BunnyLord, a purple anthropomorphic rabbit from the future, is running for mayor. If he doesn't get elected in 21 days, the world will meet some sort of vague catastrophic end. The details aren't important. As his campaign manager, you need to secure the vote by helping to initiate a bold plan to combat crime. That is, to literally go in and combat crime by shooting it in the face. Violence today means a more peaceful tomorrow, and the grime of crime can only be washed away with a river of blood.
Not a Hero is a deceptively straightforward game. Besides moving, there are only three controls: shoot, slide and reload. Players dash into buildings and shoot the place up floor by floor to complete violently frivolous goals, like putting up campaign posters in gang territory. Each mission comes with three bonus objectives, like finishing within a time limit or only using so many bullets. Completing bonus goals ups BunnyLord's approval rating, which gains additional supporters over to his campaign, each have a killer attitude and are equipped with special sets of skills, and ready to shoot crime where it hurts on behalf of BunnyLord. My favorites include Steve (who reloads quickly), Samantha (who can run and shoot at the same time), and and Mike (a fast super-killer with a double barreled shotgun).
Although Not a Hero is a 2D side-scrolling game, characters can take cover behind objects and move between them. This helps close distance for range, accuracy, or to get in a satisfyingly gruesome critical hit. Or players can go in for a slide tackle to knock enemies over before performing an execution. The game is generally so fast paced that it's easy to lose track of your ammo count, so the slide tackle is a good fallback, and they conserve ammunition for meeting bonus objectives. However, enemies can literally hit back with a good punch to counter your slide.
The enemy punch mechanic can get seriously out of control, because there don't seem to be any rules surrounding their use. They can punch you back as you slide in, they can sometimes punch you while reloading, they punch if they're too big for a takedown, and have the reflexes to punch you as you come crashing through a window to descend on them. The worst situation is when you get caught between two guys that will infinitely pass you back and forth like a some sort of bloody kickball.
While there are number of "stealth" elements in the game, like sneaking up behind a guard and performing a silent execution, it's often inconsistent. There's little point in quietly stabbing someone when the guard, who is always looking in the same direction, spots you doing it from the next room over. But, some missions all but demand it, like ones where you have to get through a building to rescue hostages. Then there are the surprise events, like police swarming in, gang reinforcements running in, or enemies blowing open a wall to get to you. These events are triggered when you reach specific points in the building, and reinforcements will chase you down and surround you, so there's usually no point to trying to sneak around.
At the same time, blindly rushing in is just as likely to get you killed. It's difficult to dive back into cover after executing someone, and controls seem slow to respond when trying to react to an ambush from behind.
There are also certain characters that are unfit for certain missions. For example, one bonus objective requires a character with a long slide move, and many of the characters in the roster couldn't do it. It's nice that the game encourages using different characters and returning to old missions, but I don't like the feeling of being forced to use characters I don't necessarily take to.
Dropping Crime Rates Bodies
Despite its quirks and difficulties, Not a Hero is a spectacularly addictive game. The thrill of running through a building and shooting everyone in sight is backed by a fantastic sense of humor, illustrated by off-the-wall weapons (like an exploding cat), along with BunnyLord's slideshow presentation and after-action comments at a nearby diner. For example, he likens his election to planting an acorn, that will one day grow into a heavily armed tree. Yes, the humor loses a little something when it's not taken in context. But, as frustrating as some of the missions can get, it's worth all the blood and sweat just to see the next phase of the plan is.
Ultimately, what I'm trying to say is, elect BunnyLord. He's the only one with a weirdly effective half-baked plan to shoot crime between the eyes while lowering the unemployment rate among psychotic killers. Plus, there's a gun wielding tree that needs watering.
This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Not a Hero is available digitally for $12.99.