Konami's resurrection of its Contra series obviously meant an appearance at some point on PlayStation 2, and as of February 2003, it's available, bearing the dramatic suffix Shattered Soldier.
For those old enough - lucky enough - to recall the original NES and SNES games, Contra: Shattered Soldier will jolt the old memory banks, as it offers a mix of 2D and 3D shoot 'em up action. One or two players can battle their way through a series of alien-infested stages, armed with a succession of increasingly powerful weapons, including multiple direction rifles and flame-throwers. As with its former incarnations, there are many more weapons pick-ups to collect along the way, and, joy of joys, at the close of each level, there's the inevitable big, bad boss to defeat.
So far, so alien shoot 'em up/platformer - excellent, as Monty would say. The biggest difference with Shattered Soldier is the addition of a third dimension. The 2D nature of the original's gameplay is still intact - the essence of the NES/SNES Contra is still here - but the combination of 2D and 3D environments, platform-typical movements such as jumping, climbing and running, and some pacy sections featuring motorcycling and snowboarding, necessitated a third dimension to get newcomers to the Contra brand interested.
Contra: Shattered Soldier should certainly please the aesthetes out there. Illustrator and artist Ashley Wood, famed for his work on the X-Men, Aliens and Star Wars comics among others, has provided a weird array of alien freaks for gamers to blow away. With a control system that's wholly accommodating to Contra veterans and novices alike, an unpretentious (by contemporary standards) storyline, and some stunningly presented villains courtesy of Mr Wood and the development team, Contra: Shattered Soldier for PS2 works a treat. Full of colour and noisily engrossing, you really should sign up for a tour before Konami get you drafted.