Developer: YUKE’S Co., Ltd.
Publisher: YUKE’S Co., Ltd.
Review Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade (Xbox 360)
Review Copy Provided By: YUKE’S Co., Ltd.
Release Date: July 12, 2013
I remember playing Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee! for my Gamecube several years back, and having a blast. The monsters were big, burly creatures that slammed into one another with brutal force. They used their various breath attacks and other powers to toss equally giant beasts across cityscapes, sending them crashing through buildings. It was a well-built game: clear visuals, good control, and a great amount of fun to be had tearing apart city after city.
Tied-in to the recent silver screen summer blockbuster, Pacific Rim: The Video Game aims in part to capture that feeling of giants battling across the earth. The game has you choosing either a Jaeger (giant robot) or a Kaiju (giant monster) to fight, each equipped with a set of basic attacks and unique powers. It plays like any traditional fighting game: cut your opponent’s health to zero, and you win.
The game has two modes, a single-player campaign and multiplayer that pits you against others, both online and off. The campaign mode is just a series of increasingly difficult fights, preceded by a cinematic of sorts that just robs the trailers dialogue verbatim. There’s no real story to be had here, so for those wanting to play the game but are afraid of spoilers, there doesn’t seem to be any danger in ruining the movie. The visuals are pretty decent, about what you’d expect from a ten-dollar title. The metal reflects the light and shows wear-and-tear, while the monsters glow with otherworldly light. Once you’re in, its pick a titan and clash.
Controlling the beasts is not the easiest of tasks. While the inputs work fine, the incredibly slow speed of the characters makes it difficult to pull off chained attacks. And in regards to combos, this is not Street Fighter. There’s no sort of combo attack input, but instead you must dodge, block, and single-attack your way to victory. The speed of the attacks is probably to try to emulate the feeling of effort. The amount of power it must take to move these giants must be tremendous, and you’d expect the combat to feel just as forceful. But instead of having an epic blow-for-blow power struggle between combatants, the game fails to capture that feeling of power. Instead, we’re left with slow attacks without the visceral and brutal payoff that would be expected.
Combat consists of basic, charged, ranged, and special attacks. Basic attacks are operated with the face buttons, and holding one down charges it up for a more vicious strike. Each also comes with a ranged attack, although certain characters have a limited range, while others can fire across the map. Special attacks are intense, sometimes wiping out more than half the health bar and knocking your opponent down, allowing for even more follow-up strikes. Because these special attacks are tailored to the characters, there is a severe lack of balance in the game. There are most certainly some options that are better than others. There’s an energy bar that recharges and is used as you fight, but even while unleashing attack after attack, I never felt limited by it.
The environments themselves are just empty circles. There are only two that I encountered: an ocean fight and a shoreline fight. Both have you sparring in the water, and lack any sort of interactivity with the environment. Big monster games only feel huge if you are crushing your environments and reshaping the earth beneath your feet. Because Pacific Rim confines you to the water, all you can do is stare longingly at the city in the background, wishing you could toss your opponent through someone’s 9-to-5.
If you aren’t satisfied with any of the game’s options for fighters, you can use earned in-game experience points to create your own Jaeger or Kaiju. These use pre-made templates so don’t expect to be able to really flesh out a customized creature that’s unique to you. Individual parts can also be upgraded, making your character stronger. This is where the game truly breaks.
On the mobile platform (and yes, there is a mobile version of Pacific Rim, but it is different) gamers are no stranger to a pay-to-win model. Pacific Rim brings that model to consoles. You can choose to purchase packs of experience points that you can use to level up your character. Then you can take you maxed out character online and rule the leaderboard. In my brief foray online, I faced several people who had characters 3-5 times more powerful than mine. It was a no-contest scenario, and I’m willing to bet that I could have don’t the same for a few extra dollars. Likewise, you can steamroll the single player with your same character, completely invalidating the need to practice and work for your strength. This is one of the greatest sins a game can commit. Pay-to-win is never in any way acceptable for multiplayer games.
Even worse, you must also pay to unlock certain characters for use, as well as environments. Developer YUKE’S Co., Ltd. (I haven’t heard of them either) was clearly tasked to create something to generate revenue beyond the hype of the movie. Granted, this is the purpose for all movie tie-ins, but I’ve never seen such an unabashed grasp for money on my console platform.
I mentioned Godzilla: DAMM! because I feel that it is a prime example of how to take a brawler and inject the massive scale, building-sized monster action into it. Playing with friends, crashing through buildings, and dominating a whole city with the might of your monster. Pacific Rim just fails to capitalize on some of those opportunities. Without environmental destruction or obstacles, I may as well be fighting with normal sized people in a desert. Without the force-of-impact, why am I sitting through slow, lumbering animations? The struggle for power in this game is powerless, which really takes the bite from the fights.
For the ten-dollar entry fee, you get a sub-par fighting game with pretty decent visuals. The control is clunky, and you never really feel as powerful as you should controlling your character. The environments are bland, allowing no interactivity. The ability to create your own character is a nice, and unexpected touch, and improving him the proper way can yield satisfaction. Ultimately, the game isn’t outright terrible, and die-hard fans of the movie may find enjoyments controlling the larger-than-life giants from the big screen. Ultimately, I believe that a little more effort and consideration to design choices could have made for a better game. Just don’t venture online unless you’re willing to shell out the dough to compete.