Yeah I'm just repeating what everyone else is saying, it's Contra, but lame. Unlike the majority of people I really disliked Contra 4 but I might just have to reassess that game after playing this. Hell you'll probably have a better time playing Contra Force than this (even though to this game's credit it ran smoothly whereas CF is notorious for its slowdown). Contra Force is the game where it seems to take most of its inspiration actually, with its more "down-to-earth" military theme instead of aliens, mutants and robots you'd normally fight. Here, it's mainly tanks, airplanes, trucks, with only a couple of robot-ish things to battle. It's probably better than Legacy of War and C: The Contra Adventure... maybe, so there's that.
Let me talk about the options menu first. You have two difficulties, easy and normal. No hard available at all, which I'm not complaining about, as the game is irritating enough on its default difficulty, but it just looks odd, especially for a game like this. Also, resolution settings - rather than select from a list like a normal game, when you select it it'll immediately switch to the next resolution up and automatically adjust your screen accordingly. This didn't cause me any problems but it did for others apparently, as in crashes and such. Well I flicked through the resolution options until I came across one that didn't look like everything was stretched across the screen like latex before moving on.
So, as said, the game is Contra. Except the levels look more widely spaced as afforded by the higher resolutions not available on the older consoles. And the one-hit deaths/continue system has been replaced by a health bar and checkpoints. It does make the game seem easier than most Contras, theoretically but because of certain design decisions it feels much more frustrating to play. You have a health bar but it can drop down very easily when getting hit by various things around you, taking anywhere from 2 to 4 hits off your life bar. Levels are short, and you have at least one checkpoint in between, but that's where things get interesting (actually the only interesting thing about this game). The levels are set on a five-minute timer, and if you die after a checkpoint, the timer doesn't stop, so die often enough, you may come back with only 16 worthless seconds left and then it's time to redo the whole level again.
Otherwise it sticks to Contra very closely, sometimes almost blatantly ripping off levels from the series wholesale (such as the first level in the first Contra stuck somewhere in the middle of the game). Sprites are similar, and are competently drawn, but lack color and the art design in general is dull. There is some nice-looking parallax scrolling, most noticeable in the biker stage, and it runs smoothly, but it is totally uninspired. It's a game that copies the dull tones and browns of your average modern military shooter but "retro" style. Same with the music. Yeah they sound "8-bit" but none of it is catchy, memorable, well-composed or does anything - whether to pump you up, ratchet up tension, no, none of that - except sound "8-bit." It's as faceless as the protagonist and the tacked-on story about playing a game of nuclear missile hot potato with whoever the villains are. You'll probably find a more fleshed-out story in any of the other Contra games ever made than here, and better endings too.
Now the experience of playing the game itself... it feels slow and dull, with mediocre level design, broadly spaced-out enemies and traps, and really, really crappy weapons. Your default gun is probably what you'll be using most of the game as power-ups are few and far between, and what power-ups you get you'll lose pretty quickly from dying (that you carry over what health you had from the last level to the next doesn't help). Don't worry, because most of those are boring too, except for the homing missiles, and they managed to find a way to bork those as well, as I found many instances of the missiles just circling around enemies or bypassing them and not even hitting their appropriate target unless you're like, standing right next to them.
There's been talk of the controls being poor and indeed there are issues I have with them. You have eight-directional shooting, and shooting diagonally means having to run in that direction. This might have been how a bunch of Contra games also were designed but I don't recall them being as irritating as they are here. Because of how widely open/empty the levels are, the puniness of your pea shooter (which would be an apt description for any weapon you get), the tiny enemies on screen with equally tiny bullets coming from different directions you can't see, how slow your character feels and responds compared to any character in any Contra game, and some questionable hit box detection (I've fired right through a dude's head and it did nothing - there also were missiles firing straight at a platform below me and at one point I just arbitrarily took damage, standing there), makes for an unpleasant concoction of annoyances that as the game goes on and gets harder become more visible and make you want to throw the keyboard across the table.
And I've saved the worst for last - the bike-riding stage, the penultimate level of the game. I thought at first "oh nice a bit of variety for once" but nope these frustrations manifest even more horribly here. I still don't know what sense to make of this level. First one of the biggest dangers of the level, isn't the bullets, isn't missiles, but barrels. Yes, a truck appears at the beginning and end and throws barrels at you that take away three hit points as opposed to two from bullets. They appear to be empty barrels too. It throws three of them at you at a time and there's no logical perception as to where these things actually bounce toward. Even if you move out of the way after they're thrown, they seem to hit you anyway. Homing barrels? Oh and the same rules apply here as they do with the regular stages but you're on a constantly moving bike, making diagonal firing, a necessity when the annoying helicopter/invincible barrel truck combo come along, more of a pain. Before that though you have to weave through traffic by... shooting down pedestrian vehicles? Some of who will just try to ram into you? What drunk idiot designed this level? Oh and the boss fight. Getting a hit in is almost impossible without getting hit yourself, he crams you in with his bullet fire so much, and moves back and forth in patterns that make no sense and will certainly kill you. By the time you get to the second stage of the fight, where it's "BULLETS BULLETS BULLETSSS!" you will be low enough on health that you'll die the moment it starts. Here is where I said "Screw this bull****" and just set it to easy, where the barrels destroy as normal empty wooden barrels would with a high-powered gun, and where I could proceed to the final level (where I switched back to normal) and be done with this stupid game for good. Oh, the last level isn't very good either and exemplifies "diagonal shooting" with its final boss at its worst but at least it's not the biker stage.
The low price and Contra-looking aesthetics and gameplay may be tempting but really, don't bother. It's a game made by Contra fans who grew bored of their project the moment they started it, yet somehow finished it. Maybe if this was 75% off (which would make it about $0.99 in my currency), OK. Plus there's local co-op, which I haven't tried as someone with no friends, let alone ones who would be willing enough to share the boredom with me, but if you do, I guess that might be an incentive to part ways with one of your Washingtons, but for everyone else, stick with your emulators or cartridges of the older Contra games, if you're lucky enough to have them (my rec: Contra: Hard Corps for the Genesis, an amazing game and the polar opposite of this sad little thing.