Sometimes, all you need is the Rule of Cool. The ability to hand-wave away stuff like ‘That doesn’t make sense!’ or ‘Physics don’t work that way!’ with a simple, ‘But it’s COOL’. Intrusion 2 is a game based entirely on that foundation. Carrying on directly from the end of the original Intrusion (which you can play on Newgrounds here), our nameless protagonist has just defeated a giant robot while riding on top of an enormous cruise missile, and is parachuting back down to the surface of whatever villain-infested planet this happens to be. There’s probably some other robots lurking around, also needing shooting.
If you’ve ever played Contra, Metal Slug or Abuse, then you can get a fairly solid idea of how Intrusion 2 works – just mash those three games together and add a boatload of physics. There’s no need for a story here. There was a cursory attempt at one in earlier versions of the game, but it has been excised in favour of instant pick-up-and-play action. All you need to know is that you’re a cool dude with a billowing red scarf, there’s a planet full of dudes that are totally jealous of your good looks and fashion sense, and want to shoot you. Also, giant robots. They really hate you.
On a technical level, the odds seem stacked against this game — it’s a one-man project by a Russian dude called Aleksey Abramenko. Aside from the music (performed by Android), this is one guy attempting to take on the giants of the genre. This shows, to a degree, in the scale of the game (nine levels, three of which are dominated by enormous boss battles), and in the comparatively small number of enemy types encountered. There’s still plenty of variety to last the length of the game — probably about two hours for a run on Normal mode, with good replay value and a Hard mode that adds more enemies and makes bosses more active.
And yes, the game runs on Flash. No, don’t go running for the hills yet — this isn’t another case like The Binding of Isaac where it can bring even high-end PCs to their knees. Contrary to popular belief, Flash is actually capable of pushing around plenty of fancy graphics without slowdown. The issue is that more often than not, Flash games use scaled vector art instead of sprites, and that is absolute hell on your CPU. Being sprite-based, Intrusion 2 has no such problem. In fact, it goes further than most Flash games and even boasts full native gamepad support, and can be played fullscreen at a variety of aspect ratios without any major performance hit — it’s quite impressive, technologically.
The game is capped at 30 fps, admittedly, but with good reason; that’s the rate at which the astounding physics engine works at. As you can see in the trailer above, EVERYTHING in this game is physics-driven, from the player character, to bullets, missiles, pieces of scenery, tree-branches and more. It gives the game a sense of solidity that few other games can claim. The procedural animation on the larger enemies (most notably the wall-crawling chimera-like mechs in the final third) is stunning to watch, giving them a sense of weight and power that you don’t often see.
This is a straightforward game. You travel from left to right, shooting many bad dudes, picking up guns for ammo and glowing orbs for health, and fighting a spectacular (seriously, these are some of the best in the genre) boss every third stage. While gamepad support is offered, the default control setup of keyboard for movement and mouse for aiming/shooting worked best for me. The levels are surprisingly long, taking about 10-15 minutes apiece, even if you don’t die. Rather than frustrate sensitive gamers with a traditional lives/continue system, it obfuscates it by just stopping the tally on your high score after three deaths. As the game is less predictable and controlled than Metal Slug (largely due to the unpredictable physics) you have a health bar, but you’ll still die in about five seconds if you don’t try to dodge every shot you can.
Bullets move slowly and are easy to visually track, and larger enemies all have convenient tells before their more dangerous attacks, but the sheer level of pressure the game pours on you is nothing to laugh about. While the aesthetics of the game remain fairly consistent, with the same pre-fab buildings and snowy backgrounds repeating the entire length of the game, the levels themselves are impressively varied, with battles taking you through border encampments, riding on the back on a giant wolf, snowboarding down a mountain while being attacked by parachuting ninjas and swinging your way through an enemy base using a grappling-hook-equipped suit of power armour.
The bosses are absolutely the star of the show, though. Each one is a long, complex multi-stage brawl in a constantly changing arena, and the final boss is — without a hint of hyperbole — one of the most impressive I’ve seen in a platform shooter ever, and makes full use of everything the physics engine has. There’s a few attacks that will blind-side you first time through, but arcade shooters like this are made to be replayed. Checkpoints are fairly common throughout the game, and there are even some placed at key points during the boss fights. Useful, as they can last a long time, and it’s easy to screw up and die. It’d be inexcusably frustrating if you had to replay the entire stage upon death, but the longest you’ll have to fight without a safety net is only a few minutes.
In the end, my only real complaints about this game can be traced to its comparatively low-budget, solo-developer origins. It would have been nice to see a little more variety in environments, a boss every level instead of every third, another gun or two, or a frame-cap of 60 fps instead of 30. The physics can sometimes be a bit of a double-edged sword, too – while the battles are incredibly dynamic, it’s possible to end up in frustrating situations, like having a much-needed health power-up trapped under rubble that was piled up during a fight, or have a perfect grenade shot bounced back at you by a rogue crate. Still, the pros of having a physics-driven world outweigh the cons by a fair margin.
If you’re a fan of the genre, then this one is a no-brainer, and a wholehearted recommendation. If you’re at all on the fence, or unsure as to whether your CPU can handle the physics-driven world, there’s a lengthy demo on the official site here. Intrusion 2 isn’t perfect, but polished and detailed games in this genre are pretty rare these days, even on consoles, and this is a very solid entry. There’s a little room for improvement, polish, tweaking and tuning, and maybe even some expansion/character DLC down the line, but for the asking price of $10, there’s very little to complain about here. After all, how many other games can claim to end with a mano-a-mano duel between a lone guy on foot and a hundred-foot-tall anime super-robot?
Intrusion 2 costs $10, and available via Gamersgate for Windows PCs now. A Steam release has already been confirmed, although there’s no concrete release date yet. We’ll keep you posted when it happens.
[review pros="Rock solid platform shooter action; physics add genuine depth to the combat; riding a giant wolf across the tundra is fantastic; spectacular bosses" cons="Slightly limited environments; only three major bosses and not a huge number of normal enemies; music could have a little more punch; physics can sometimes make fights messy" score=87]