Return of Run and Gun - Iron Meat First Impressions
It’s one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had. My hero character plops down from overhead, rifle at the ready. His facing right urges me to hold down right on my controller to make him charge head-first into enemy territory. My first foe appears and I hold down the fire button. The barrage of bullets streaming out of my rifle kill him immediately. I continue to run and shoot until another enemy appears overhead. Shifting my left-hand fingers slightly to aim up-right downs him just easily. It all clicks with me. Run, shoot, jump, repeat. It’s all I had to do to enjoy one of the greatest games of all time: Contra.
It was the ultimate power fantasy of its time and Iron Meat is here to bring it back. Guide an unstoppable battle-hardened soldier across enemy lines and down as many foes as you can see on-screen. It was like an interactive action movie on steroids. The combination of simple controls, skill-based gameplay, and awesome weaponry that Contra brought to the table was a revelation for its time; a revelation that Iron Meat proves still has a place in today’s gaming landscape.
What immediately struck me about Iron Meat was effortless and familiar it felt. Right from the beginning of the first level of the demo, I knew exactly what to do. I was back to being that awe-struck elementary school kid playing Contra on his NES. Despite being a game developed with modern platforms in mind, the way the Iron Meat controls is like from a long-past era. There were many avenues the devs could have taken to modernize it. Smoother animations, more detailed movement, maybe even higher graphical fidelity. Thank god they didn’t because this game feels exactly like the nostalgia trip it’s meant to be.
Even though it’s in high resolution, the game’s aesthetic still manages to invoke that grungy CRT feel from the 90s. But make no mistake. Iron Meat does way more than just create an upscaled Contra experience. On the contrary, it enhances it.
Contra always felt like a game that was way ahead of its time. The sheer amount of violence on display should have been way more graphic than what game devs would be allowed to bring to market back in the day. This was why Iron Meat’s blood and gore elements felt so fitting. It didn’t hit me at first but halfway through the first level of the demo, I noticed it was raining blood! To younger gamers, this may be commonplace these days. Having enemies splatter into pools of blood in games is anything but novel. To see this in a game like Contra, though, made me as giddy as the time I pulled off my first Mortal Kombat fatality. And Iron Meat does have moments where you’re producing classic MK levels of carnage.
My description might be driving you to think that Iron Meat is a mindless action platforming gorefest. Far from it, though. Like its classic predecessor, Iron Meat is a challenging game that will put your gaming skills to the test. While the game’s demo did have a hard mode, I felt that normal struck a nice balance between challenge and fun. At its core, the game wants you to always be moving and shooting and the level design supports that to a T. Both bosses available in the demo have multiple phases where a combination of hand-eye coordination and maintaining a steady stream of pain on them will ensure sweet victory. The second level’s boss felt a bit under tuned compared to the first but this may just be the case in the demo.
What ties the whole experience and brings it to a whole new level is Iron Meat’s soundtrack. A combination of hard rock and metal, both levels had excellent tunes that made running and gunning feel like the badass experience it was meant to be. Couple that with the game’s bloody atmosphere and the exhilaration you feel as you dodge one deadly bullet after another and you’ve got a recipe for a must-buy.
Overall, Iron Meat plays and feels like the true Contra successor I always needed in my life. The game spares no detail when it comes to doing justice to its influences. It goes as far as to design levels like in the good ol’ days when you couldn’t backtrack. Missed the item? Too bad. Fell down the platform even though there was one beneath it in the previous panel? Sucks to be you. Yes despite the retro vibe and old school design elements, Iron Meat manages to also feel like an indie game of this generation. Through its rocking soundtrack, level design, and unapologetic violence, it brings the heart of Contra into the 21st century and then some.
Iron Meat’s demo is currently available to download on Steam for free. Packaged within it are two action-packed levels, each of which can be played on easy, normal, or hard. There’s also two-player couch co-op so you can relive the classic days with a buddy. The devs state in Iron Meat’s demo that it’s in no way representative of the final product but I’m quite confident that what they have on display is already what I would have hoped from a spiritual successor of Contra.
Release date: TBA
Developer: Ivan Valeryevich Suvorov
Credit: Yannis Vatis
Yannis is a veteran gamer with over 25 years of experience across the spectrum of genres. He enjoys spending time with his family, livestreaming on Twitch and occasionally dishing out unsolicited dad advice.