Throughout my childhood, watching robots smashing each other up was pretty cool. Playing games like Zone of the Enders and Front Mission made it even cooler, and I never really got bored seeing a giant mech standing majestically in the dust of a destroyed city. So I was quite excited to play Override Mech City Brawl and, as much as multiplayer isn’t really my thing these days, the prospect of punching a strangers robot through a skyscraper would have warmed my little 14-year-old heart. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I didn’t enjoy this game simply because I’m now 31.
Sure, smashing up a city (a city that you’re actually trying to protect, at least in the story mode) is pretty fun, at least to begin with. It’s initially a blast to kick giant monsters flying down a street, taking out more buildings in 2 seconds than Premier Inn lobbies by an angry Liverpool builder in a week. But it quickly wears thin for multiple reasons. It’s repetitive, quite awkward to control and really really easy. Yes, the controls make it a bit of a bind, but given that you’d have to be playing the game with your tongue to die, the controls seem to be the only challenge the game actually possesses.
To be fair, the games story mode is built to be more of a tutorial for the game than anything else. Developers The Balance have positioned the game more as a party brawler and indicated that playing the game with other players would be more fun. So if you want a good single player giant robot title, this game isn’t for you.
The story is over and done within a few short hours, and it’s mostly text-based format of characters chatting back and forth has nothing substantial to say. You’ll flit from country to country across the globe, dealing with monsters as they pop up to terrorise the cities of the world. Every so often you’ll have a boss fight to deal with, but none of it ever felt challenging. It almost feels pointless to block attacks, as monsters do such insignificant damage it barely shows as a blip on your health metre before you dash away and your health recovers. I didn’t die once during the story campaign, even on levels that the game indicated were ‘very hard’.
Your robots limbs are each mapped to a different button. For example, slapping the right trigger button will throw out a right-kick, while a punch of the right shoulder button will throw out a right-punch. The challenge is to combine them together to deal massive damage. Unfortunately, you can only get a few hits in before your overheat metre maxes out and you can’t do much else other than be on the end of a slap-down from a grotesque monsters limb. Both movement and combat feels slow and its often hard to target properly, sending you careening into a building rather than the giant monster directly in front of you. You’ll eventually build up enough charge to unleash a special attack, but I often found that I’d killed the majority of the monsters before I got to that point.
From time to time a melee weapon will slam down on the battlefield from above. These range from quarterstaffs to giant frying pans, lending some variety to the battle, but I always felt that my kicks and punches did the most damage. Between missions you can add weapons to slots in the armoury, that will then pop-up during your next battle. You’ll also get research points that you can use to improve your mechs stats, plus mods that will augment one of your abilities, such as giving you slightly better health regeneration.
While there are quite a few locations in the world, each with their own unique landscapes particular to that country, none of them feels awfully different, aside from the underground section in Egypt. The arenas are far too small, with most of the cities cut off with an impenetrable glowing blue barrier. As battles rage on, most of the city will become little more than a pile of dust. The game doesn’t have you try and save humans or do anything other than combat the familiar monsters that assaulted you in the last location you visited. Even destroying the city means nothing, as it will have been rebuilt by the time the story makes you return to that location for the third time.
Visually, the game looks nice enough. The graphics aren’t overly impressive, but they’re fine. Monsters come in waves, but usually, you’re only facing off against two or three. This makes it all the more baffling that I suffered occasional lag and frame rate drops, even to the point where my mech took a second to actually react.
So, while you won’t find an awful lot of meat in the single player mode after a few hours of play, you can tell that the main focus was on the multiplayer mode and the variety of mechs available. There’s a sizeable roster, and while they each play a little differently, it’s not significant enough to make it much more fun. You can also customise your mech to your heart’s content, using unlocks you gained in the games single player mode.
In multiplayer, you can fight against other players mechs in options such as one-on-ones and team battles. There’s also the cool idea of multiple players controlling a single mech, with each player controlling a separate limb. This would be a fantastic way of seeing if you and your friends can actually work together, but sadly I never got to experience it. In fact, I never got to experience a single multiplayer game at all as every time I tried there were no other players available to fight against. I even held off publishing this review for a couple of weeks in order to see if I could have at least a few multiplayer matches, but I had no luck. Given the game has only been out for a month or so; having no multiplayer population, at least on PS4, is pretty much signing its death warrant on the console.
Sadly, Override: Mech City Brawl is no Zone of the Enders and it quickly wears thin. It might have some chops as a multiplayer brawler, which is what the developer is clearly intending it to be, but it’s no good being a multiplayer game if you can’t find any players actually playing it. It’s just not varied or complex enough to be fun for more than a short while.
Thanks to Modus Games for supplying us with a review copy. Override: Mech City Brawl is available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. We reviewed the PS4 version.