If Nintendo fans ever felt like they were deprived of a Gears of War-like experience on any of their current systems, then IronFall: Invasion will certainly fill that void… at least to a point. IronFall: Invasion unabashedly borrows nearly every single mechanic from Gears of War, and directly injects it into this handheld shooter. And while that's not necessarily a bad thing, as Gears certainly did a lot of things right, many of them won't feel right, especially if you're not playing IronFall on a New 3DS or without a Circle Pad Pro.
When I say the game borrows nearly every mechanic, I damn well mean it. Your character, first of all, looks like he'd been snatched out of the Gears universe. Maybe slightly less bulky than Marcus Fenix but similar none the less. The game also sports an active reload system, where if you press the reload button at a specific time while the reload circle pops up, you'll have more ammo in your gun than with a standard reload. The game also heavily focuses on cover-based shooting, making sure you stay out of sight to regain health, and then pop out to pick off enemies. Even though it's all basically copied from Gears, it does all work rather well here, so at least there's that.
The actual running and gunning in the game at first didn't feel good at all. Playing on the New 3DS, the C-stick was just far too sensitive, making my reticle jump around the screen instead of precisely focusing on enemies. However, the game lets you adjust the sensitivity, which I turned all the way down. Once I did that, the game become fully playable. I was able to pick off enemies with ease, and it actually felt quite good. But I still stand by the fact that I don't think the New 3DS is well suited for shooters. As a second analog stick that rotates the camera in other games, it works perfectly, however precise aiming just doesn't always feel right.
Much like shooters of today, the game doesn't have a traditional health bar, but instead tracks the main character's health through a heart rate monitor on the bottom of the screen. Taking damage will obviously increase it to dangerous levels. Sprinting will also raise the heart rate so it's important to not just rush into an area full of enemies, since you'll be immediately gunned down. It's an interesting premise that I actually liked. Though the only downside to that was that it was slightly harder to actually tell what health level it's at.
The single player portion is split up into 11 campaign missions, which honestly last a little longer than I would have wanted them to, but I actually had fun playing them. Sure, they're mostly just corridors filled with bad guy fodder with an occasional open area to unleash a hail of bullets, but if I look at the game as an homage to old-school shooters with some new-school mechanics, then it totally gets a pass. There are some slight "puzzle" solving mechanics, by which you'll have to find certain key cards to progress, but rest assured most of your time is spent running and gunning. The one completely throwaway puzzle mechanic that doesn't even need to be in the game, as it doesn't serve any sort of challenge but simply just slightly extends the experience, is when you're hacking panels. You'll have to drag colored wires to various spots. If the light turns green, that wire is placed correctly. The reason why there's no challenge here is because you simply just drag the wire across all of them until one of them turns green, and continue this process until you've matched them all.
You'll also have a plethora of different weapons to choose from, each one with slightly different shots and mechanics, but none of them seem like they ever pack a punch, which I guess is hard to do on a small handheld. Considering the bulk of your character and the size of the weapons, I just expencted to feel more weighty.
The multiplayer, much like the single player, is all about that old-school mentality as well. It's a simple arena shooter with no perk systems or levels to gain. You simply load in, and start shooting. I'm not a huge multiplayer fan, so while the mode didn't really speak to me on a higher level, I'm sure fans of old school arena shooters will probably feel right at home here. But that's if you even choose to buy the single player campaign.
The actual download for the game is free, allowing you to get a taste of both the single player content, which gives you a single mission to run through, as well as a demo of the game's multiplayer, with just the standard loadout. It's actually smart of either Nintendo or developer VD-DEV to make it free-to-try as each sampling should give you a good enough taste of the entire package. Then you can either opt to buy each section individually for $9.99 each or bundled together.
IronFall: Invasion certainly doesn't do anything new that we haven't seen before. It borrows heavily from an already established franchise, and unabashedly so. And while it certainly works, and you might have some fun with it, I'm not sure if it's worth the full asking price. My recommendation is to try out each mode for free, and see whether both, or maybe neither of the modes entice you to fork over cash.