ReviewsReview: Sturmfront - The Mutant War

Review: Sturmfront – The Mutant War

Ubel Edition

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Mankind can’t help itself. It can use its most gifted scientists to better the world, establish balance and cure illness. Instead, it uses the individuals to unleash pain, suffering, and wanton destruction. We are our own worst enemy and we always get it wrong. When the inevitable happens we need a hero to step up and pull us back from the brink. Sturmfront – The Mutant War: Ubel Edition explores this theme with its retro pixelated aesthetic.

This is a remake of Andrade Games work and has been developed and published by Red Art Games. This is a twin-stick shooter that is gory, full of violence and is peppered with heavy thrash metal. It’s influenced by late 80s early 90s gaming and it’s brilliantly simple to play. An uncomplicated plot sits in the background allowing you to focus on the arcade action and gratuitous violence.

So many mutants.

Sturmfront – The Mutant War: Ubel Edition transports to a glorious era.

The joy of early console gaming was the lack of complication, but the high level of difficulty. Sturmfront – The Mutant War: Ubel Edition captures both these elements in its gameplay. With several difficulty settings, an array of monsters to slay, and gargantuan bosses to annihilate, this is a retro trip you’ll adore.

The year is 1984 and a great plague has ripped through humanity. With mankind on the brink, and mutants evolving from the aftermath, something has to be done. Dr. Hartmuth Griesgram an eccentric scientist, unleashes his android prototype, the Sturmfront Battle Unit. You are Siegfried von Hammerstein, a semi-organic battle unit who must kill the mutants, purge their nests with fire, and save humanity!

Plenty of stages and weapons to keep you busy.

With no sign of how many hellish levels I was about to face, I went into this blind. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of stages I had to face. It was refreshing to see some interesting labyrinthine designs that kept me on my toes. As the game progresses you are introduced to plenty of weird and wonderful mutants. Some run at you like Kamakazi pilots and others are stationary but spray projectiles for you to dodge. This combined with the ever-spawning mutant nests is a recipe for hectic gameplay.

The lower the difficulty, the slower the action and the fewer monsters you’ll face. This is one game that goes from zero to hero quickly, and the increase in the challenge is certainly noticeable. The harshness is balanced out by introducing power-ups for your machine gun and an array of new guns. Mortars, rocket launches, splitter rifles, plasma cannons, and more await. It was a joy to mow down each horde of enemies with either your main weapon or your flamethrower. Powered by gasoline, your secondary tool fried monsters and their nests alike, but you had to use it sparingly. If you run out of fuel, the mutants keep coming! Plan your attacks and don’t leave yourself exposed to failure.

Shoot the booby boss.

Learn the truth and destroy the bosses.

Other than the opening scene that sets the tone, there is little in the way of a story. Red Art Games overcame this with hidden soul skulls that were found on every level. By touching a skull it would tell you snippets of the war and the truth behind its origins. I loved how this pieced together the plot and added a layer of deep lore to the gameplay. Sadly, though, it wasn’t always easy to read the information as monsters kept attacking you. The developers should have paused the action to allow you to read the brilliant back story.

An arcade game would be lacking if it didn’t have enormous bosses to overcome. There are five to annihilate, each has a special ability and you must work out the pattern of attack. Once you know what it’ll do, it’s easy to defeat them, but the challenge comes from finding the weaknesses.

Awesome 80s arcade look.

I know the pixelated, rough, arcade look isn’t for everyone, but it worked well in Sturmfront – The Mutant War: Ubel Edition. Using a mainly earthy tone, the imagery won’t overpower your senses. The bird’s-eye perspective allows you to plan and have a clear view of the madness that is unfolding. The gameplay never stuttered, even when the screen was overloaded and the action ran smoothly at all times.

The audio is an arcade lovers dream! It’s OTT, loud, and will make you smile throughout. A doomed society needs an aggressive soundtrack and the thrash metal delivers that and then some. Combine this with thumping bullets, ear-piercing explosions, and shrill lasers, and it’s utterly incredible. A booming voice bellows over the action as you run out of ammo, or pick up objects which added to the arcade charm. But, what I loved most was the Arnold Schwarzenegger acting for Siegfried. When you need an all-action hero to save the day, who better than Arnie?

Let the fireworks fly.

Two control methods, both as easy as each other.

I’m not ashamed to say I’m normally terrible at twin-stick shooters. Practice makes perfect and I can at least play them without embarrassing myself now. Luckily, if you take this on, you can be as awful as me and still complete it! With the traditional twin-stick approach, or using the A, B, Y, X buttons use, you are free to select your favourite setup. It was excellent as it made playing much more accessible, though I found the analogue sticks to be more accurate. Everything else was easy to understand and a basic tutorial gets you up and running quickly.

Though there are plenty of stages to take on, this is still a relatively short game. It took me about three hours to complete it on normal mode, and it’ll take around four hours more once you up the difficulty. A moderate achievement list is a challenge to complete as you’ll need to be perfect at the toughest difficulty. The longevity is impacted by the lack of additional modes. If there was a horde or survival option, I’d return for more.

Sturmfront – The Mutant War: Ubel Edition is a brilliant retro title.

If my only complaint is I want more, it shows I enjoyed it, and I’m greedy. Sturmfront – The Mutant War: Ubel Edition is a great retro title that captures the 80s and 90s charm perfectly. Fast-paced and uncomplicated gameplay is matched nicely with snippets of a story and interesting lore. An element of tactical nuance is required during the harder playthrough and the latter stages, making this more than a mindless shooter. I loved my retro trip and recommend you buy it here! Mankind has screwed up, and a hero is needed to bring us back from the brink of extinction. 

SUMMARY

Sturmfront - The Mutant War: Ubel Edition captures the 80s and 90s retro shooter charm perfectly. Gratuitous violence, hundreds of mutants, and well-designed ​levels will keep you playing for hours.

+ Excellent pixelated arcade style.
+ OTT audio that matched the theme.
+ Two control systems.
+ A great example of the genre.
+ Its challenging.
- No additional game modes.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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