When I was in school, and I won’t say what kind of school, there was a game I loved to play on the GameCube called Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee. I had never played anything like it at the time. In retrospect, it was sort of like Power Stone, but if everyone was a sluggish, giant monster with weird limbs and appendages instead of speedy, anime characters. But at the time, it was a strange fighting game that didn’t follow any of the rules, and I loved it for that. Several years later, along comes Override: Mech City Brawl, a game that looks exactly like the Godzilla brawler of years past—a sluggish, but impactful arena fighter set in a destructible city, featuring all kinds of different roster options and over the top action. While I feel like I’m probably correct in assuming this game’s inspiration, ultimately I find myself a bit let down. Perhaps it’s foundational, as that Godzilla title didn’t exactly wow critics at the time, or perhaps it’s due to Override’s technical issues, dry aesthetic, and undercooked content offerings.
Kaiju Big Battle
In the world of Override: Mech City Brawl, the proverbial mech city is built on top of a massive, international combat sport wherein mech pilots duke it out in large-scale hand-to-hand competition. This of course leads to a Street Fighter-style roster, full of characters from around the globe accompanied by giant robots with designs vaguely reflecting their pilots’ nationalities. Now, while there are years of background, thriving and tarnished careers, and even relationships between characters established before Override: Mech City Brawl gets going, none of that really matters because now, the world is sending. Giant monsters have attacked the world, and now the biggest, most popular, and most powerful mech athletes are being courted by the government to help stop the kaiju menace.
Kick, Punch, Block, Destroy
“Arena fighter” only goes so far to describe Override: Mech City Brawl and its ilk. These games are 3D fighters that allow freedom of movement in a closed-in space sure, but there’s also a certain deliberate chunkiness to the gameplay. It’s slow and sloppy, but on purpose. You’re sitting behind the wheel of a massive war machine despite its sleek, marketable design, and things that size don’t move that fast, no matter what anime would have you believe. That’s the root of the concept here: hit the punch button, and it takes a while for that punch to land. But if that punch connects, it sure does look like that punch could level a building. And, well, if you miss, that punch does totally level a building, usually.
Another identifying factor of these sorts of games is the environment. You’re fighting in cities, and those cities are full of buildings, homes, skyscrapers, towers, bridges, so on and so forth. Simply running into or colliding with these constructions will cause them to give like nothing for the most part, but hitting them with attacks will take out anything else. But, you and your enemies can also use terrain for temporary cover, so it’s not just all for show. So to wrap this part up in a nice, mechanical bow, you can see why fans of things like Godzilla or G Gundam would be interested in these kinds of games. So why am I so down on this one?
A lot of Override: Mech City Brawl reminds me of Blizzard’s Overwatch. Both of these games share a very similar aesthetic, down to the menus and things like unlockable skins. While Overwatch is more like a bizarre future war thingy, Override: Mech City Brawl has more of a sports vibe. But both of them have this bright, sterile look to them that presents the nebulous “future” idea as something very clean, angular, and lacking in life, if not color. I’m just not into this look at all! It makes me think of looking at FIFA menus the whole time I’m playing it. When the world has so much color and yet still feels like it smells like a hospital, I’m just not in a position to healthily manage my attention span, from an aesthetic perspective. Now, where these two games can no longer be compared is where Overwatch makes up for its bland world with its massive variety of wacky characters. Override: Mech City Brawl, on the other hand, has a bunch of sleek robots that can be hard to tell apart sometimes. The pilots are all kinda afterthoughts for the story mode as well, so I found myself having a hard time attaching to any of the characters. This also bleeds into the gameplay itself, which is of course a mech-sized problem.
Override: Mech City Brawl presents itself like Overwatch, right? Not that I’m suggesting it’s a 100% purposeful comparison, it just lines up really well in a lot of ways. That includes the fact that this game is meant to be, or at least feels like it’s meant to be, competitive. There are ranked matches online for example, which is always a sign of hardcore intent. And unfortunately, Override: Mech City Brawl does not have the chops to be a hardcore fighting game. There is too much working against it, for example some jank that leads to some, at best, visibly confusing hit detection that can see one-on-one showdowns with other players awkward. It’s also full of balance problems, as some mechs have the ability to easily pin their opponents down and rip away their health with minimum effort.
Things are also just a little too loosey-goosey to take the game seriously, which fits the space just fine. But other games in this space are more silly, with aims to sit more in the party space. But since Override: Mech City Brawl is so clinical-presenting, it comes off as boring. The mechanics, which are largely just variations of “punch” and “kick,” are slow and hard to aim effectively, jumping doesn’t play well with the lock-on ability, and special moves are often visually muddled and don’t feel very special at all. Supers are more flashy, but the road to them is so much more bland It’s sort of like going from 0 to like, 25, maybe.
Ultimately, Override: Mech City Brawl has high aims, but feels a bit clumsy in its execution. It wants to be both a big arena fighter with giant robots and destructible buildings, but it also has designs for real competition. There’s even a story mode in there with stat-building, customization, and bonuses like a goofy co-op mode. There’s a lot going on in terms of foundation, but not enough polish and care in the core of it, which makes actually playing Override: Mech City Brawl feel bland and same-y no matter what you’re doing. Frankly, many of the modes outside of 1v1 competition do more to expose problems, when you’d think they’d mask them. I appreciate that this game is making a callback to a genre that has been missing in action for a long time, but instead of embracing what that means, it tries to hard to make it fit inside a contemporary box. And that box is far too small for giant robots.
Override: Mech City Brawl review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.
Override: Mech City Brawl Review December 2018
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