Natural resources, bugs with guns, and everyone’s at war battling for territory, all while burying the nostalgic aspirations that the game so falsely leads you with. Needless to say, my hatred for all that walks on six legs hasn’t improved, and after playing MilitAnt I doubt that’s going to change. Remember that movie, Antz? Sylvester Stallone, Woody Allen and Sharon Stone? Late-90s movie by DreamWorks Animation that takes a pre Gears Of War approach in response to Pixar’s A Bug’s Life. No? Well, okay. MilitAnt is exactly that: Forgettable.
Taking an approach to gameplay much akin to Contra and Metal Slug, MilitAnt takes influence from the 2D shoot ’em ups of yesteryear and despite twenty-plus years of near-perfected game design, it somehow manages to dilute and degrade the experience. One thing that became immediately prominent after ten minutes or so of gameplay was the potential for what could have and should have been. The formula is there, the mechanics are there and heck, even the mediocre yet reasonable justification for gameplay resulting from its narrative is there. Problem is…it’s just not enjoyable to play.
The main issue with MilitAnt resides within its gameplay mechanics. To put it kindly, it’s awful. Where the game takes a two-dimensional perspective to its gameplay the player is greatly encouraged to continuously move, dodge and return fire on enemies. As the player is an Ant, he or she is given four guns to contempt with – firing two at a time by the means of the gamepad’s triggers and switching to the next before they overheat.
Well, that sounds fun, it sure does. But since the game’s aiming system is linked to the input of the right-analog stick which clearly demands the attention of my thumb, accuracy proves to be imprecise and poorly designed since simultaneous evasion also requires use of my thumb which is linked to the Dualshock 4’s "X" button – Biology 101: Human beings only have one thumb per hand. Insects may vary but they don’t play video games.
This wouldn’t be much of an issue if the player wasn’t continuously swarmed by enemies, but since the game is designed around the aspects of an onslaught bulletstorm, the cumbersome aiming-mechanics directly conflict the design. Aiming while shooting while jumping simply borders the line of impossibility. Contra damn-near perfected this –28 years ago. This dreadful experience is also made worse by the fact that enemies don’t seem to receive any hit-damage when in-close proximity of the player.
Sure, I could just slash them with my…Ant-blades, which also happen to come in handy for deflecting bullets, but since the gameplay design dictates that the player must keep moving and the visual response of using such weapons provides no visual feedback, you’re simply left frustrated pretending to enjoy the game. By the way, if you’re not facing the direction of incoming fire you’ll be deflecting nothing but the muddy scent of the ground that sits beneath your feet.
Everything that the game has to offer resides within its first level and the experience ceases to expand beyond it. The only thing that actually progressed was my accumulation of upgrade points which I could then use to buy new weapons. While the game allows you to equip each weapon to one of four hands, because you know –Ants, the game itself encourages no excitement whatsoever to even bother. The repetitive nature of struggling to gun your way through combat while attempting to run past enemies doesn’t improve the longer the player continues to suffer the game.
There’s no redeeming qualities about the game that deserve players time. Had the game been enjoyable to begin with then it wouldn’t matter how repetitive it is, but as the only change comes from battling militarized Wasps to tank-built cockroaches in the form of ham-fisted, pretentious boss battles where you’re simply shooting away until its health bar disappears, there’s nothing to keep players invested for the rest of the game.
The creativity is there – it’s present in each of the enemies and their respective design – but everything else is just a bore. The question of when I’m supposed to be excited or impressed by what it has to offer constantly pestered me. And that’s the problem: I wanted to enjoy it. The game’s level design is very much that of a typical 2D platformer: Jump on high ledges, avoid traps and pitfalls, destroy your foe. But since the game’s enemies are able to traverse in and out of the two-dimensional perspective, attempting to retain your aim while dodging those from others results in an inconvenient addition of something which adds nothing to the game.
The environments themselves are visually pleasing and they capture the theme of the game well. However, like most of the unfortunate civilians out there who had to endure such a dull and heart-wrenching experience, you probably won’t care.