God Eater 2: Rage Burst Review – Monster Eaters (PS4)
Rarely ever do you hear about franchises making the jump from portable to console, especially after already establishing themselves as a mobile mainstay. After experiencing a tremendous amount of success with the initial entry in their Monster Hunter inspired series, Bandai Namco’s God Eater 2: Rage Burst, has been primed to make the huge leap from PlayStation Vita to its HDTV bound big-brother. Does this release have enough legs to thrive in the home, or will it end up withering under the elevated expectations of the living room crowd?
I might as well apologize in advance to those that are unfamiliar with the Monster Hunter franchise. It’s damn near impossible to talk about Rage Burst without drawing countless direct comparisons to its (at least as of recent history) Nintendo-engrained, beast-slaying counterpart. Players and their rag-tag band of spiritually enhanced hooligans are the last hope of humanity in the never-ending fight against the Aragami. Sound familiar? Mercifully, God Eater 2 is a bit more approachable than Capcom’s multi-mechanic behemoth. A collection of fast-paced, more brawler-centric combat systems render the game far more straightforward to jump into, without needing to spend hours poring over tutorials and hand-holding sub-missions.
Customizable to the Core
Despite seeming to lack the depth of its direct competition, after investing a significant amount of time into battles, it becomes apparent that this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there may be just as many obscure systems nestled into the submenus of God Eater 2, just waiting to be uncovered. To the game’s credit, very few of these tools are completely necessary in order to succeed. In fact, there is an entire dialog tree between the main character and an NPC, where they discuss how certain mechanics are available, but many deem them to be, “above their pay grade.” At least they can laugh at themselves a bit, because just trying to wrap your brain around every element at play can be a mind-numbing task.
The main avenue for skill development throughout the campaign is through the building of weaponry. Using items that are strewn about the battlefield, which can be picked up either during or after battle, players fabricate an arsenal that best fits their preferred combat style. Armaments run the gamut from short and long blades, all the way up to scythes and glaives. Additionally, there are ranged firearms that can also be created that range in style from bazookas to sniper rifles. Despite the possible combinations already feeling damn near infinite, the variety is further augmented by the four unique power-ups slots attached to each weapon. As long as players stay on top of their best mass-murdering options, there is no reason why any map should take longer than a few minutes to clear.
Another example of the player-defined world are the craftable bullets. Yes, you read that right. Even bullets can be custom designed by the player. The main idea is that several different varieties of projectiles can be married with special elemental types of damage, in order to take advantage of an adversary’s elemental type. Anyone who has played Pokémon in the last 20 years knows that electric can trump water types, at all times. This is no exception to that rule. Just make sure to consume every page in every codex in order to figure out how to best bring every hulking beast to their digital knees. However, without becoming too critical of the title’s overall verbosity, it may be best to start the reading process early, because before long, it will be damn near impossible to stay on top of all the new information.
Words for the Sake of Words
Speaking of information being vomited at the player, now to move onto the actual narrative. Rage Burst’s story revolves around the development the team’s skills, as practitioners of the Blood Arts. These skills are specific to each character and are unlocked through interaction with the main character as the story progresses. Only through forming a bond with each team member will these powers reveal themselves. Unfortunately, this connection can only be forged by sitting through countless cutscenes that are meant to provide narrative background, but end up playing out more like long-winded monologues. None of these characters add much to the plot, aside from occasional narrative connective tissue and avenues to introduce new combat mechanics. Given how much time was put into trying to genuinely craft likable and even compelling characters, it is extremely disappointing to see how drastically short they fall.
Also, at the risk of sounding too much like a grumpy old man, many of the female character models made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I realize that this is a byproduct of a completely different culture, but blatantly underage characters probably shouldn’t be showing more under-boob than a Janet Jackson halftime show. I am sure that there will be plenty out there that could care less about something this minor (rimshot!) but as a father to an infant girl, it made me wonder how I would explain these sorts of wardrobe choices to my daughter someday. Thank goodness THAT discussion is over a decade away…
The original incarnation of God Eater 2 was the bastard love child of large ambitions and limited hardware capabilities. I mean, there was even a PSP version of this game! So to see what could be done with the game on high end hardware was an exciting proposition to say the very least. Sadly, there are very few things that you will be seeing in this iteration that wouldn’t have been capable on either the Vita or its far-inferior predecessor. All of the core gameplay hooks are still present and accounted for, but it is hard to shake the feeling that you’re just playing a game the same repetitive stages, livestreamed from a PlayStation TV. Simply put, levels are far too frequently reused and ugly as all hell. Textures of this quality may have been acceptable during the PlayStation 2 era, but to see them two console generations later is a significant letdown. Thankfully, this is not the kind of title that aspires to be setting the world of 4K ablaze.
One huge benefit to the mobile lineage of this release is its modular structure. Thanks to action that burns along at breakneck speed, each mission only takes a few minutes to complete. Gaming in short, intense bursts are a staple of mobile gaming that prove to be a very welcome change of pace for a full console release — especially for those with limited time for gaming, being able to sit down for 20 minutes and bang out a couple of quick missions can be a godsend. Fortunately, the action remains just as fun, though rather repetitive, when playing for extended sessions.
While the design of the game itself transitioned well between platforms, unfortunately the same cannot be said for some of the controls. Mechanics such as quickly switching between ranged firearms and close-quarters melee weapons are one of the more crucial and empowering aspects of the combat. The problem is that during this transition, the camera controls tend to get rather scrambled. This rather blatant and frequently occurring shortcoming is so common that it is almost more shocking when the camera doesn’t go awry. For a game that does so many other things so well, it is extremely disappointing to see one of the core gameplay pillars piddle that success away.
God Eater 2: Rage Burst proves that without a shadow of a doubt, the series deserves a home on the console. The great depth, compelling combat and interesting enemies provide an fantastic counterpoint to the Monster Hunter brand, while also providing an exciting new sandbox for players to explore. Unfortunately, there are plenty of shortcoming associated with mediocre port work that prevent this iteration from fulfilling its full potential. While it may ultimately prove to be a bit of a stumble, this is an interesting first step into a much bigger world.
Review code for God Eater 2: Rage Burst was provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.