Heavy Weapon: Atomic Tank, was originally a flash game released in 2005 by PopCap Games. A free version was available to download, with a premium version available for purchase. In 2007, the game was then ported to the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade and boasted some new features upon its release. Almost three years on, PopCap Games and Sony Online Entertainment have now decided to release the game on the PlayStation Network - five years since its original conception, has it stood the test of time?
The premise behind Heavy Weapon is simple. Russia have suddenly decided to invade the United States of America with very little provocation, and the USA have been caught completely by surprise. With all hope lost, the President's advisors suggest surrender as the only realistic course of action, but the President has one last throw of the dice, and calls on Heavy Weapon to level the playing field. That's essentially all the story there is, although there are some very small cutscenes at the half-way mark, and upon completing the game.
There are 19 levels to fight through, and they are all outlined on a map of territories. Before each mission the player is informed of the enemies that will be encountered, as well as a seemingly irrelevant statistic about the territory's population. After choosing to invade, the player is hurled straight into the action, which involves shooting almost everything in sight.
The gameplay revolves solely around the Heavy Weapon tank, which can move left and right on the bottom of the screen. The screen itself moves automatically at a set speed and there is a progress bar at the top, so players can determine how much of the level has passed. The tank can fire in one direction, which is denoted by the player, but there is a full 180 degree scope, so every section o the screen can be hit by fire. The player also has access to a Nuke, which wipes everything out on the screen and a super weapon called the Mega Laser. This destroys anything in its path, but only lasts for a short period of time. A support helicopter also appears sporadically througout levels to drop shield upgrades and other accessories.
Enemies are quite varied in the game, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Initially they start off quite small, with projectiles that are easy to shoot down. However, further progression through the game will lead to far more challenging foes, with weapons that can cause considerable damage. Not only that, but eventually the game becomes exceedingly hectic. Expect to be dodging numerous projectiles at the same time, while trying to destroy the enemies firing them. It makes the game pretty challenging, and there's definitely a sense of achievement upon reaching the end of each level.
When the end of the level is reached, players are greeted with a boss encounter. However, these are often relatively easy compared to the level itself. They generally have very obvious patterns, and their weapons are often very easy to avoid. It's slightly understandable though, as dying on the boss and having to do the whole level again would become exceedingly frustrating after a while. After a certain amount of levels are completed, the bosses are recycled with a slight upgrade, but even then they still don't really pose much of a challenge.Overall, the gameplay is fun, but it just feels rather dated. It may have been quite something back when the game was initially released, but with the calibre of games featured in the downloadable sector, Heavy Weapon just feels extremely basic and under-developed. It's possible to upgrade weapons after each level, which does help to decrease the level of repetition, but ultimately the game doesn't offer much variety aside from throwing more enemies at the player.
Graphically the game, in some senses, is equally uninspiring. The levels are all basically the same, but with a different repeating background. The art style can't really be faulted, and the bosses in particular look very suitable for the game. What is also impressive is the amount of action on the screen at any one time, and sometimes the screen can just become a blur of projectiles and enemies. Surprisingly, the audio actually holds up pretty well during these situations, and it still sounds structured and coherent.
Aside from the single player campaign, there is a Survival mode, and Boss Blitz. Survival mode is completely time based, and challenges players to try and survive as long as they can, whereas Boss Blitz pits them up against all of the bosses one after another with only one life. There is also co-operative play, which can be enjoyed locally or online, which can be exceedingly fun, in the short-term. However, there hasn't really been anything new added since the game was released almost three years ago.
Heavy Weapon is a game that ultimately feels dated. The core gameplay is still enjoyable for a while, and the action can get quite frenetic. It's also fun to play with friends for a short period of time. However, it's essentially a game that just feels under-developed, and considering the quality of titles that are available on the PlayStation Network now, it's hard to recommend this title for anything other than a quick stop-gap.