In Gun Loco, you can kick a man so hard that his torso flies off. Don't worry, everyone's seemingly made of manga meat -- and they're no-good criminals to boot, marooned on a decrepit prison planet once intended for "the baddest of the bad." The bizarre ruffians, who started life as toys created by artist Kenny Wong, seem almost disposable as they charge into shootouts with nary a concern for safety.

A cover system? What's that?
The aforementioned torso separation technique is the end result of a melee attack, initiated when you collide with an opponent while running. It isn't the only offense that springs from sprinting, with a pull of the trigger sending you into a slide before a devastating scatter shot takes out whoever lands in your crosshairs. It's a tricky collusion of timing and aiming at first, but a silly shower of gore will let you know if you've hit the mark.

Gun Loco is third-person run-and-gun throughout, with an emphasis on the "run." The shaky camera feels like it's barely keeping up with you, and bumping into the scenery will send your character into a spin as he struggles to stay on the move. Abandoned vehicles, fences and pipes can be traversed without slowing down, as long as they're highlighted in blue (think: runner's vision in Mirror's Edge). The only object that can knock you to the ground is a well-aimed bullet from the other team.

When the other team is composed of AI-controlled enemies, Gun Loco offers simple objectives that are marked on the HUD. In my single-player game, I was joined by two NPC partners (including a creep wearing nothing but underwear, a bow tie and a gigantic bunny head), whom I expect can be replaced with two co-op players. In one level, we had to eliminate all enemies and destroy a tank by lobbing grenades at it, and in another we had to take out a series of fuel tanks in an abandoned yard.

There was slightly more variety in the multiplayer deathmatch mode (supporting up to 12 players), with each character starting off with different weapons and unique sub-weapons, which can take the form of grenades or exploding chickens. Ammo caches placed around the level allow you to replenish guns and any poultry-based explosive devices -- assuming you can spot them amongst all the muddy textures.

In its current state, Gun Loco looks pretty nasty. The framerate is sluggish, explosions can blanket the screen with an obscuring blurring effect, and the prison planet more closely resembles a landfill reserved for all the boring environments deleted from other games. The only time I saw some real color was when I glanced down at the Xbox 360 controller. Thank goodness it wasn't one of those new jobs.

The game definitely needs a lot of polishing and adjustment (the pistol felt far too weak and the shotgun too powerful, for instance), but the no-frills shooting and focus on momentum could come together well in an arcade shooter. As it continues work into 2011, Square Enix should keep Gun Loco crass in tone and go for just a little more elegance in design.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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