Review: Chaos Code – New Sign of Catastrophe

In 2013, the original Chaos Code hit the PlayStation 3 and left us feeling a bit underwhelmed. While it was a quality product, it was also bare-bones and lacked modern features and modes. The New Sign of Catastrophe re-release adds far more core content, giving both fans of the original and newcomers plenty of content to sink their teeth into. Those seeking a deep storyline will still be left disappointed — as the original game’s clunky narrative hasn’t been expanded upon and the seemingly-important Chaos Code remains a bit of a mystery no matter how many times you replay the story mode. Fortunately, Chaos Code excels at offering up an exciting and fun fighting experience — and that makes up for its story-related shortcomings.

With a roster of 15 characters, there are quite a few characters to fight as and different fighting styles to learn to both play with and fight against.No matter which character preference you have — whether you like a fast, nimble striker who may not do a ton of damage with each strike, but eats away at an enemy slowly or a big bruiser, you’ll be happy. There are middle-ground characters that give you a fair mix of speed and damage along with a team-based character in Cait-Sith who can be absolutely devastating in the right hands.

Arc System Works fans who missed the prior games will feel at home here with the familiar face button-centric layout alongside using the shoulder buttons as combo buttons of sorts. Bravo is the resident bruiser, while Cait-Sith offers up a tag team duo with some impressive super attacks. Fans of bigger changes from game to game may be disappointed, with only two new roster members — but series newcomers won’t know what they’re missing. None of the characters feel like filler, and even with many of them checking boxes for anime-styled fighting games, they don’t come off like token characters there to fill a slot on the roster.

The controls work quite well, with the face buttons alternating between weak and strong attacks while the usual array of d-pad and/or stick movements enable your special attacks. You can choose between a variety of extra-special moves and even pick whether you want to run or hop around the screen. Beyond that, the core mechanics that separate it from the pack involve the chaos gauge. This gauge fills up over time and allows you to do things like guard breaks with ease. You can also use it to block normally unblockable mid-air attacks, enhance your special moves, or make use of a couple of higher-end specials that do a ton of damage.

You can also use the chaos gauge to enter an altered state and do more damage — or if you so desire, cancel that action and go back to standard attack damage. Exceed Chaos is your biggest altered state and allows you a few different major buffs to get ahead. You can regenerate life bit-by-bit over time, cancel any attack you so desire — which is quite useful if you just hit the wrong button, or use chaos gauge-using moves as much as you want at the cost of your entire chaos gauge up to that point. It’s a risk/reward system that requires skilled play to access, but will pay dividends if you’re in an online fight for your life.

The original console release lacked online play, but this version has it — and the player base is fairly barren on both PS4 and PC. It’s a shame too, because mode selection is also lean — but during our few successful matches, online play was responsive. Lag didn’t hinder the experience, and that was impressive given that we used wi-fi on both devices. Quick battles are allowed for either ranked or offline play — but the ranked matches seem to fill up faster, so your best bet is to play just those even if you normally stick with unranked play.

The game’s overall mode selection is robust, if a bit unspectacular. You can use each character in the arcade mode and gain small bits of knowledge about your chosen character — but it winds up being a fine way to learn how to play as, and fight against, each member of the roster. Survival mode tests your durability and asks you to fight efficiently if you want to survive for quite a while. Mission mode tasks you with the challenge of beating enemies with certain handicaps — like only using basic attacks, special attacks, or stunning an enemy with only one combo. You’ve also got a score attack mode to reward skillful play with high point totals, while also reminding you of where you can improve with lower marks in certain areas. Those seeking a bit of variety outside of the core game can enjoy the usual mix of artwork and ending viewers, with some unlocked via normal play and others with points acquired through play.

Visually, Chaos Blade – The Sign of Catastrophe doesn’t improve upon many things. The core gameplay presentation is a bit better with partial command lists on the borders of the 4:3 gameplay window — but that also highlights how the 4:3 aspect ratio makes this feel like a game from a bygone era. That isn’t entirely a bad thing though, as despite that, the animation and character models are still incredibly-detailed and looked very modern even though their origins are over half a decade old at this point. The background art stands out quite a bit too, with a fairly impressive amount of detail and animation that makes the world feel lived in and does at least add a sense of states to the ridiculous storyline.

Musically, Chaos Code features a solid but unremarkable rock-heavy soundtrack. Everything in it works to get you excited during the fights, but none of stick with you after a gameplay session — even though some of the game’s songs are fun to listen to outside of it. The sound effects for both normal hand-to-hand combat and the more spectacular special moves are excellent, with the former sounding physically-devasating and the latter having a good mix of fantastical, but also heavy enough to dole out a lot of damage.

Closing Comments:

Chaos Code – New Sign of Catastrophe doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what it does provide is a lot of high-quality 2D fighting action. The cast isn’t the most diverse in gaming, but still offers up a great deal of variety when it comes to play styles and the usual fast-paced Arc Systems Work fighting action keeps you on your toes at all times. Online play is a huge missed opportunity due to the sheer of lack of players currently, so anyone looking to buy it for that would be wise to wait a bit until the player base is built up over time. It’s a visually-pleasing game despite some archaic aspects to the graphics and presentation, and delivers a satisfying soundtrack alongside exceptional sound effects that make each blow feel that much more damaging.

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Chaos Code - New Sign of Catastrophe