Roll7's Not a Hero gives you the opportunity of a lifetime: serving as enforcer — er, campaign manager — for a megalomaniacal anthropomorphic rabbit. From the future.
BunnyLord, the purple creature in question, starts off as a humble mayoral candidate in a city known as, um, the City. He's looking to get elected by cleaning up the City's crime-ridden streets, and he enlists your help in that quest. The mission consists primarily of bloody murder with guns, explosives, swords and other lethal weapons. Yet Not a Hero manages to make that violent premise appealing with a simple, slick cover-based control scheme; stylish art direction; and a heaping dose of absurdist humor.
Our demo of Not a Hero at PAX East 2015 began with a pre-mission cutscene in which BunnyLord gave out instructions with a slideshow. Jake Hollands, the game's lead artist, explained that the text here is randomly pieced together from pre-written phrases, and boy, does it make for some hilarious reading. One line mentioned a "breathtaking oak tree of lame vengeance," and we're still laughing about it.
We then dove in as Steve, the starting character. Not a Hero is a cover-based 2D shooter, but it inverts the traditional pace of that type of game. Staying in motion is the key to staying alive, and that's facilitated by the game's control scheme: You press one button to slide into cover, and press it again to move to the next spot of cover. Enemies will also take cover, so you need to time your shots well.
If cover is your best friend in Not a Hero, then sliding is your second-best friend. As the difficulty ramped up, we found ourselves swarmed by enemies on both sides, and they soon started forcing us out of our hiding spots. But sliding allows you to use yourself as a bowling ball — and when you've knocked down an enemy, you can run up to their prone body for a brutal, up-close execution. Coupled with limited-use pickups for special ammo (laser rounds, rockets) and weapons (grenades, Molotov cocktails), sliding makes you a one-person killing machine. But you'll still die very quickly if you don't use cover.
Not a Hero's lineup of colorful characters forces you to experiment with your play style. Steve is a normal guy equipped with a pistol, while the next killer, Cletus, is a trucker-hat-wearing hillbilly who blows enemies backward with his powerful shotgun. Our favorite character was Jesus, who is clad in magenta spandex and is constantly thrusting his hips — yes, like the guy in The Big Lebowski. Jesus can shoot while sliding, and his catsuit allows him to slide much longer than other characters can.
Roll7 also throws new challenges at you as Not a Hero goes on. Larger enemies will come and yank you out of cover, and you'll also have to think strategically in situations like hostage crises. Completing the Elevator Action-esque levels isn't the only task available; you can aim for side objectives, like making it through while limiting the number of bullets you fire, pulling off a certain number of executions, maintaining kill streaks and finishing within a particular time limit.
We only played through two or three missions of Not a Hero at PAX. But the combination of its fast-paced gunplay; bright, pixelated art style; and randomly generated humor seems made us want to keep going back to the Devolver Digital booth to try more. Not a Hero launches May 7 on Windows PC, and will be available later this year on Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
Gameplay Trailer: Not a hero