Ripstone’s Gun Commando has a certain kind of charm. It’s a game that harkens back to the days of Doom, Marathon, and Quake, when things were much simpler and the adrenaline rush came from picking up a gun and simply mowing down anything that moved. In the modern shooter landscape, when we’re surrounded by load outs, regenerating health, multiplayer, and other mechanics designed to add depth, we explore the question of whether there is still a place for a game like Gun Commando.
The lore behind Gun Commando is everything you’d expect from a game tipping its hat to the early ’90s. You play the role of Jack Bennett, a major league dudebro who’s focused on destroying alien invaders in spectacular fashion. The stupid story is told in cutscenes that use solid comic-book drawings. Jack works his way through four different locations featuring 24 total levels sprinkled with a handful of boss battles.
One of the biggest signatures of FPS games on the PC was fluid control and response. Gun Commando nails that in its gunplay. Using an equivalent of virtual sticks, playing Gun Commando feels on par with other top tier iOS shooters. Each level consists of gunning down brainless enemies, collecting three trophies, and getting to the finish as quickly as possible. You’re scored according to your performance in these elements, and the scoreboard and achievements are nicely woven in with GameCenter.
Enemy AI is stupid here, but considering the source material Gun Commando draws from, it makes sense. Difficulty and challenge are derived purely from the game’s penchant for repeatedly throwing waves of enemies at you. We can’t tell a lie; the running and gunning feels good. Aside from some clipping and animations problems with enemies going through walls at times, the moment-to-moment action delivers. With every boss you slay, you pick up a more potent weapon to match the increased challenge waiting ahead.
What’s even more impressive is Gun Commando’s dedication to a very retro and purposely minimalistic style. Everything is high-resolution yet pixelated, but it works well as a nostalgic device. The sound effects and music are exaggerated and campy, very reminiscent of what we’ve seen in games like Duke Nukem 3D. The four environments feel distinct enough to avoid the accusation of simply being a palette swap. The presentation is just polished all around.
Without the context of the games that have inspired Gun Commando, the brilliance of what’s here may be lost upon you. This is not the most feature-rich game, or even a particularly long one. What is here is a classic love letter to the first person shooters that revelled in their own absurdity. We try to make a habit of the reviewing the game we have rather than the game what we wish we had, but it’s hard to ignore the lack of multiplayer on any level. That said, Gun Commando is a qualified winner.