How, in the name of all that is good, did a game which featured a bazooka that fires sharks not become an Xbox classic? Yes, we're heralding the virtues of Armed & Dangerous, a game that replaces your usual super-serious heroes with the kind of blokes you'd see down your local. Imagine a pub quiz team or Sunday five-a-side squad setting out on a daring mission across a war-torn land, and Armed & Dangerous is the result. And it's from the makers of fantastically weird PC/PS2 shooter/ adventure/strategy game Giants: Citizen Kabuto!
What made this insane shooter so compelling was, aside from the fact that none of the heroes seemed to know one end of a gun from the other, that it had a superbly chewy comedy centre running through it. What? You don't think the concept of blowing up sheep while rescuing pensioners from an onion mine is pure comedy? You must be dead. How about the hard, gruelling slog our heroes fight through on one level, which culminates with them killing the heroine they swore to rescue by mistake? It's like Master Chief accidentally leaning on the red button after wiping out the entire Covenant.
A lot of the laughs come from physical comedy, but the script and game design is razor-sharp too. It's brilliantly acted and has a script that bristles with British banter (though the team's based in the US most of them are Brits). When one of the protagonists is a malfunctioning war droid with a penchant for holding tea parties, you know Armed & Dangerous is on to something good.
It has its fair share of kooky characters, but the worlds they traverse are equally bizarre. Ironically, it's the innovation and ingenious set-pieces that put conservative gamers off the £40 tag, but check out eBay and bag a copy now! We saw one for £3.10, and that was with the 'Buy It Now' option.
From a city dispersed throughout rocky outcrops in a canyon, accessible only through the use of a jetpack, to a haunted village of inbred godfearing sheep farmers, there's none of your usual predictable snow/lava/jungle/urban-themed levels here. You won't know whether you're on your arse or your elbow... much like the bad guys when they're hit with the Topsy-Turvy Bomb. Fire it at a group of enemies and the world flips upside- down making them 'fall' into the sky. When everything rights itself, they crash back to earth with a splat. Toss a mini black hole at them and a vortex opens in the sky, drawing them all in, or fire off a vindaloo rocket and watch the erm, 'explosions'. Not nice.
Some critics were less than kind about the humour and overt oddness, but in our opinion it's these very qualities that make it such an underrated title. In a world where games can take themselves far too seriously, here was a gaggle of have-a-go heroes who would much rather be getting drunk in a tavern than saving the world. It seems fitting, then, that all the save points were in pubs, which was where most of the homebrew blackmarket weapons came from as well.
From the slapstick openings to the surprisingly engaging, superbly designed ending, the action cranks up perfectly, sucking you into a tough old bastard of a game while you're still pottering about drinking tea and discussing the weather. And any game that can get you engaged in an uphill struggle against mad dictators whilst making you laugh uncontrollably at the same time has got to be worth a look. Daft, innovative and totally ace.