After bursting onto the scene with the 2D skateboarder, OlliOlli, developer Roll7 quickly became a studio to watch. After all, their first console release was a fast-paced, highly polished affair, which proved that skateboarding games could still be a success on modern consoles. The UK studio sensibly followed up on said success with OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood, but now they’ve branched out with a 2D cover shooter called Not A Hero.
In Not A Hero players are tasked with getting an eccentric mayoral candidate named BunnyLord elected. How will they do that? By taking out crime, of course. While mass murdering gangs may not be a good campaign strategy in real life, it’s certainly the best way to go about things in a video game.
Despite being at an isometric 2D perspective, Not A Hero plays like a familiar cover shooter. While that genre may feel tired and played out by now, it actually feels fresh here, thanks to the twists that Roll7 have implemented. Players can slide through areas directly into the nearest cover, which makes it a fast-paced game. A 3D shooter could never be this fast, and full advantage is taken here.
Each level features one core goal, such as putting up campaign posters or killing a gang leader. Besides that core objective, there are also several optional ones to complete. These tasks are more skill-based, and require players to kill every enemy, or beat the level in a short amount of time. This is similar to how OlliOlli handled progression, and here, each objective will raise BunnyLord’s approval ratings.
The reason you’ll want to have BunnyLord’s approval rating as high as possible is because you’ll unlock new playable characters as it rises. Each character has their own weapons, too, ranging from pistols to powerful shotguns, and they can change how the game plays. For example, the hip-thrusting Latino Jesus has poor accuracy, but moves extremely quickly. Of course, every character has pros and cons to using them, so you’ll likely want to experiment and find a one that fits your playstyle.
You’ll have to find a character that fits your playstyle quickly, though, as Not A Hero is a very difficult game. While Roll7 was nice enough to include regenerating health, there are no checkpoints in the game’s 20+ levels. This means that, if you die at the very last segment of an extremely hard level, you’ll have to do it all over again. It’s frustrating, but the game is never unfair. Every death is on the player making a mistake, and it’s up to them to adapt and try again.
While your default weapon will be your main resource for gaining votes, you’ll also find plenty of power-ups in each level. These can range from incendiary bullets that explode when shot, to secondary weapons such as grenades and turrets. These power-ups can be a game changer, as they can take out even the most dangerous of foes in just one hit. In a game where death can come so quickly, a little bit of an insurance policy is always a welcome addition.
Another area where Roll7’s latest game succeeds is in being stylish. The levels all look gorgeous, and the last area of the game is filled with samurais trying to slice up your campaign. The title also features randomly generated text from BunnyLord before each level, which is hilarious and makes him the most lovable psychopath in gaming. BunnyLord might not always make sense, but you know that he’s the mayor that his city needs.
A fantastic pulse-pumping soundtrack rounds out the package, and it’s a large part as to why Not A Hero feels like a complete experience. When gunshots are being fired, and you’re near the end of a level you’ve failed a dozen times before, you’ll want the volume to be at maximum. It makes each victory feel so much more satisfying, and the game is truly enhanced by having such a good soundtrack.
It’s shocking how similar Not A Hero is to Roll7’s previous efforts despite being in a completely different genre. It’s challenging yet never unfair, the gameplay is fast-paced to the point where you’re playing off reflexes and not wit, and it’s as addictive an experience as you’ll find on PlayStation 4. Roll7 has cemented themselves as a studio that is versatile, and is definitely not a developer that should be shoehorned into one genre.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with.
Just like Roll7's previous outings, Not A Hero is a challenging affair that will leave you coming back for just one more try. Except it's not just one more try; it's been 30 minutes and you're trying to cope with being addicted to the frantic gameplay.