It’s a good thing all of those men definitely deserve to die
Narco Terror is a dumb game. That could be the whole review but I feel it’s important to elaborate. Narco Terror is a dumb game because it’s trying to fit in with a genre of dumb games. Smash TV, Total Carnage, Contra – none of them are exactly Primer (if you don’t know Primer, it’s on Netflix, go watch it, then come back once you understand what I mean, it’s ok, I’ll wait). The charm of these games come in twitch shooting, spatial awareness, and co-op. Co-op is the mode that can make almost anything fun, and games like this capitalise on it. While shooting men in the face might get dull by yourself after 15 minutes or so, let a friend join in and you can go on massacring for hours.
Narco Terror is a top-down twin-stick shooter and is much better to play with a gamepad. As what is rapidly becoming a novelty you can actually play co-op on one PC simply by plugging in another gamepad and pressing ‘A’ at any time. You could play with keyboard and mouse but most of the button prompts are made for the gamepad and aiming is much easier that way. Throughout the game you roll out of the way of slow-moving bullets, you shoot a lot of bullets back, you collect powerups and you kill a lot of people. There’s a fair amount of skill involved, with many sections becoming something like a shmup where you need to find paths through all of the incoming projectiles. They’re just slow enough that you know it’s your fault when you get clipped. With two players it can become chaotic but thanks to a checkpoint system and no life count it’s much more forgiving than the old-school type.
Story wise it’s purposefully over the top and ridiculous, the game starts with you punching a helicopter to death to get some information. As you go on in the search for your daughter you take control of a plane in a proper shmup style section, you make your way through docks, drug fields, factories and other assorted corridors on the way to your goal. Enemies get progressively stronger and more dangerous, but health packs are dropped regularly so as long as you keep moving you’re rarely overwhelmed. One significant issue the game has is that it’s terrible at telling you what to do, and we died over and over again at one point near the beginning before realising you were meant to jump on mounted guns on trucks at the bottom of the screen to clear everyone out. There’s lots of times where you’ll be aimlessly searching for the right path through and invisible walls are everywhere with no good explanation of why you’re going a certain way.
The shooting is responsive, with enemies recoiling and many dropping in a single shot which is a nice change of pace for games like this, but it has its own frustrations such as certain enemies standing on raised platforms and you having no control over your shooting elevation. Instead it’s a bit like Doom where you simply point at the enemy and the game works out the elevation for you, but sadly it doesn’t work very well so you end up shooting walls over and over again. The shooting physics lead to many such annoyances such as the explodable objects that litter every level getting shot by enemies, blowing themselves up and often taking you unawares.
Graphically the game is poor, with last gen (think Xbox and PS2) style graphics and textures and shoddy animations with some NPCs completely lacking animation until you get past a certain point. Wandering past two fields of what appeared to be mannequins in coca fields was unnerving and began to bring about flashbacks to Condemned, until they all started running away because I’d passed some kind of invisible trigger. The UI and menus are stylised in a kind of retro fashion, but that look isn’t quite translated to the main game. It seems they would have been better served by avoiding any kind of realism at all in the aesthetic, going for something more cartoony or stylised.
In terms of longevity you can easily finish the game in a few hours and while a score is kept there’s no obvious leaderboards or reason to play through again. There’s only four power ups other than a few big weapons you pick up and while you definitely learn to play better over the course of the game, it remains incredibly repetitive with no real variation of approaches.
Of course variation isn’t necessarily what people want. This is a co-op twin stick shooter and for that it’s a fun few hours. It’s just over £7 for one copy, but under £11 for two on Steam, so for a dumb fun evening you could do much worse. The glitches become hilarious when you’ve got someone to laugh at them with and the tedium never sets in as long as you’re chatting and keeping each other entertained between the ridiculous cut-scenes.. If you’re thinking of playing through it by yourself, give it a miss.