Gunhead Sees you Trying to Scrap Suspiciously Active Derelict Ships

Gunhead doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to pushing you face-first into the bullet hells of First-Person Shooting that it has to offer.

Even with the quick and in-your-face narrative and action, Gunhead does want you to plan at least a little bit. It’s just that instead of telling you that you need to plan, it would rather you come to that conclusion by yourself. You’ll probably realise this after your mech and brain both explode after experiencing the sheer amount of stuff that goes on at once in the later outings.

Each derelict ship you board houses several core systems; destructible mechanisms that bolster the ships’ defences in various ways. To name a few, shield systems grant other systems total invulnerability, sentry systems control lethal stationary turrets that are placed throughout the ships’ halls, and door systems lock down a number of doors on the ships. The goal of each outing is to destroy its brain core which, as the name implies, are the brains of the ships’ operations. Destroying any system disables it, destroying the brain disables everything, thus winning the level.

A mech pilot looks up at a scrappy looking bipedal mech
Your trusty Gunhead is always ready for deployment!

While a relatively easy task at first, each consecutive outing adds more and more systems to deal with. Eventually, you’ll come across ships with multiple brains, self-repairing shields, nukes, and a system that will shuffle the location of every system on board at set intervals. 

These systems amazingly amp up the urgency of the action. If you don’t deal with them quickly, they’ll often turn an already tough mission into a suicide mission of exponentially increasing difficulty. So if you’re not careening through the initial hordes of drones, you’ll quickly be snuffed out.

Fortunately, Gunhead gives you heaps of information to create a plan of action for your careening. As you approach each decommissioned ship, you’re able to access a detailed read-out of everything on it. Enemies, weapons, systems, doors, and health are all tallied and displayed on a convenient map for all of your strategic needs. This gives you the ability to mentally prepare for whatever unfortunate combination of systems you may face, as well as plan your course to scrap them swiftly and efficiently.

A holographic sphere in the middle of the ship displays a map filled with informative icons
The pre-mission map readout has everything you need for success

Combined, these mechanics turn what would be another speedy shooter into something much more methodical. Success becomes less of a matter of reaction times and aim training, and more a matter of how well you did your homework. A well-planned trip marks the difference between piloting a healthy, well-armed, killing machine and piloting a precarious hunk of scrap metal held together by duct tape and dreams; so think carefully about what steps you need to take to avoid a short life. 

Gunhead does show a few gnarly shortcomings, however. The balls-to-the-wall speed of the game grinds to a halt when confronting the bosses that appear in some of the levels. Each of them is fought in their own unique and expansive battle arena, which they just meander about while you shoot them in their bright shiny weak spots that the NPCs point out to you. In my first complete run, I was able to beat the final boss before the poor NPC on comms had even finished telling me how to. While I did celebrate this victory, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that it left me with a nasty aftertaste of “Oh. That’s it?”

But, if I had to pick one thing to revamp in Gunhead so that I could really get that dopamine flowing, it would be the weapons system. As it currently stands, the game offers a shocking amount of weaponry. Considering your mech can equip and fire three weapons at once, I was excited to see the potential weapon synergies I’d stumble upon in each run I played. Unfortunately, that excitement was quickly quelled. 

A futuristic weapons workbench with a giant screen display
Fabricating a few weapons never hurt anyone. Probably.

Despite the variety of weapons, none of them seem to play off of one another. When you’re able to constantly fire off everything sharp and deadly that you have strapped to your man-shaped tank, it makes every problem have the same solution: just shoot more. I never felt like I had to adapt my playstyle based on the RNG of my loadout, which eventually dulled any expected edge that would come from the gun-toting action.

My excitement was only further snuffed out when I realised that a vast majority of the unlockable weapons were just elemental variations of the base ones. It was hard to justify spending my hard-earned dollars on an electric version of a shotgun when the good ol’ fashioned buckshot seemed to be getting the job done just fine.

Overall, there’s a fair bit of entertainment to be found in the phased layout of Gunhead’s strategy and action, but it’s bedevilled by the details of its execution. While the game doesn’t fall flat, it is missing just a few things that would transform it from an enjoyable couple of hours into another addicting roguelike that you’d have to pry from my cold dead hands to get me to stop playing. If you’re looking to put a bit more forethought into your roguelikes, this game is for sure worth a shot.

Gunhead is available for purchase on Steam, Humble Bundle, GOG, and PlayStation 5.

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