Attack on Titan on PS4
Attack on Titan was something of an overnight success. Its anime quickly gripped millions of fans with its bleak narrative and take-no-prisoners approach when it came to killing off characters, similar to Game of Thrones. While it lacked the same level of political intrigue as the HBO series, fans couldn’t get enough of the war between the last bastion of humanity and the fearsome titans. Unfortunately, video game attempts have so far failed to deliver that same level of awe to their experiences. Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains, a Nintendo 3DS title developed by Spike Chunsoft had the name and the characters, but its dull presentation and confusing timeline couldn’t hold a candle to the anime and manga it was based on. Omega Force (Dynasty Warriors, Hyrule Warriors Legends, Warriors Orochi), has taken their own stab at this popular franchise. In doing so, they have shown that not only can the tense action we all fell in love with on screen can be done in game format, but it can be done exceedingly well.
For those not in the know, let us give you a quick rundown of what’s going on in this terrifying world. Humanity has been pushed back into a last bastion of sorts, protected by three concentric walls, by these towering monstrosities known as Titans. These Titans look like giant humans, only parts of them are warped in horrific ways, such as musculature appearing outside of the skin and their faces twisted into nightmarish grins. To make matters worse, they follow a strict diet of only humans. They ignore all other life and will relentlessly pursue any nearby humans until they are crushed and consumed. Nobody knows exactly where these beings came from when they appeared over 100 years ago, but it’s known that in order for humankind to survive, they must be eradicated.
After witnessing the Titans successfully breaking into the outer wall, Wall Maria, several of the children present that day vow to join the military to stop the Titan advances. That’s where Attack on Titan picks up, with you and your friends having graduated from the academy, ready to choose your jobs and become an integral part of the war… then all hell breaks loose.
Instead of slowly easing you into the action, players are treated to one tutorial, which more than readies players for what’s to come, before being thrown to the proverbial wolves. This is when Attack on Titan’s shining star, the gameplay, gets to shine. Going into the game I was worried that I would be treated to yet another instance of Humanity in Chains. Wandering monstrosities who fail to cause any real sense of threat, and oversimplified combat that would make the Survey Corps training I was put through seem pointless. Thankfully, a hearty challenge awaited thanks to the game’s central mechanic – mobility.
While this is, in fact, an Omega Force game, you won’t be dealing with thousands of enemies on screen as you swiftly run to and fro’ around the battlefield. As we’ve mentioned before, Titans are large and overbearing, and you’ll be fighting on open battlefields and within cities. To get an edge in battle you need height and speed so you’ll be relying on your Omni-Directional Mobility (ODM) gear. It’s a set of scabbards that houses a pulley system as well as gas canisters in order to allow players to grapple their way through the world at high speeds. Essentially, they turn you into Spider-Man with swords, which is exactly as cool as that sounds. The caveat is that they work a lot like you would expect webs to work in a good Spider-Man game; there must be something around to ‘anchor’ onto, and you must refill your gas if you want to use any special maneuvers.
The movement is more than just cool-looking, too. It’s the core of your survival mechanics as you bound over buildings and navigate the sky, using speed and quick direction changes to keep the Titans guessing. When it comes time for combat, you’ll have to actually anchor onto those Titans you’ve been skating around. At these moments the tension rises, forcing you to be on your guard for any wild limbs, or approaching threats. You can never be too careful because there can be another Titan lurking just around the corner, or when you think you have your target stunned, they suddenly snatch your body right out of the sky triggering a scramble for freedom.
Of course, there’s more to the combat than simply swinging through the air. There’s a level of strategy to every encounter that requires you to methodically plan which limbs you’re going to sever first, if any, and whether or not you’re going to use your companions as personal help, or as a sort of roaming guard for other soldiers. Larger Titans require more damage, causing you to dance in the sky as you grapple, attack, then quickly re-grapple in an attempt to keep the stumbling. The act of going in for an attack requires management of speed, clear lines of sight, and well-kept weapons. Like the gas needed to fly through the sky, you’ll need to replace your blades regularly lest they become too dull to do anything of note. There’s always the tease of bonus materials when facing certain foes in Attack on Titan as well, forcing you to make split-second decisions of whether or not to use the gas and blade durability you have now on some random limb in the hopes for a particularly rare material, or save it for a tougher foe down the line.
One of the elements I really appreciated concerning this need to manage your gear was the fact that your supplies aren’t safe. As you play Attack on Titan, there are countless other soldiers on the field , some of which serve as Logisticians – soldiers who hand out items to those in need. These Logisticians can actually die in battle, meaning if you want items, you better hurry to their aid. This feeds into the dynamic nature of missions. While you always have a clear goal, side missions and other random events can pop up mid-battle. You can ignore these if you want, and focus on the task at hand, or you can enjoy some extra gameplay by venturing off the critical path. There’s a constant ebb and flow to things that helps to keep the game exciting and fresh even after hours of play.
On top of the intense action the developers also managed to squeeze in a few light RPG elements as well, but nothing that should scare away someone looking for something either simpler or much more action-oriented. You can unlock 10 playable characters including Eren, Mikasa, Levi, and Hange. Each one can be leveled up which will unlock skills to help you in battle. You can also level up your regiment as a whole which unlocks new blueprints and materials for you to use and change between missions. I wasn’t expecting to be able to swap out my gear from the standard equipment I’d seen in the anime and manga, but it was a most welcome surprise. Choosing blades based on size and durability, or deciding if speed and anchor strength was more important than gas, let me tailor my gear to my playstyle.
Attack on Titan isn’t without its issues, though they never became too big of a problem for me. Surprisingly, I was expecting to have my framerate suffer thanks to the random nature of abnormal Titans and all of the effects going on, but the game ran smoothly. The camera, on the other hand, did become a bit chaotic late in the game. The developers upped the challenge in later missions and the sheer amount of Titans and narrow spaces can sometimes cause dizzying effects. But, I was able to manage pretty well, and thanks to being able to lead Titans somewhere more comfortable, it was just a matter of waiting to resolve any problems. There are some clipping issues as well, making Titans invulnerable at times, but that can also be solved by simply leading them elsewhere.
Omega Force has created something really special here. Between the presentation that perfectly captures the soul of the Attack on Titan anime and the action that immerses players into every scene, this is a definite home run. One of the biggest challenges of translating an anime into a video game is pulling the feel of what happens on screen into the game without it feeling generic. There wasn’t a single moment throughout my countless hours of play time that I didn’t feel like I was playing something fresh. This isn’t just a licensed game, it’s a great experience that even those who aren’t familiar with the anime can fully enjoy.
Score: 4.5/5 – Great