By now, everyone who has wanted to try Minecraft has done so, as developer Mojang’s innovative survival sandbox title is available on every console that doesn’t have Nintendo in its name. If that isn’t enough, there are also dozens of derivatives that have tried to put their own unique twist on the popular block-building game. While it may seem like a crowded marketplace, with a bunch of small fish trying to take on a blue whale, this hasn’t stopped Exato Game Studios from trying to find success by building upon the icon.
Have you ever played Minecraft and wondered why the title didn’t have guns? Well, the team over at Exato Game Studios did, and that’s how Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded was born. It’s a simple concept, and one that most might even roll their eyes at since it seems like the most “dude bro” suggestion. Here’s the thing, though: by merging modern first-person shooters and the block-building of Minecraft, Exato has made a game that is not only innovative, but also a lot of fun to play.
From a pure shooting aspect, Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded feels very similar to popular titles like the Call of Duty series. The gunplay is fast-paced, with aiming feeling tight and well-tuned. Aside from the feel of the weapons, Call of Duty comparisons will continue on to how the title is structured. Similarities such as a progressive levelling system (which even allows for players to prestige, or ReCraft), and even rewards for killing several opponents in succession are present.
Despite borrowing a substantial amount of ideas from several popular titles, Guncraft still manages to craft its own identity. What makes it so unique as a shooter is the ability to modify the environments that players are battling upon. This means that you can both build upon and destroy the dozens of preset levels, which helps keep things interesting.
For example, players could create an underground tunnel that leads to a strategic point in a Capture the Flag match, or their own sniping tower to gain an advantage in a Deathmatch battle. The possibilities are legitimately endless, and strategies are only limited by the creativity of the participants.
In order to modify the multiplayer maps mid-match, players will have to switch to Build Mode. This is as simple as pressing the ‘B’ button on an Xbox 360 controller, and it totally changes the game’s layout. Instead of carrying a gun, players now hold a pickaxe in hand, which allows them to create a variety of different blocks. These blocks are not unlimited, though, and you will have to spend money (that is picked up by destroying blocks) to build platforms.
Since multiplayer matches are always a sprint, rather than a marathon, Exato Game Studios has included an easy way to build some complex structures. While in build mode, you can look through a set of preset objects (such as towers, bridges, and stairs) that can be built with a press of a button. Being able to build new areas means that every match in Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded feels fresh, as no map is ever the same.
Building may provide the most exciting possibilities, but being able to destroy every single part of the environment is just as fun. Any block can be destroyed either by gunfire or pickaxe, so no cover is ever really safe. Players can also destroy the floor out from enemies’ feet, which will cause them to fall. This level of destruction has changed how a first-person shooter plays, and makes the core gameplay of Guncraft both fun and interesting.
Rounding out the gameplay is the ability to pilot several different types of vehicles, which range from tanks to helicopters, with the developer taking inspiration from Battlefield. While these vehicles do pack a lot of firepower, they are also very difficult to drive. This means your mileage (and success) will vary, so it will be up to the player to decide if they should fight on-foot or not.
No matter how fun the shooting is, a multiplayer title is only as fun as its game modes. Thankfully, this particular one is well equipped to keep players entertained for dozens of hours, as it features a wide array of match types. However, while the first-person shooter standards are all present, the game really shines in its wackier modes. For example, in Lava Survival, players need to constantly run for high ground as lava quickly overtakes the level. This leads to some intense scenarios, as you try to force others to fall into the lava since gunfire freezes enemies instead of killing them in this variant.
Other modes include a co-operative horde mode that allows players to take on waves of computer-controlled enemies. Called Onslaught, this scenario is solid fun and a nice change of pace from the standard competitive modes. Also present is a Mario Kart style racing game that you’ll want to forget about. Going further, the game offers two unique modes in Spleef, which focuses on knocking players into lava, and Paranoia. Paranoia plays similar to party games such as Werewolf and Mafia. It is a novel concept for a mode in a first-person shooter, and one that really stands out in Guncraft.
It is also worth noting that up to two players can play Guncraft locally via split-screen play. This means that you and a friend can both hop online while sitting on the same couch. There is, however, no way to battle bots.
No matter its shortcomings from a single-player standpoint, Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded is a refreshing and innovative experience online. And, thanks to the title being on-sale as part of July’s Deals with Gold promotion, there should be no shortage of players to take on.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version, which we were provided with for review.
Despite being an amalgamation of two well-known genres, Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded feels both unique and innovative. There really isn't anything else like it when it comes to first-person shooters.