Friday, November 2, 2007

Review: Go medieval with mechs in "Gundam"

Slashing an enemy mech with a sweet energy sword is sick. Slashing nearly a thousand mechs? Not so much.

Developed by Koei and published by Namco, "Dynasty Warriors: Gundam" is the latest installment in the insanely popular "Dynasty Warriors" video game series. Koei decided to combine "Dynasty" with the mech anime series "Mobile Suit Gundam" for some futuristic fighting with mechs. Sweet, huh? Not quite.

In the original "Dynasty Warriors" video games, the formula is pretty clear cut - slash the enemy, defeat bosses and take control of territory. Though "Gundam" features mechs, as well as new technologies - from boosters to temporarily jump - to laser rifles, the game doesn't stray too far from its' "Dynasty" roots. More on this later.

The game features an official mode (these are missions from the official Gundam TV series) and original mode (these missions take place on a *mysterious* planet) and a versus mode.

The official mode and original modes start off by letting you select a pilot, select your mission (or replay one if you've finished it) and head to battle. Before you deploy, you can change your skills, parts (you can use up to three in battle), view your units you are rollin' into battle with and victory conditions and the time limit to get the mission completed.

Here's where the fun begins. I was expecting to see some sweet space battles - some intense Mobile Suit fights and definitely a relentless AI. I knew there was no way I would be hobbled by the same endless slash spree I had become accustomed to in the "Dynasty" series. Boy, was I wrong. (Refer to the third paragraph)

Even though you have weapons, you find they are pretty much useless. Your old faithful? Excalibur. Yes, a sword. A sword. You are a futuristic Mobile Suit with advanced technology and your weapon of choice is a sword. NO!

And the enemy AI is completely clueless. Note to developers - please don't go Hollywood with enemies - make them swarm, not stand off and be spectators.

The enemy was definitely relentless - to the point where they would surround me and attack. I use the term *attack* loosely. I was expecting to get manhandled by the masses, but instead, I got hit once and shot at twice as I was surrounded by 30 to 40 mechs. Maybe they were concerned about friendly fire. My response? I sent all of them to the big technology graveyard in the sky with Excalibur.

It ended up getting to the point were the enemies would just keep coming ... and coming ... and coming ... and I was just slashing ... and slashing ... and slashing - baam - a blast from my laser ... and slashing ... and slashing. And this was not on just one level but all of them. It was sad watching all of those Suits and mechs deploying into certain death. My helmet's off to them ...

My main question to the enemy leaders is: With the massive losses your forces are sustaining battle after battle, how in the DEVIL can you afford to lose close to a thousand mechs and Mobile Suits per battle and still keeping trying to push your agenda?! Apparently, you don't realize how bad fighting a champ like me is ruining your financial infrastructure!

You don't go to battle alone, though. You deploy with other friendly Mobile Suits and they can get their slash on too. However, they constantly need your help because the mass of Mobile Suits can overwhelm them. And let's not discuss the bases you are defending. I would rather let them burn instead of saving them, but the mission would be lost. It amazes me that the only offensive weapons the bases have are next-generation spitballs. Pathetic.

Speaking of cooperation, you can have a friend aid you in official and original modes. Unfortunately, there's only one official multiplayer mode - and it's not online. This kind of game really would benefit from online battles. Two players can battle it out, but not the same as battling other mechs over Xbox Live.

There are three versus mode options - including Normal Match, Warriors Match (you fight the AI first to get power ups and upgrades and then you fight each other) and Shotdown Contest. This mode is interesting - you and another player are sectioned off with an energy field - and you have to fight Mobile Suits attacking you. After defeating the Suits, you earn upgrades, which dumps more Mobile Suits on your opponent's side. The first player to have 50 enemy Mobile Suits on their side loses.

Hacking and slashing aside, "Gundam" is serious fun that will wear your thumbs out. If you are a "Dynasty Warriors" fan, don't be scared off by the futuristic robots. It's still the same slash-a-lot hit that you know and love.

Why should I care: "Dynasty Warriors: Gundam" bring its hacking and slashing to a futuristic world. A definite buy for "Dynasty Warrior" fanboys.

The good: Easy learning curve, co-op play, sweet upgrades and power ups, "Gundam" license for the official mode

The bad: Relentless and mindless AI, ok graphics and lacks online features, especially downloads and multiplayer online

The ugly: I killed 967 enemy mechs on one level alone. On the next level, they STILL KEPT COMING. Either their government is backed by Bill Gates or they are printing funny money to pay for their armada.

Overall: 7.5 (out of 10): The game is a fun one and doesn't depart from the slash formula of "Dynasty Warriors." However, with a futuristic game, the weapons should be balanced - and a sword is out of the question. Regardless, it's still a great game to release some aggression on. The enemy AI won't mind it one bit.

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