Sin & Punishment’s single best setpiece captures the essence and versatility of its design. With your character Airan on a platform zipping around a naval carrier fleet, you evade the barrage of artillery fire from massive aircraft carriers, dogfight squadrons of enemy aircraft, and bat missiles back at their launchers, while unleashing a constant stream of shots to send them to the bottom of the ocean, all as the world soars and reorients in full cinematic splendor. It’s one of the most exhilarating action spectacles of the generation and combines the best elements of the classic shooter and brawler genres into one unique game. The scene ends with the freedom fighter chasing down a comet-sized missile shot from low-orbit as it hurtles at your ally-turned-monster Saki.
Depending on whether you chose to play as X or Zero, the fight against Web Spider requires a different set of tactics. With his X-Buster, X can dash around the small jungle room until Spider descends from the canopy, wall jumping over the webs he shoots and firing from afar. With his Z-Sabre, Zero is forced to stay close to the bug on his line, dashing away from the web only to careen up and around over it in a circle and strike before your foe scrambles back to safety. The fight gets harder when the Repliforce member lays an electric grid and starts scurrying about the scene. Because of their different playstyles, the remaining seven robot masters will present X and Zero with a similarly different dynamic that test what the two machines, and the player at their controls, are made of.
Contra: Hard Corps opens to a robotic army assaulting a sprawling future city only to be decimated by a charging tank that ejects your character guns blazing into an active warzone. Not only does this succinctly indicate where the games tonal priorities are, it’s also the designers giving you some honest advice: charge forward until every enemy is demolished. Hard Corps distilled Alien War’s brazen creativity down to its run and gun foundation, creating a single minded epic that is equal parts twitch shooter and blockbuster action flick.