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REVIEW / Attack on Titan (PS4)

 

My first exposure to the anime Attack on Titan was back in the middle of 2014 after hearing talk on social media of this new, amazingly creepy anime that had fans of the medium basically frothing at the mouth.  I had to find out what all the fuss was about and headed to Netflix to see if it was available.  To my surprise, it was and I immediately started up the first episode and watched the first four straight through.  You can then probably guess how excited I was when news hit the media outlets that Koei Tecmo was working on an Attack on Titan game.  Set at the same time as the anime, you take on the role of Eren Yeager and company as you play through the events of the anime that first exposed fans to the giant humanoid Titans that have a hunger for the taste of the human population that are hiding in cities surrounded by enormous walls.

 

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Attack on Titan follows the story in the anime of three childhood friends, Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman and Armin Arlert, as they are beginning their military career to help defend the Shiganshina district, a town at outermost wall, Wall Maria, after an especially successful Titan attack which forces Eren to witness his own mother being eaten by one of the humongous, seemingly insatiable Titans.  If you were hoping for a completely new story, you will be disappointed as this game essentially covers the entire first season of the anime.  However, don’t be discouraged because even though the story may be familiar, the gameplay offers a nice twist on a video game genre that has been a staple since pixels were first put on-screen.  At its core, Attack on Titan is hack-n-slash at its finest; add in the fact that you do this while flinging yourself through the air via your ODM or Omni-Directional Mobility gear and you have yourself some very compelling and fun gameplay.

 

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Gameplay in Attack on Titan takes place in the familiar locations from the anime such as inside Wall Maria as well as outside the walls in the surrounding forests.  The game opens up when Eren and his friends are just getting into the military and have been selected to join the Scout Regiment.  Their first mission will be a training mission where they will learn the intricacies of how to maneuver with the ODM while also learning how to target specific points on pop-up wooden replicas of Titans.  This is an important part of the game and will allow you to get the hang of the controls before going out and encountering any actual Titans.  You can play this beginning training mission as many times as you want so that you can feel confident that you have the controls down before the game throws you out into actual combat with the Titans.

 

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Getting from place to place has the player pressing the square button to launch yourself from the ground and into the air by way of the two grappling hooks that shoot out of the ODM to find purchase in the side of buildings or trees.  You can get a boost of speed by pressing the X button and you attack by pressing the triangle button.  In order to have enough momentum to do enough damage to a Titan to bring it down, you have to be anchored to it by targeting it and pressing the R1 button, then thrusting with X so that your attacks penetrate deep enough to subjugate it.  Just swinging at it with your sword is not enough, so calculating your angle of attack and the amount of thrust needed from the distance that you are away from it is crucial to your success.  Attacking and destroying certain parts of the titans such as their knees, elbows or shoulders before you make the killing blow by severing the spine at the base of the neck will net you materials that you will need to upgrade your equipment and weapons as well as to sell for extra Regiment Funds.

 

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The visuals in Attack on Titan are better even that those of the animated series.  Koei Tecmo has created a process called Custom Toon Shader that is, “the latest graphical fusion of anime and game styles that uses physical rendering that brings the rich Attack on Titan world to glorious life!”  The human character designs are very vibrant and unique, even though all of them are wearing the same uniform.  As far as the titans are concerned, your regular run of the mill titans come in three sizes and are all basically the same design.  The boss titans such as the Colossal Titan, the Armored Titan, the Female Titan and Eren himself in Titan form, are all very different from one another and make facing them something special.

 

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The games voice over is in the native Japanese with English subtitles.  The Japanese voice actors are the same ones that voiced the anime, of course, and I am glad that they probably just used the same tracks so that I didn’t have to get used to different sounding voices of my favorite characters.  The sound effects are also off the charts as the cries and screams of the Titans can be very striking and definitely get your attention when they are on the attack.  The soundtrack is also a high point in the game and does a great job of immersing you in the life and death experience of protecting other humans by taking down the enormous Titans.  All of these elements combine to create one of the most memorable gaming experiences this year and that says a lot considering the game launched up against or just before some powerhouse games.

 

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There are two aspects of this game that may make or break it for some gamers.  Fans of the series might be disappointed that the story in the game is the same as the anime.  This was definitely a chance for Koei Tecmo to expand on the lore a bit more by creating a whole new story line in the series to flesh out more of the characters and allow for the player to learn a little more about the Titans and where they come from.  The other thing that gamers may have issue with it that the ODM mechanics are just like playing a Spider-man game, and while moving around on the battlefields is fun, its nothing gamers haven’t experienced before.  In my opinion, these aren’t deal-breakers as I have been having a blast playing AOT, but others may take issue with it.

 

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Overall, this is a game that I have been waiting eagerly to play for a long time and I am glad that it is finally here.  The action is fast and frenetic and when you are being swarmed by the Titans and you heart begins to race, you can add members to your party and give them specific commands or just call in the cavalry by launching an “Assault Signal” and you’ll be able to fight for a brief period of time along-side a troop of allies that come to support you.  There is enough game here to have you hacking Titans to bits without getting bored with it.  It just never gets old and that is the mark of a good gaming experience in my humble opinion.  You can grab a physical copy or download Attack on Titan now on the PlayStation Store, Xbox Marketplace or Steam for $59.99.

 

 

 

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

 

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