With better writers, Hero Forces could’ve been a fun parody of modern military shooters. It has organizations with ridiculous acronyms (H.E.R.O. versus D.O.O.M.), cheesy dialogue, and hordes of zombies. But the only thing I was laughing at was how much time I wasted playing this game.
Out now for iOS (I played on an iPhone 6 Plus) and Android devices, Hero Forces is a free-to-play cover-based shooter from Chinese publisher Playcube. In addition to its silly premise, Hero Forces follows in Call of Duty’s footsteps by providing three different ways to play. It has a single-player story campaign, competitive multiplayer, and a cooperative survival mode with monstrous creatures. Sounds kind of neat, right?
But Hero Forces squandered all of its potential with bad design decisions and a mind-numbing story.
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What you’ll like
The controls feel pretty good
One of the few nice things I can say about Hero Forces is that it runs well. You can easily move from one piece of cover to the next by using the arrows on either side of the screen (the only way to actually move around). The shooting feels OK, and tapping on the different power-ups and weapons also feels responsive.
Even the graphics are charming in a nostalgic kind of way. The polygonal characters reminded me of games from the original PlayStation’s later years and the early days of PlayStation 2.
What you won’t like
Hero Forces has an odd cast of heroes and villains, including your character (the dude with the sunglasses and huge biceps), a woman who inexplicably wears a cheerleader uniform to battle, and enemies with striking code names like Hurricane and Tornado. Remember those zombies I talked about earlier? They just randomly pop up toward the end of the game. Up until that point, the missions are mostly about capturing D.O.O.M. scientist Dr. Yama.
I’ll just tell you the twist now to save you time: He transforms into an evil monster and unleashes an army of mutated creatures. The shift from terrorists to zombies was so jarring, I’m still not sure how the hell the story got there.
At best, it seems like the developers tried making some kind of parody of testosterone-fueled action movies and games. The voice actors certainly believed in that — their performances have enough oomph and earnestness to make you feel sorry for them. But the result is just a hodgepodge of clichés and scenarios that barely connect to each other.
Ridiculously high level requirements
As if to give you more reasons to stop playing the campaign, Hero Forces locks later missions behind a strict set of requirements (based on your character’s level and the amount of stars you earned from each mission). It’s a slow build-up at first, with missions asking you to go up one or two levels. But the requirements jump stupidly high in chapter four, when the zombies show up. If I wanted to continue playing those missions, I had to be at level 26 and have a total of 110 stars. At the time, I was only at level 11 with 67 stars.
I tried getting there by replaying old story missions on a harder difficulty and completing daily challenges for bonus experience points. The progress was excruciatingly slow, but the critic in me wouldn’t quit. I usually complete the games I review, and I couldn’t stand leaving Hero Forces unfinished. After reaching level 15 and 102 stars, however, I gave up. I’d need at least a few more hours to get to level 26.
I can do so many other things with my life than replay the same modes over and over just so I can see how this dumb story ends. I doubt those last few missions would change my mind anyway. It wasn’t until I stopped playing that I finally felt free.
Multiplayer isn’t great, either
When it comes to multiplayer, Hero Forces doesn’t offer anything new. The competitive matches (1-on-1 and 2-on-2) and the four-player survival mode aren’t that different from each other. You’re still running within a fixed area through different pieces of cover, which feels weird when you and three other players have the same avatar.
It doesn’t take much skill to win. You just have to use the cover options to avoid gunfire.
Hero Forces seems to be doing all the right things for a mobile release. It has an intuitive interface that doesn’t get in the way, the microtransactions aren’t intrusive, and it has a lot of content to play through. But none of that means anything if the subject matter — the characters, the story, the objectives in each mission — isn’t compelling.
Hero Forces isn’t even a spectacularly bad game — the kind of train wreck that’s still worth playing to see what all the fuss is about. It’s just a boring one.
Hero Forces came out on January 28 for iOS and Android devices. The publisher provided an early version of the game for the purpose of this review. The writer also spent some time with the retail version.