levels, you'll be tasked with doing a ton of shooting. Sometimes you need to shoot down a certain amount of a specific plane, sometimes you just need to survive for a few minutes, and sometimes you need to protect some other planes flying with you.
While this may sound varied, the truth is that every mission boils down to the same thing: you'll hold down the shoot button until you win. There is basically no strategy involved, besides deciding when to quickly let go of the shoot button so your weapon can cool down. As you kill enemies you'll sometimes see cargo planes, which you can shoot down to get power-ups. Most of these power-ups are ultimately forgettable, just things like stronger shots or a faster shooting gun. There was never anything that stopped me and made me go "oh that's really cool".
Bandit Six also suffers from one other major problem: it's overly difficult. The challenge doesn't really feel fair but rather like its artificially achieved by overwhelming the player with more enemies than they can reasonably react to. The game attempts to alleviate this by having you earn money you can spend on upgrades for your turret. What that really means is that you're going to be grinding out easy levels for enough money to complete the later ones. Over the four-ish hours it took me to finish Bandit Six I spend nearly all of them bored. It makes the game feel like a World War 2 version of EVE: Gunjack, only far less interesting.
Thankfully, Bandit Six: Salvo is here to save the package. Reminding me more of a VR adaption of the Toy Soldiers games, Bandit Six: Salvo takes some elements from tower defense to improve the formula. Before each level, you'll have a map screen with several areas where you can place gun emplacements. There are a few different types of guns, each strong in one area but not effective in another. For example, mortars are great at taking out slower heavy enemies but have some difficulty with faster ones and a really hard time with helicopters or airplanes. While you're here you can also buy cards that you can assign to guns, giving them buffs like more health, or doubling their attack damage.
Once you start the level you can switch what turret you're controlling at any time. The ones you don't play as will be taken over by the AI, attacking enemies when they get near. It helps deal with the "swarm of enemies too difficult to react to" problem in a much more natural way that doesn't require the grinding that Bandit Six did. It also meant that a level would rely more on my tactical placement of guns and which cards I assigned to each gun rather than if I could hold down the fire button long enough.
Not to say that I wasn't still important. Guns don't work at full efficacy if you're not controlling them directly, so you do want to be jumping around from gun to gun to make sure you're always providing the defense that you need. It's a smart system, one that quickly led to me having far more fun trying to work my defenses. Unfortunately, it all ends a little too quickly. While Salvo may be the better game, it's only a paltry fourteen levels long, which is less than half the length of Bandit Six.
One thing I noticed right away with both games was the art style, albeit more for the strange inconsistency between the two games. Bandit Six goes for a realistic style, while Bandit Six: Salvo leans more towards a cartoony cel-shaded one. This also makes for some deviation with how the games depict the time period. The original is mostly accurate towards World War 2 if taking some liberties with prototype airplanes, but Salvo has WW2-era planes and boats fighting with Vietnam-era helicopters and modern day tanks. Salvo looks better, but the divergences between the two can be jarring.
Bandit Six: Combined Arms provides one game that is boring, having you do little more than constantly hold down a fire button for several hours and hope you have enough upgrades to win a level. It also has a game that provides a fun take on light tower defense elements, requiring me to deploy my turrets smart and use them smarter. I wish there was a way I could skip the lesser game, but the double pack is worth it for its better half.
Bandit Six: Combined Arms was reviewed on PlayStation VR using a copy purchased by the reviewer. The games are also available individually on Gear VR.
Bandit Six: Combined Arms brings together a pair of games. One is boring, repetitive, and full of bad design decisions, while the other is fun and smart, but on the short side. As long as you stick to the good game, you should do fine.(Review Policy)
- Salvo's Tactical Gameplay is Smart
- Salvo's Art Style Pops in VR
- Bandit Six Can be Fun in Very Short Bursts
- Most of Bandit Six
- Salvo is Too Short