Take control of a down-and-out Hobo as he takes his frustration at his unfortunate situation out on the general public, and whoever else may be unfortunate enough to be taking a casual stroll that day. Encounters with law enforcement are inevitable and with the situation deteriorating by the minute, the army are about to intervene and cause some serious problems for you in your already-dire situation. Punch, kick, shoot, stumble, vomit and explode your way through various levels and witness the use of mucous in ways you could (and should) never have imagined.
It isn’t very often that games, television shows or films make it past the ‘trilogy’ mark without the inevitable decline in quality, the deterioration of once-brilliant storylines and the persistent overuse of an idea that originally bordered on the level of genius. Having experienced and enjoyed the three previous instalments of ‘Hobo Smack’, my feelings toward the series of games were not dissimilar to my intermittent and tumultuous relationship with the ever-popular television series Lost. Having enjoyed the first three seasons, doubts began to overshadow my previously glowing opinion of the series. However, much like my perseverance with the ‘Hobo Smack’ series, I stuck with both Lost and ‘Hobo Smack’, partially due to the fact that I had already invested a frankly colossal number of hours into both, but mostly because despite their flaws, they both still entertained me.
For those of you whose experience with this game is your first encounter with the ‘Hobo’ series, I’ll briefly furnish you with the basics: You play as a stereotypical-looking homeless man of considerable facial hair and questionable character who seems to get into more than his fair share of altercations with whoever is in your vicinity at the time. You take control of the hobo and guide him through his misfortunes and far-from-fairytale adventures by kicking, punching, burping, vomiting and much, much worse. These actions are made possible by the inclusion of a whole host action button combinations which are explained below; it is with these combinations that ‘Hobo 4: Total War’ sets itself aside from your average game of the roaming-brawler genre.
Our hobo/bum/housing and hygienically-challenged gentleman of little luck is yet again involved in some particularly nasty and seemingly fruitless contravention of nearly every public order law in existence, and all for the purpose of light entertainment. With this in mind, the creators of the game made damn sure that if our Hobo is going to go through all this trouble, the player damn well better be entertained as a result. Since the inclusion of firearms made ‘Hobo 3’ that much more fun to play, it has been taken to the next level in this instalment, and with spectacular results.
Firstly, within less than a minute of me playing I am in possession of a stolen rocket launcher acquired as a result of an immensely violent and seemingly unjustified brawl with several members of the armed forces. Now, having played Grand Theft Auto (yet never, I repeat, never having personally engaged myself in any illegal activity to warrant the involvement of legal measures), I am equipped with the awareness of just how difficult it is to perform activities of violence so ridiculously illegal and so alarmingly high in number that it justifies the intervention of the army. With this in mind, it should be made clear that the carnage that takes place would not be possible without the limited-but-useful inclusion of firearms into the game on level more generous than the previous titles.
Our hobo is afforded the use of pistols, sub-machine guns, shotguns and rocket launchers in this edition, which is fairly handy because the army themselves feature heavily at various stages of the game; these gently camouflaged soldiers are hell-bent on making it extremely difficult for you to continue going about your homeless-guy business by sporting vehicles such as armoured jeeps and helicopters and by shooting you square in the face on a frequent and remorseless basis. The more relentless of the vehicles act as a sort of boss-equivalent of some kind, creating considerable health problems for you in that it becomes very difficult to continue living. Some vehicles which you are pitted against (yes, I’m saying that you do have fights with vehicles and even more ridiculously, it is actually possible to win) even have grenades being thrown casually from them, making ‘Hobo 4: Total war’ decidedly more difficult to survive than the previous three titles.
The game follows the standard roaming beat-‘em-up format and would not be out of place standing in a line up with ‘Streets of Rage’ or ‘Golden Axe’, minus the obvious fantasy elements and pixelated graphics. The controls are the definition of simplicity (in a very specific dictionary that exists in a dark corner of a library with presumably questionable legitimacy), with the directional arrows controlling movement and A, S and D keys allowing you to attack. Using attack keys of varying combination and in quick succession allows you to perform various special moves.
In addition to the downright unhygienic special moves previously seen in the ‘Hobo’ series of games such as the spit, fart, cough, and use of mucous as a projectile and use of faeces as you’ve (hopefully) never seen it before, we now have some new additions to the collection. Firstly, the extreme head-butt with forcefully emanating eyes (performed with keys ADS typed in rapid succession), followed with the body-check with rear faeces-fling (combination SDS) and finally the Piéce de résistance: A simultaneous ejection of traditionally internally-contained bodily contents from both ends; this is performed with the SAD key combination. All these moves serve to make your journey through the levels and encounters with enemies more survivable.
As you progress, you unlock more of the above moves which allow you to disgust/shock your opponents making them easier to defeat while simultaneously providing you with a stranger-than-usual incentive to continue playing the game. We all love the idea of progress, particularly when it becomes quantifiable and you can see/experience the benefits of it. In the same way that people don’t tend to enter into a career without the possibility of progress towards better money and healthier prospects for the future, people won’t play a game if there isn’t any real reward to show for it. I’m fully aware that I just compared the playing of an online game to the act of making a career choice: I just needed an easy comparison and by way of justification, the comparison holds true to the vocation of game reviewing.
Due to the relative difficulty of the game compared to the previous titles, I found that when encountering enemies with firearms it is best to continually strafe continuously in an
upwards and downwards fashion; the idea is to remain out of the line of fire of whichever adversary may have a gun and deal with the unarmed individuals first. Since you have a finite number of bullets when you pick up a gun compared to your enemies which already have their guns and have infinite ammunition for them, I find the above strategy helps to keep you alive long enough to at least briefly enjoy the game. It doesn’t hurt to be a friend of the environment and pick up the grenades that occasionally get dropped either. Simultaneously keeping the streets tidy and ironically spilling blood on them with the very items you tidied up? Now that’s entertainment.
The game has a limited variety of foe to go up against; as well as general members of the public seen in the previous titles, we now have a selection of soldiers with varying weapons coming for you with differing levels of speed, anger and resentment. Some soldiers simply walk around unarmed, biding their time; others are unarmed but possess a look on their face as if they have just been told their favourite TV show was cancelled without the recourse of a satisfying and explanatory season finale. I would recommend the avoidance of the trigger-happy soldiers unless you yourself have the option to fire back. Taking on someone with a firearm with your bare hands/saliva/vomit sees the odds stacked profoundly against you; the physics just simply aren’t on your side, and you shouldn’t need the guys at Mythbusters to tell you that).
The game has remained consistent throughout the series, with any changes made being minimal in number; any changes that do occur in no way detract from the simplicity of play or the entertainment value of the game. Of the few drawbacks I discovered, it was the difficulty of surviving the armed assaults which I found most perplexing; attempting to pummel someone whilst being shot in the back is after all an uncomfortable and frustrating experience. Additionally, the scenery seemed a little repetitive, with the background offering all the variety of a cheesy 1980s driving-scene backdrop loop after a few minutes. With these minor faults to pick out of the mix, I would dare to say Hobo 4: Total War remains pretty decent game for the fourth title of a series.
I want to make it clear that regardless of its errors, Lost managed to remain consistent in its ability to intrigue, entertain and most of all, consume many, many hours of my already ill-spent time. My foray into the world of television aside, Hobo 4 is still a glistening example that stands atop a mountain of its own entertainment value in the world of flash games - well done to Seething Swarm!.
Finally, the title of the game Hobo 4 Total War is suffixed with the words ‘total war’ for God’s sake! If there has ever been a time where these two words whose existence together has not resulted in all-out relentless entertainment and gratuitous violence, then I’d like to hear about them. Perhaps send me an email clearly stating in no less than one thousand words and in an eloquent, persuasive style any evidence contrary to my above statement. Said emails will almost definitely be not-checked and will always be dismissed as spam, which serves you right for taking the request as being anything other than a light-hearted and barely-funny joke in the first place. This serves me right for attempting to create the impression of interactivity in the first place.