Crimsonland Review

By Mark Delaney, 2 years ago
Bringing back old games to new consoles is nothing new to gamers these days. We've seen more remasters, HD collections, and ports in the last three or four years then we've ever seen before. A lot of these are justified by fan demand or at least an opportunity to capitalize on gamers who may have missed some last generation gems. 10tons Studios recently brought Crimsonland, a past gen game of their own, to Xbox One. The title dates back all the way to 2003, and while this is often evident, the core mechanics and appeal of the game are left surprisingly intact.

Yes, it's an homage to <i>DOOM</i>.Yes, it's an homage to DOOM.

Crimsonland is a top-down twin stick shooter that will feel immediately familiar to anyone who knows the genre. Using just the analog sticks as well as the right bumper, you control a nameless and faceless gun-toting man fighting off hordes of monsters. Bipedal lizards, massive spiders, the undead, all sorts of creatures apparently have an issue with your existence. I say apparently because there's no story to speak of whatsoever. Crimsonland exists solely as an arcade shooter meant to be played solo or with up to three friends in couch co-op and focuses on the mechanics of the combat as well as the wealth of upgrades available to the player(s).

For a game that is over a decade old, these mechanics, perhaps due to their simplicity, remain trustworthy. This is absolutely vital for games of this genre. The amount of enemies on screen in some of the more challenging levels is so absurd it's actually funny, and without reliable aiming and weapons, Crimsonland would be dead in the water. This isn't the case however. The shooting is still perfectly executed, and it's all made much more enjoyable thanks to the digital barracks of 30 varied weapons. The first few -- a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun -- are standard fare for any game that utilizes firearms. As you go on, though, you unlock a lot of really fun ones like a rocket launcher that shoots homing missiles, a plasma rifle that bounces bullets from one enemy to the next, and a highly effective grenade launcher.

If you don't prioritize taking out the nests, you're gonna have a bad time.If you don't prioritize taking out the nests, you're gonna have a bad time.

The most fun is had in using the power-ups that appear on the map. From when they spawn, you have only a few seconds to get to them before they disappear, which means it's always thrilling fighting through dozens, if not hundreds, of enemies to try to reach them, and when you don't make it (especially when it's a nuke), it's a heartbreak. This creates a great risk/reward component. I died several times during my playthrough by trying to charge through monsters for precious power-ups.

Levels can be won or lost in the first few moments due to the randomized nature of which guns appear. Across seven worlds with ten increasingly strenuous levels each, guns will appear at random as enemies are killed. All guns have unlimited ammo but reload times vary greatly. You'll certainly end up with some favorites and others you avoid as much as you can. This randomization of guns seems unfair, especially on the game's many survival modes, each with their own stipulations mixed in on what is essentially horde mode. My high score where I had, for example, a simple shotgun for the first 40 seconds is weighed no differently than another player's who may have begun with something much more effective. This aspect of the game really harkens back to the era in which it debuted. Some of these arcadey mechanics have survived the genre even in more modern examples, but that doesn't make it seem any less dated.

Seriously. The nests. Take them out first.Seriously. The nests. Take them out first.

The audio and visuals will also quickly remind you how old the game really is. This re-released version came with improved graphics compared to its 2003 original but even with that it looks very dated. Each of the seven stages are not aesthetically unique save for differently colored floors. The audio is reminiscent of when games first started using voice actors to record dialogue for nothing but grunts and groans. The music is comprised of instrumental hard rock that tries too hard to appeal to testosterone-gushing headbangers. It's perfect for fans of bad music and no one else.

It should be noted that this game is very difficult at times, and so too is the achievement list. The small sample size of just a few dozen TA gamers have yet to put forth a single completion, and I think it'll be a long time before anyone does complete it, even after many more try. The only difficulty upon your first playthrough is normal, and each completion of the game's 70 levels unlocks the subsequent difficulty, meaning you'll need to beat the game three times including on the last two difficulties that don't sound at all welcoming, Hardcore and Grim. There are also several achievements linked to score milestones for the game's many survival mode modifiers. Most of these will take several tries. Each stage comes with a 30G achievement too. The seventh and final stage is exclusive to Xbox One. You can tell it was a late addition because its levels and finale are noticeably easier than the previous stage. In my playthrough, I managed half of the 22 achievements for 330G. Skilled and persistent players will get a lot of the milestone-related achievements I missed, but a full completion will elude most, if not all who try.

Some weapons pack a lot of punch if you can tolerate their reload times.Some weapons pack a lot of punch if you can tolerate their reload times.


Crimsonland is what people who don't play video games think video games are. It's full of combat that is bloody, violent, and lacking any motive or reason. You can't really call it mindless, though, because it does take a lot of strategy to get through the more difficult levels. Before games tried taking on Hollywood like they do now, there were many more titles like Crimsonland, games that exist simply as games, and there's nothing wrong with that if that's what appeals to you. The mechanics and gameplay hold up over time, it's very challenging, and the couch co-op and survival modes give it longevity. Just understand that Crimsonland often feels more at home on the first Xbox rather than the Xbox One.
3 / 5
  • Challenging gameplay and reliable mechanics
  • Plenty of perks, weapons, and power-ups
  • Audio and visuals are both very dated despite its makeover
  • Element of randomness affects high scores, and thus, leaderboards
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent ten hours in the aptly named Crimsonland nuking bugs, burning zombies, and busting ghosts. Along the way he earned 11 of 22 achievements for 330 Gamerscore. A digital copy of the game was provided by the developer for this review.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is one of three voices on the TA Playlist podcast. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his fiancée and son. He almost never writes in the third person.