Honesty first: I wasn’t expecting much from Koei Tecmo’s Attack on Titan. Sure, I tend to be forgiving of licensed titles as long as they capture the feeling and tone of the franchise. The Sword Art Online games aren’t stellar, but the player does feel like they are taking on an adventure set in the world, for example. How the action of Attack on Titan could be faithfully translated into a game was beyond me. Sure, using a swinging system similar to the Spider-man games is obvious. But how could the speed, quick movements, and targeting be done to capture the spirit of the source material without the game camera having a fit and just showing the player the video from Ringu just to get dome respite is a challenge I couldn’t handle. This is why I don’t make games. The great news is that the developers nailed it.
Starting off with the tutorial is required for the XBox One version. The controls are, by necessity, entirely new. The player can fly through the world, firing off wires from the omnidirectional gear to shoot through the area and cover ground quickly. Upon reaching a titan, the player then presses a button to enter a combat stance and target the foe. Limbs and the nape of the neck are targeted individually using the right stick, allowing the player to quickly cripple a larger one, and hit the neck for the killing blow. Once targeted, pressing ‘X’ fires a line into the limb, and the player is pulled forward, as long as the player isn’t dodging to the side. It’s usually a good idea to do this from a distance so that proper momentum can be built up to cause damage, assuming the swing of the sword is properly timed. This can be bolstered more by spending some gas to increase speed. Considering this explanation covers the basics, it can seem daunting from the outside.
In practice though, the controls are very well thought out and designed. During my play, I went through the tutorial and a larger mission. Koei Tecmo were obviously hedging their bets and wanted to give players practice with a unique setup as the tutorial was overlong, the concepts and controls having been grasped long before the end point.
The full mission on hand was really well done. Titans had breached a wall, and it was up to Mikasa and her team to stall them long enough for the civilians to get to safety. Instead of it being an annoying escort mission, it played more aggressively while utilizing some very light strategy. Basically, it was up to the player, as Mikasa, to take down as many titans as possible, hacking off limbs and closing for the killing blow. The strategy comes in from fulfilling side missions and helping endangered teammates. There are multiple places on the map requesting immediate assistance, all while I found myself busy with my own problems. At one point, I took down a titan at both knees to slow it down enough for me to fly over to save someone else, returning before the crawling giant could cause any real harm.
After a while, a larger titan arrived, with the promise that this one’s defeat will mark the final subjugation needed for the mission. It was a hard fought battle as he brought some friends. Arms and legs were flying, screams of the terrified were heard, and I was forced a couple of times to switch out blades and gas tanks for my gear. Finally, I emerged victorious, surrounded by nude, grinning dead man flesh. It was a well earned victory.
There was also a mode to try out being a titan as well, one that I did not get a chance to look at. Here players (spoiler alert) will be able to take over Eren when he turns and wreak havoc on the hungry, hungry nudists at their level. The reason I didn’t try this out was due to dwindling time and wanting to try something in the regular human mode. By the way, yes, if the titans manage to grab on to the player as they are whizzing past with the omnidirectional gear, it is an instant loss to the tune of crunching bones.
Based on my brief hands on time with Attack on Titan, it looks to be a worthy experience for series fans. The pace and controls are frenetic, and really capture the tone and feel of the dire straits the remains of humanity are in. The only reason that the “series fans” qualifier is attached is that we do not know how well the story is fleshed out for series newcomers. Considering the weirdness of the anime and manga, special care will need to be taken to fill out the story while not pulling the focus off of the game parts of the game. Since they nailed the controls, I have reason to believe that they will handle this challenge with equal flair.