Friday, September 9, 2016

Review: Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom

This is probably the game I most worried about of this season's big releases. How could the five year old Vita hardware possibly cope with the graphics that the poster-child PS4 version was throwing around?

In the end, I need not have worried, Team Ninja and Tecmo have produced a game that is fluid and fun to play from the get go. Sure there's some image fade-in (better than pop-up) and frame rate dips when things get busy throughout. And, yes, the lumbering Titans are decidedly low-poly and have some strange relationships with physics and buildings. However, it is easy to ignore those points as you swing through the air and swoop in to hack another hapless giant to pieces.

So, on to playing Attack on Titan, or Wings of Freedom, as Tecmo has decided to call it. If you missed the series, AoT sees lumbering people-eating titans dominating the landscape, forcing humans to live in a city surrounded by massive walls, like chickens in a coop. I watched the anime and am still haunted by all the Japanese shouting - surely one of the most voluble, vitriolic series ever! So, guess who's there in basic training bellowing at you every few seconds - flashback city.
Up yer bum, as its the only bit of you visible! 
You're soon swinging about, using Omni-Directional Mobility (ODM) gear to rappel, fly and pivot around the battlefield. Book-ended by lavish cut-scenes, each mission sees you aiming to take down a herd of Titans, aiming for the back of the neck, which is their own fatal weak spot. You also go rushing to the aid of stricken comrades, valuable buildings and citizens around the city, providing some mission structure.

Succeed through the early going, and you can set out on horseback, exploring out into the heartlands of the Titans and the woods where you can trap them. The missions follow the story set by the anime pretty closely, but viewed from varying perspectives. This makes up for the pretty repetitive gameplay with only the boss titans really changing and adding a modicum of extra challenge.

This travelling and a spot of resource management help add some extra structure to the game, which can make a welcome break from the endless slapping down of Titans. But whatever weapons or mods you have, it doesn't seem to make a huge difference, its not like being a hammer-wielder vs a sniper in God Eater 2, which I'm playing in tandem with this.

What's missing from the full fat PS4 version? Well buildings just sort of go up in smoke, rather than the impressive deformation of the game's bigger sexier brother. As expected, there seem to be a lot of subtle lighting and shading effects missing, and things do slow down close up even with the slab-like titans. Whatever version, there's also no getting away from the fact that most characters are just whiny or shouty bastards and the action is deeply repetitive, and the whole digital package isn't worth £40!

However, the sheer joy of whizzing around the sky and hacking shit up makes most of Attack on Titan's great fun. I can ignore clumsier moments, and lack of real depth beyond the hack-and-swipe tactics, and happily go down swinging - or not to be honest, as this isn't the most difficult of games. If the higher difficulty mode had been available without completing the game, perhaps things would have been more of a challenge.

Score: 7/10
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Price: £39.99 (PSN)
Developer: Tecmo Koei
Progress: In the wilds

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