It has been five years since Bandai Namco threw its hat into the monster-hunting ring with God Eater on the PSP. However, in the intervening years, that landscape has changed quite dramatically. The king of the genre that Namco’s series sought to depose has left Sony systems entirely. With Monster Hunter now all but ubiquitous with Nintendo, the crown of the “king of the hunt” (on PSVita and PS4, at least) is there for the taking, but is God Eater a worthy successor or a mere pretender to the throne?
Bundled together with its sequel, God Eater Resurrection is a remake rather than a remaster of the original PSP game, with numerous improvements across the board. It actually feels like a fresh entry in the series in its own right. Being bundled with the (admittedly superior) sequel, God Eater 2: Rage Burst is enough to make an already decent game more attractive — especially since God Eater 2 follows directly after the events of Resurrection and allows you to transfer over character and equipment from the revamped “prequel.” As Julie Andrews once sang, the beginning is the very best place to start.
If you’re not a fan of Monster Hunter (or The Sound of Music), you would be remiss in writing-off God Eater as a simple clone — big weapons and even bigger beasts aside. Tonally and mechanically the two are very different beasts. The most obvious difference is the setting and the atmosphere. While Monster Hunter strikes a slightly more western, classical fantasy kind of vibe (in the vein of Robert E. Howard), God Eater is unashamedly Japanese, reveling in typical anime tropes and overwrought post-apocalyptic settings.
Players are cast in the role of the newest member of the titular God Eaters, a corpus of soldiers that are hated, feared and revered in equal measure. They also happen to be humanity’s last defense against the Aragami, a race of rapidly evolving monsters that have eradicated and assimilated almost all life on the planet, and have nothing to do with folded paper swans.
God Eaters are able to take the fight to the monsters that have sent humanity to the brink of extinction thanks to the power of the God Arcs, huge weapons constructed from the remains of fallen Aragami that often dwarf their wielders. They’re bound to their hosts, transforming into a shadowy maw filled with razor sharp teeth to literally feast upon the flesh of the monsters they were constructed to kill — which is probably the most metal paragraph I’ll ever write.
If the lack of a convincing narrative in Monster Hunter put you off, you won’t have the same issues with God Eater. It’s not simply a matter of being a monster hunter, killing for profit and the femurs needed to fashion the world’s most ridiculous line of bastard swords — you take on the role of the latest member of a tight-knit group of survivors, desperately fighting to push back the endless tide of nightmare fuel that now inhabits the ruins of what was once civilization, and drag humanity off the endangered species list.
That said, you do still use the organs of your enemies to make a fine line in ridiculous mallets, as well as swords, scythes, spears and shotguns for that matter. It’s just that there’s a much more compelling reason to do so, as well as a (fairly plausible) reason for the game’s hero being able to lift a claymore the size of shed.
Don’t expect anything as complex or deep as something like Attack on Titan, or Neon Genesis Evangelion, though; the world and setting are fairly well-drawn the main cast, though likeable, all fall into the usual predicable JRPG templates, with your player character being the new kid on the block that everyone loves despite being mute and having zero personality (except during battles where I think Troy Baker turned him into a wise-ass for five minutes) but some incredible secret power, with the rest of its cast there simply to tell you how great you are and get through their own personal traumas while you seem to have none. It’s a weird disconnect in a game about teenagers being sent out to kill or be killed by nigh-on unstoppable beasts. The beasts I can believe, but a teenager who doesn’t have problems is too much to swallow. And, being Japanese, pretty much the entire female cast seem to be dressed like they’re about to go out on the pull, instead of fight for their lives.
That being said, the translation is top-notch and the voice work from the game’s main cast is superb. It certainly features veteran hands like Wendee Lee and Troy Baker to great effect.
The game’s presentation has seen a significant boost, in both visuals and technical performance too. Character models have been revamped and improved, and the game now runs flawlessly on both the PS4 and Vita (while the PSP version had more than a few dips when things got hectic).
There have also been a slew of mechanical tweaks and updates as the gameplay has been brought more in line with God Eater 2: Rage Burst (which came out before Resurrection in Japan). Most notably, the arsenal of available weapons has doubled, introducing new types added in the sequel as well as tweaking and improving how the games various ‘God Arcs’ perform in battle.
For example, the Charge Spear adds a charged lunge attack that closes in on the enemy, as well as a backflip to swiftly dodge sweeping attacks, while the Boost Hammer is a huge, rocket-powered mallet that allows you to deliver a series of rapid blows. Meanwhile, the Variant Scythe specializes in wide, sweeping attacks that allow you to easily wade into an enemy while maintaining a little distance. The original three varieties of swords (Short, Long and Buster) have also been reworked to allow for more distinct playstyles, adding an attack cancel to long blades to allow players to create infinite combos as well as increasing the short blade’s ability to air dash and step cancel.
The biggest change comes in the form of “Predator Styles,” which revamp each weapons’ devour mode. They confer various benefits to players, based on when players choose to take a bite out of enemies during a combo string, as well as adding additional attacks which allow you to nip at enemies while dashing or jumping.
Firearms have also had a bit of a spit-polish, with short-range shotguns and blood bullets from God Eater 2 being added to the mix, while cannons, assault weapons and sniper rifles have been reworked and rebalanced to feel more distinct. Add to that the new (and deliciously unnecessary) Bullet Editor that enables players to create their own customized projectile ammo, and there’s plenty of options available to allow players to approach each fight in pretty much any way they see fit.
Despite the mechanical depth that the numerous tweaks to weapon styles and systems add to the experience, the combat admittedly still lacks the depth and heft of combat in Monster Hunter, moving at a much faster pace. It’s (thankfully) much more forgiving, due in no small part to Resurrection’s notable improvements to party member AI, seeing them make more of an effort at bringing down smaller beasts, while medics like Kanon are an invaluable part of the team as she patches you up long before you’re on the ropes. Other members will make a bee-line for you should you be knocked unconscious, because they know who the big dog is. This is bolstered by a new system that allows you to unlock new behaviours and improve their skills with each hunt you take them on.
Despite all the changes and added depth, the game’s pace has not slowed one iota. You won’t have to spend hours harvesting herbs and other resources in order to be able to keep up with the monsters you slay. In fact, completing challenge missions actually makes obtaining materials needed to unlock new weapons and upgrades a lot easier, allowing players to focus almost entirely on the fun part – indiscriminately slaughtering towering Japanese monster-things.
Players can work together online regardless of whether they wish to play the game on PS4 or Vita, as multiplayer is supported across both systems, as well as cross-play, cross-save and also cross-buy (if purchased as part of the God Eater 2: Rage Burst bundle).
However, regardless of the new features, shiny new graphics and improved performance, there’s really no escaping the fact that at its core, God Eater: Resurrection is a five-year-old game. Though, it may as well be a new game to most, and it plays far better than it ever did on PSP, the sparse environments and limited scale make the game feel a little bit quaint at times, and no amount of spruced up character models can hide that.
It may have taken a move to home consoles and a thorough remaster, but God Eater: Resurrection shines as a serious contender for the crown of King of the Hunt. If you’ve been searching for a viable replacement for Monster Hunter on vita ever since it headed to the sunny shores (and murky caverns) of the 3DS, then God Eater could well be just the series you’ve been looking for. It’s a faster, flashier and less demanding alternative that never asks for the same insane level of dedication. Though it may turn a few off, those that always loved the hunt for monsters, but not the accompanying slog for resources will find a fantastic monster-slaying romp to sink their teeth into.
God Eater: Resurrection was reviewed on PS4 and Vita with a copy provided by the publisher.
Developer: Omega-Force | Publisher: Koei Tecmo | Genre: Hack ‘n Slash | Platform: PC, PS4, PS Vita | PEGI/ESRB: 12+/T | Release Date: September 2, 2016 (EU), July 30, 2016 (NA)
American Fugitive Review — A Grand Tale of Theft and Auto
The original Grand Theft Auto rocked the virtual world with its violent gameplay from a birds-eye view perspective back in 1997. Once the series moved to a third-person, 3D perspective with Grand Theft Auto III, few gamers looked back and few developers attempted to replicate the original style. More than 20 years later, Fallen Tree Games has become of those few with American Fugitive.
Players control Will Riley, a man convicted for a crime he did not commit and filled with the desire for revenge. Once he has escaped from prison, Will must find old friends—and meet some new ones—to run errands and discover the person who killed his father.
The game is played from a top-down perspective in a 3D open world. More reminiscent of Chinatown Wars than the original Grand Theft Auto, the camera adds a level of complexity to American Fugitive, as players often will not see what lies beyond the edges of the screen. While a behind-the-character perspective would, at times, not go amiss, players will eventually grow to familiarise themselves with the camera, respecting the callback to classic open world titles.
The open world itself is also reminiscent of classic titles, with simplified designs regularly complimented by the detailed art style. The game’s animated, cartoon design scheme is fitting of its fast-paced action gameplay, always managing to keep the player on their toes and keen to discover more. Technically, the game plays almost flawlessly, with no significant performance issues to disrupt the player while they explore the map.
Players can explore the rural open world of Redrock County on foot or in a vehicle. The vehicular gameplay may take some time for players to familiarise themselves with, with some overly slippery mechanics leading to some unfortunate collisions, though fitting to the game’s tone. Thankfully, most environments in the game are destructible, so sliding off the road—if the player follows the road to begin with—does not often lead to disaster.
Despite beginning the game as a seemingly innocent man, Will doubles down on his criminal actions once he escapes from prison. Akin to Grand Theft Auto, the player can hijack cars, kill civilians, and attract the attention of police. Most residential buildings in the game can be robbed by the player, often leading to tense confrontations with the homeowners or police, so players must continue at their own risk.
The ‘wanted’ system in the game works similarly to Grand Theft Auto games, with players accumulating up to five stars depending on their behaviour. The stars often accumulate a little too quickly, however, with additional stars regularly added simply for evading police. Oftentimes, the player may possess a full wanted level—complete with large police vans and circling helicopters—within a minute of committing a minor offense. While this over-the-top gameplay design is fitting to the pace of the game, it may lead to frustrations within the main story missions by bringing the player’s progress to a halt.
The missions are also reminiscent of those in Grand Theft Auto, tasking the player with a wide variety of tasks to keep them busy while the story evolves. While many of these missions may seem disconnected to the main narrative structure, they are unique and regularly keep the player entertained, ranging from simple fetch quests and car robberies to full-scale shootouts. The game’s fast-paced gameplay and lack of loading screens also make the poorly-placed checkpoints bearable, especially when the beginning of missions require the player to drive to a certain location.
American Fugitive‘s storyline is simple in design but entertaining enough to keep the player engaged. The game’s ‘cutscenes’ exist in the form of text atop character designs; while some simple voice acting would elevate these scenes with more dramatic tension, they are short enough to maintain the player’s attention and continue the missions at a fast pace. Players will find themselves surprisingly engrossed in the story, wanting to see it through to its full conclusion.
Accompanying the fast-paced gameplay and narrative is the game’s music. From slow, explorative themes to fast-paced tracks, American Fugitive‘s original score is reminiscent of some of the best soundtracks across different media—from television’s True Detective to video gaming’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us. Each song accompanies the gameplay nicely, ramping up and down as the player makes the appropriate actions, and, along with the expert sound design, add the auditory sprinkles atop a visual and narrative treat.
American Fugitive, simply put, is fun. Fallen Tree Games has added its own unique twist to a classic gameplay formula, and utilised a simple but engaging narrative and a beautiful original score to maintain the player’s interest until the very end. Despite a few minor flaws in gameplay, the game stands strong against its competition. Players looking for a fast, fun, and mature sandbox game should not miss American Fugitive.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.
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