tue 21/05/2019

Anthem review - singing praises? More like a cautious nod | reviews, news & interviews

Anthem review - singing praises? More like a cautious nod

Anthem review - singing praises? More like a cautious nod

A rocky start for a new franchise that offers potential and problems in equal measure

Anthem is an unusual game. Unlike most of its current peers it lacks any numbers after its name, making it a brand new slice of intellectual property in a risk-adverse market, where the big money is only invested in sure-fire hits. 

It’s also unusual because you can only play with an Internet connection. This isn’t a soup-for-one affair (although you can actually play solo missions), rather a shared visual banquet where you’re auto-matched with other players, working collaboratively in a common goal. Think Destiny or The Division as the other two big shared-world action games. And finally it’s unusual because one half is gamepad-gripping edge-of-seat brilliance, while the other half is anything but. A game of two halves indeed.

So let’s cut to the skinny, Anthem is a little like a sci-fi version of Iron Man. Well, the good bits are anyway. As a Freelancer in a future dystopian world with a lengthy backstory that is both overly confusing and grindingly dull, you pilot a series of Javelins – mech suits with the kind of firepower and manoeuvrability normally found in a jet fighter. The traversal system – the gameplay mechanic that enables you to transition between running, hovering and flying is an absolutely brilliant bit of intuitive game design. The first couple of times you run off the edge of a cliff, activate your suit thrusters and swoop hundreds of feet down through a beautifully depicted open-world filled with colour: life makes you want to whoop with joy.  

Then there’s the enemy, beautifully depicted but not a collective extra terrestrial brain cell between them when it comes to smart AI

Equally, the gunplay and variety of different Javelins (suits) on offer give a further versatility to the action. Going for strength? The Colossus suit, complete with massive mini-gun is the one for you. Rapid manoeuvrability? Then step inside the Interceptor, boasting the agility of an amphetamine-fuelled cat combined with the close quarters combat skills of, erm, an amphetamine-fuelled cat. You get the idea.

So we have a great-looking game that is a joy to behold and does a better Iron Man impression than Robert Downey Jr coupled with satisfying combat that has something to do with amphetamine-fuelled cats, or something. What’s not to..? Wait. This game is burdened with enough shortcomings to almost permanently ground the amazing flying suits.

The story is a confusing mess. You never really know what’s going on and instead, between every mission, you have to trudge around a largely non-interactive city having largely one-way conversations with characters that mean little to you and have little impact on the actual story.  

The plot is nearly as tedious as the mission objectives. Repeatedly pursuing map markers, wiping out wave after wave of enemies and exploring the environment for something, anything, to activate get’s boring quickly.

And for a loot-based shooter, where customising your Javelin and upgrading armour and weaponry is a key gameplay feature, the reward drops are almost grindingly dull – lacking both imagination and inspiration to play further. Then there’s the enemy, beautifully depicted but not a collective extra terrestrial brain cell between them when it comes to smart AI. Again, the tedium ticker is working overtime.

Anthem has real potential but this incarnation is a frustrating glimpse at what a good game it could be – and will hopefully one day become. But not in this iteration, and not without the title having a number after its name.

@wordsbysteve

The gameplay mechanic that enables you to transition between running, hovering and flying is an absolutely brilliant bit of intuitive game design

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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