Mobile Suit Gundam faces its biggest opponent, itself.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Force on PlayStation Vita
The Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs series is one that many fans over here in the west have been looking forward to for a long time. After playing Armored Core type games and the Dynasty Warriors spinoff series, it was time to experience the hype of 2v2, mech-vs-mech hype. The game chosen to introduce the exciting franchise which focuses on combat above all else was Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Force. While similar to its overseas arcade counterpart, this entry introduces a brand new story for players to dive into, new battle types, and a lot more suits to pilot. On the surface, this sounds like the perfect game for fans of mecha, yet Extreme Vs. Force seems to be unable to hold up under its own weight.
A lot of the issues stem from the game’s single-player campaign. You are an AI, built to oversee the Gundam timeline and ensure that all goes as it should. That timeline is made up of some of the greatest moments pulled from the many different anime series including the recent Iron Blooded Orphans. Fans will definitely find delight in the moments where they’re able to take part in famous battles, becoming the deciding factor for victory as they watch their enemies crumble beneath an onslaught of laser blasts, explosions, and vicious melee attacks. That sense of wonderment, though, the one brought on by knowing the events already, is lost on every other player, as the campaign has little going for it outside of nostalgia.
Missions in Extreme Vs. Force’s single player play out like small strategic engagements. You pick the mobile suit that you want to pilot as well as those you would like to accompany you. Team structure is based off of a score system with each particular Gundam being worth a set amount of points. This allows for the battles to be balanced, barring you from simply overpowering the enemy forces. Normally, a system such as this one being in place helps to keep battles interesting, but it does nothing to break the monotony of each repetitive instance. You enter, you fight other Gundams, you meet your objectives, you win.
One element that does seem to mix things up a bit in Extreme Vs. Force isn’t exactly a gameplay feature, but rather a frustrating occurrence. Objectives have a habit of changing mid-mission in an attempt to make excursions a bit more organic. Unfortunate, the games doesn’t do a great job of informing you of these changes. There are times when you will hear shouting (usually in Japanese) and you’ll get the sense that something has changed, but more often than not you’ll fail in order to learn what that change is. Sure, this means you know what to expect the next time you enter, but it makes the failure feel cheap and unwarranted. There you were playing exactly as the mission brief prompted you, only to have the rug pulled from beneath your feet with a confusing announcement.
It doesn’t help that outside of the large nostalgic moments for those who happen to know the weight of certain battles, the plot of Extreme Vs. Force is completely forgettable. It’s left there as no more than a catalyst to drop you into mission after mission. You can completely ignore the narrative and get no less from the experience than if you’d taken the time to read every last subtitle that crossed your Vita’s screen.
Not everything in the single-player is without merit, though. Your team’s AI is more than passable. In fact, it’s actually quite impressive. Any Gundams you decide to bring along for the journey are adept at picking off threats and moving into much more suitable positioning. They’ll defend your base, move to capture points if need be, and actually support you. You can also give them some guidance using an overhead map that allows for commands whether it’s choosing a target or relocating some units on the mission’s map. Unfortunately, you’ll rarely find yourself needing these elements, and that’s a true shame. It’s during the hectic moments that call for strategy that Extreme Vs. Force’s single player flashes a glimmer of hope.
Where Extreme Vs. Force shines, however, is in its multiplayer versus modes. These are what the series was built upon, and it was a great feeling to see them play out so well. Players can partake in the standard 2v2 battles or even build up complete teams of six along with warship. These battles are intense as you leverage the strengths and weaknesses of each unique mech available in the game. There are a few balancing issues with some of the Gundams being a bit overpowered, especially the Unicorn Gundam. Still, the fast pace and the amount of depth that each battle puts on display is impressive.
This isn’t a fighting game where you simply mash the buttons and hope for the best. No two machines are the same, and no victories are won by accident. In order to emerge triumphant you must take the time to learn the ins and out of each Gundam, understanding its ammo limitations, range, speed, and more. It can be a bit much for those who weren’t expecting such an attention to detail, but it definitely makes each and every multiplayer battle much more enjoyable.
Players will have to get used to the controls on the Vita at first. The handheld can be quite unforgiving, but it never felt unfair. Dodging and blocking are both fast-paced, as is managing your boost and jetting around stages. It can turn more casual players away at first, but if you give it some time you should find yourself dancing through Extreme Vs. Force’s more hectic battles with relative ease. Patience is definitely a necessity, but it pays off in the long run.
All in all, Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Force accomplishes what it set out to do. It introduced western players to the surprisingly deep combat that overseas arcades and consoles have enjoyed for some time. Unfortunately, the core was marred by the inclusion of a single-player campaign that could’ve done with a bit a more time and polish. It feels clumsy at times, unsure of its purpose as it delivers a forgettable story, repetitive missions, and frustrating objective changes. Hopefully it can be refined in the future since it would be cool to play through such memorable moments with an all-around better experience. But, if that can’t be done, we’ll be more than content with a bigger focus on the incredibly versus modes.
Score: 3/5 – Fair