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Posted on Jun 19th 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under attack on titan, omega force, ps4

Although I have been an anime fan for a number of years, much like with gaming, I tend to not be on the cutting edge of what is new and popular. As such, I was extremely late to the party for the phenomenon known as Attack on Titan. The first season of the show began airing all the way back in 2013 and I did not dive in until this year. With that said, I am hooked, and perhaps fortunate as the second season began airing shortly after I finished catching up with the first season. The premise is simple. Humanoid giants known as Titans have killed off most humans and pushed them into isolation behind huge walls enclosing their city. Military squads do their best to fend the Titans off but the situation is always somewhere between bleak and dire. I will make it clear without reservations, I am enthralled with the Attack on Titan universe and characters. With that in mind, I was excited with high expectations for the video game adaptation, which I played through recently on the PlayStation 4. 

The Attack on Titan video game was developed by Omega Force and published by Koei Tecmo in 2016. For the unfamiliar, Omega Force has been developing the Dynasty Warriors games and its spin-offs since the late 1990s. That is a series I never got into, but certainly have nothing against. I knew the Musou style of gameplay could be a good influence on an Attack on Titan, but not a perfect fit. Additionally, the alternative history vintage military style of Attack on Titan has always reminded me of the game Valkyria Chronicles, so I hoped 3D modeling of Attack on Titan's characters and environments would wind up resembling that game and not looking freakish like, for example, any Simpsons game on the PS2.

The game plays in a sandbox style but is not open-world. For both Battle Mode (story missions) and Expedition Mode (free-play side missions), the player is dropped into one of the game's dozen or so medium sized maps, where mayhem immediately ensues. Right away you are given a few choices. You can zip over to the main objective, slay the special boss titan, and complete the mission. However, each mission is set up as a time and score attack with grades given at the end of one. If you're looking for that "S" rank, it is ill-advised to leave too many titans roaming around the map when you're done. I particularly like this structure as it always reminds me of the arcade-like games of the Dreamcast-era. My strategy with most missions was to kill every single titan on the map, saving the boss for last. Fortunately, it's not as simple as finding every titan on the mini-map and dispatching him. During the scrum, alerts from fellow Scouts will pop up via a green waypoint and also a visible green smoke signal. I loved the detail of the actual smoke signal because it adds to the sense of urgency and terror, especially when you soar through green smoke to find the soldier who sent it up in the grasp of a titan, in need of immediate rescue.

Movement and combat are achieved with amazing faithfulness to the source material. Your characters make use of Omni Directional Movement gear (ODM) which is a kind of belt that shoots grappling hooks from the hips and launches the character into the air at great speed. The great thing about this is within the game as with the show is that there must be something to hook onto. In an open field (which are present in the game) there is nothing to grapple onto and you must have another way to get around. This is where horses come in. The horseback riding is very fast and satisfying. Each horse has boost with an automatically recharging stamina meter, and new horses with more stamina and faster recharging can be purchased as the game progresses. In areas with both horses and environments where ODM can be used, it is very thrilling to gallop full speed up to a titan and launch yourself right off the horse and into the waiting neck of a titan. The titans' AI is pretty interesting. Though they will sometimes fail to notice you, they tend to have varying levels of aggressiveness, which is true to the show. Even the most unassuming titan can pluck you out of the air which is great because it balances the feeling of invincibility present when playing as some of the stronger characters. 

Titans are damaged primarily with blades. Every titan had points on his body that can be attacked one at a time, but successful attack to the neck will kill a titan immediately. Why then, wouldn't you go for the neck every time? First off, it can be very satisfying to completely dismember a titan before finishing him off. More importantly, crafting materials can be contained in the arms and legs of a titan. You'll know they're there by the gold nugget icon present on that body part. Materials can be used to upgrade your blades and ODM. The crafting system is not very deep, but it doesn't need to be. One thing I loved is a little call-back to Parasite Eve where one weapon can be sacrificed to upgrade another. Stats for each blade are mixed enough that the choices are not always obvious.

Though general gameplay in this game is frenetic and exciting, it doesn't take long to realize that it is not very deep in general. As much as I loved this game, I have to acknowledge the wash, rinse, repeat gameplay loop. You fly around slashing titans and reacting to distress calls (if you want to), and that's basically it. Fortunately, there is a lot of context here as far as the characters and their actions and abilities that fans of the show will love. For example, I realized quickly that Armin kind of sucks at killing titans the conventional way. At first this frustrated me, but realized that he has the ability to directly command other Scouts to take specific actions (other characters can only give general instructions). Once I understood this I appreciated it immensely. This characterization is spot-on based on the source material.

Speaking of that, the game's presentation as a whole may be the most faithful video game adaptation I've seen since the Batman: Arkham series. Not only are the characters properly represented from a gameplay and story standpoint, but the aforementioned smoke signals, horses, weapons, and titans themselves are all perfect. I cannot stress enough that if you are a fan of the show or manga, this game is an absolute must-play. For those who haven't seen the show, take warning that the story of this game follows the entire first season of the show, so if you don't want it spoiled, watch the show first. Having said that, and having seen the show myself, I felt the presentation of the cut-scenes was above par, giving familiar moments from the show a fresh perspective which was in some cases even more moving and dramatic than the show itself.

The game's performance from a technical standpoint is not without issues. I'm not a big frame-rate hound, but even I can tell you that there can be some slowdown at times. More prevalent in my playthrough were camera issues. They're not a deal-breaker, but at times the game's camera seems to have a hard time positioning itself between buildings when you are on the ground, especially when there is a titan above you as well. This can deflate the sense of accomplishment when you take down a titan and instead of watching it take a slow, epic slow fall to its death, the camera is bugging out uncontrollably.

In general, the somewhat shallow gameplay loop and lack of technical polish can give the game a budget feel. Because of my love for the property, I enjoyed the gameplay and was able to give the technical issues a pass. With all that out in the open, I would still call this the best game I have played on the PS4 so far. The sense of movement, flight, action, scale, and power far overcame the game's minor shortcomings. Fans of the show and fans of Dreamcast-era arcade-like titles need to check this game out.

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If you listened to our Syberia podcast, you would have heard Shawn ramble on about this anime.  Well, I found it on Netflix, and I have to say that I am rather enjoying it!  I love the concept of the show and the plot lends itself well to a video game.  Ugh.... small people....killing giants.... sounds like my favorite game!  (but yes, very different).  Great review man, this one has been added to the wishlist and I can't wait to check it out.
I too am a late arrival to the Attack on Titan boat.  I'll have to admit I was very skeptical that a game based on the anime would be enjoyable.  Most of the time those games just don't seem to pan out, and I guess I've written them off for years.  Thank you for showing me different, and after I get my son a PS4 I'll have to check this game out.
@bombatomba:It is also available on PS3 and Vita Smiley

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