PC, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade
Review based on Xbox Live Arcade version
|Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Yuke’s Co. Ltd.
Release Date:July 12th, 2013
The first major thing working in Pacific Rim‘s favor is the audio. The music isn’t dynamic, and there aren’t many various tracks, but it is a solid, harder hitting style that works with the over-the-top theme of giant robots fighting gigantic monsters. While not exactly a Metal or Hard Rock performance, it definitely falls in between them, carrying a bit of a sports vibe that gives a grittier bite so you’re ready to go to work instead of using generic Alternative Rock or Pop Punk songs from unknown bands like Fireburst did, or akin to using the latest mainstream generic garbage Green Day put out as the theme to the WWE’s Smackdown television program. It’s a simple score that seems original, is usually at a lower volume, and isn’t a distraction when you’re focusing on the fights. On top of that there are no voices, just some roaring of monsters and sound effects of the robotic mechanics in operation, as well as general combat effects you would expect. Having no voice actors helps to keep the gamer in the mindset of the film by not hearing voice actors moderately close, if at all, to the original actors of the film. In fact, the humans are basically not even acknowledged outside of the fact that there are two life bars on the Jaegers (robots) due to the two operating pilots. If one of them loses all life in its bar, the part that pilot controls can no longer be used.
This allows the game to focus more on the scenery and larger characters. Both the Jaegers and Kaiju (monsters) are done well. No, this doesn’t look like Mortal Kombat, but for ten US dollars, they do look pretty sleek and clearly designed for a modern generation console or PC. The light effects are nice as well, showing more on the monsters than the robots. However, the levels are pretty limited, and fighting in the same town or ocean surrounded by boats can get a bit boring. For what you pay, a few more bits of scenery, even one or two more than what is supplied would have been nice. You do have the option to buy more, but we’ll get to that later as it’s a whole other issue entirely.
Given the limited surroundings, there isn’t much of a story line to the game. It does, however, clue you into the general plot of the film via text boxes. These are usually rather brief, though can be three to four boxes total, and usually push the story between certain Normal Missions. They can also explain other things you can do in the game, such as build your own Jaeger and customize it, or just generally praise your progression through that specific mode. Usually there is a brief description to each Mission as well that tells you about the fight, or what to expect. This is about all the story you get, and while it isn’t that good, it isn’t bad since there’s no real room for it to be blown or fumble any character development other than a typical “This thing is in your way, kill it with fire” progression.
But, this game has plenty of surprising features. First of all, there are two single player modes: Normal Missions and Survival Missions. In order to unlock the latter set, you need to complete the first four of Normal Missions. But, the more missions you clear, the more experience you receive, especially if the mission has more than one foe. Experience is used to buy Jaegers or Kaiju, and then you have the ability to customize it, which is shockingly in depth for a title like this. You can customize things with pre-existing colors or custom ones, even the light that both emit, you can slap on a decal, mix and match body parts you earn or buy from the Shop, which also gives you boosts to add to your custom character to make it even stronger. You can also upgrade certain stats on the many body parts to add health, strength, speed, and more, as well as slots you can have to add the additional boosts to your character. There’s plenty of different combinations, and many opportunities to become stronger to complete the two single play mission campaigns, as well as the on-line mode.
The on-line mode is essentially the same as Single Player. You choose your character, what additional boost you want to tack on if you have one available, and then fight on a three dimensional battle field. The fighting is pretty basic, having your typical block, low attack and high attack, a special move, and a finishing move. You need to watch how much power you have as well, which can be wiped before you know it from dodging and using ranged attacks if your characters has a move for it. Some also have an alternate attack mode, such as blades that come out at the wrists, and these also eat away at the energy. Sadly, there’s no real combo attacks available other than alternating low and high punches similar to general boxing, which is a huge let down. There’s also no jumping, but flight is available on certain Kaiju, which just becomes incredibly irritating when you’re the flightless one in that battle.
The controls are also pretty stiff. Buttons don’t seem to que up though, it just takes a bit of time for them to be executed one after the other. Given the proportions of the characters, this does make sense. Upgrading your characters movement and attack speed does help a bit, but given the limited attacks lead to this being more of a button-masher than a complex combo-driven title, it doesn’t really hurt anything in the long run. In many ways, the game feels like, looks like, and even has some mechanics similar to a slower version of the SNES title Ultraman: Towards the Future to the point where some initial two dimensional pre-battle scenes prior to gaining control look remarkably close to a taunting silhouette of Ultraman in front of one of the monsters from that series, or even Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad (which was based on the Japanese sentai series Denkou Choujin Gridman). One Kaiju also looks like the demon spawn of Godzilla and Chthulhu! Of course, the character models are based on the film, so any similarities are obviously not because of Yuke’s.
Finally there’s the on-line gaming system to look at, which is actually rather enjoyable, though still a bit bugged. This option allows you to join one of three teams, and as you fight and level up in the live battles, your team earns points, which is displayed on the Xbox Live Multiplayetr screen. It’s a fun little concept that pits one large community against the other two. There also are achievements to reach level thirty in each of the three, so completionists will find themselves trying each team eventually, and learning with team’s bonus ability works out best for them. The issue here is that you may have trouble getting into a game, as the room will fill before you get the chance to reach the character select screen due to how long everything seems to load. The same goes for looking for a custom match. You’re better off starting your own and setting the limitations (if any) yourself, such as threat level limits or if boosts can be used or not.
While playing on-line is actually kind of fun, there are some other issues that will deter you from enjoying it fully. While no fault of Yuke’s, there are plenty of gamers that will kick you out of the game with the ban option, or just flat out leave. However, the game has one specific Kaiju that can be leveled up to the point of being impossible to defeat, and it’s what the general community plays as, keeping you at a great distance and knocking you down with a single swipe of its tail. This really becomes a major problem, and not just in the Live matches, but also in the Normal and Survival Missions when you have to battle it. Thankfully there is a Local Multiplayer option, so if you have friends or family around, you can just knock each other around that way if the on-line community is just a bunch of spammers.
There is one thing that seems like a pretty bold move, and that’s the option to buy things with real life currency. You can buy additional Kaiju, Jaegers, battlefields, and experience using actual money. This is the kind of thing that is becoming a bigger trend with the success of free-to-play titles, but it seems more and more like games you pay for are going this route. Pacific Rim would be a fantastic free-to-play title, and it honestly shoould have been from the start, or at least sold at around $4.99 (US). That price tag would make picking up some additional material a little more enticing if you can look past the fact that these were released day one, meaning they were created and intentionally left out of the title for you to spend more money on if you were so inclined. I can’t help but feel this would have been a stronger game overall had more Kaiju been made available to fight in the Missions, and not just play as. But, if you get bored, be prepared to spend more money to get a little more life out of this budget title.
Overall, Pacific Rim is a pleasant surprise for a ten dollar (US) digital title. Again, this isn’t a top notch fighter, and if you go into it expecting that, you will be let down. But, the more you play, the more experience you earn, the more fun you’ll have exploring the custonization tool in the game, and just knocking around various Jaegers and Kaiju. There’s plenty holding the game back, such as limited characters, battlefields, and one cheap Kaiju that ruins the on-line game play, not to mention expanding on the roster and scenery by paying with real money. But, despite this feeling more like a free-to-play title with the way that DLC structure is set up, there’s still a good amount of options in the game that make it worth throwing some money towards. Once the on-line community cools down and doesn’t exploit the biggest spamming creature of them all, Pacific Rim will end up being an enjoyable title that will keep you entertained for a while if you’re into these sort of games.
Digital review copy of this title provided by Yuke’s Co. Ltd..