I wonder how many of you remember Capcom's Commando, one of the games that spawned a whole genre, that of Run 'n' Gun games? Probably more of you would have had your first exposure to these games with Konami's equally legendary Contra (Probotector for us poor sods in Europe, where the rugged commandos had been replaced by robots, not that we minded of course, robots were cool), the title that essentially popularised the genre and on whose imprint countless games were based. Remember some carefree times, when we'd gather after school at the local arcade stores to play Street Fighter II, King of Dragons and Sunset Riders?

So, in these days, Deathwish Enforcers Special Edition attempts to return to us. The game is the latest offering from the developer of the remarkable Battle Princess Madelyn. For those already looking in wonder at the "Special Edition" in the title, let me clarify that it was released last year on the Nintendo Switch, and the version we have in our hands includes a new playable character and some minor tweaks to the gameplay and visuals. But we won't dwell on those, as it's the first version for PC.

I got a few bullets with your names on them.

Naturally, if you were expecting a complicated plot in Deathwish Enforcers, you'd be probably looking in the wrong place. It's 1969 San Francisco, and as an elite police force we're tasked with clearing the streets of the city of all manner of scum unleashed by the syndicate of the arch-criminal with the not-so-imaginative name, Big Boss. What's imaginative though, are the different settings we encounter in the game. We will traverse city streets, docks, graveyards, jungle outposts and everything in between, on our path of dispensing justice.

Do I feel lucky?

There's a similar variety in the enemies we encounter, from minions dressed in garish outfits that look like they sprung from an 1966 Batman episode, to bikers to dogs and... undead, each with their own attack patterns. All of this may sound disjointed, but when you consider that the game is essentially a parody of action and exploitation films from the 60's and 70's, where Pam Grier and Charles Bronson coexist in the same cimenatic universe, then concepts like "realism" and "consistency" are thrown out of the window.

All the gang is gathered, the only one not shown here is Mr. Bond... erm sorry, Bondage.

The heroes have their own special traits that can be divided into three categories: power, speed and special. The first two are self-explanatory, the third one is related to the special move that clears the screen from enemies and manifests itself in different durations and ways. Also the shots differ from one to the another, for example Diana wields two pistols which allows for faster rate of fire, while Charles fires slower with his shotgun but the shots have a greater spread and therefore, a greater chance of taking out multiple enemies at once. In addition, all characters have a slide move that gives us some valuable i-frames to get out of tough spots. Helping us survive the barrage of gunfire are various power-ups that make our shots more powerful/bigger or enable auto-fire. These are lost after dying, but we can't complain as we come across them relatively often.

The challenge of the game is proportionate to the number of players participating but does not reach sadistic levels, even with one player. We can adjust how many lives and continues we have from the options menu, and on Normal difficulty at least, even after the Game Over screen, we can continue from the level we left off from the corresponding option in the main menu. Also, there are various difficulty levels, and after a playthrough on Hard we concluded that they affect the number of enemies and how fast they shoot when they notice us. As expected by this kind of game, there's no life bar, one bullet or hit is all it takes for us to kick the bucket.


The presentation of Deathwish Enforcers is not something that hasn't been done before. Sizeable 2d sprites are used for both characters and enemies, the animations are deemed adequate, and enemy blasts are as distinct as they should be amidst the onscreen mayhem. The package is neatly complemented by the catchy, funk compositions for the most part, which are in line with the overall aesthetic of the title.

Wrapping things up, I would have preferred auto-fire to be the default option rather than via a power-up. Anyone who has played a Run 'n' Gun or Shoot 'em Up title for more than 10 minutes knows that constantly pressing the action button wears on the thumb, fast. Also, an option to allow our character to stand in place while aiming in any of the eight directions, would be very welcome.

Α snapshot from a co-op session. The challenge decreases significantly.

Deathwish Enforcers is a good suggestion for the genre, with co-op being an added value (allowing local co-op play for up to four players). It certainly doesn't reinvent the wheel, but that's not its purpose in the end. In fact, we'd say it follows religiously in the footsteps of Sunset Riders (even on the auto-scrolling levels), and doesn't deviate from that style of gameplay. Like Blazing Chrome a few years back, it just tries to be a fun arcade experience that appeals mostly to gamers who are past their thirty years, for better or worse...

Go to discussion...

RATING - 78%


Pure arcade fun of short duration. Deathwish Enforcers is to Run 'n' Gun what boomer shooters are to FPS.

Παναγιώτης Μητράκης

As a kid of the 80's, he began his journey into gaming with coin-ops and the classic Game Boy. He found some respite with his beloved SNES and got into PC gaming in 1998, with landmark games like Half-Life and Baldur's Gate. He doesn't steer clear of (almost) any genre but has a predilection for RPGs and survival horror and tries to introduce others to Silent Hill, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and the creations of Looking Glass and Obsidian.

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