There is a lot to get excited about when it comes to Hardcore Mecha. Not only are there some combat-intense mech battles, there are also on-foot segments (which incorporate stealth), a super crisp 2D art style, and a soundtrack that ties it all together. It scratches that mech itch whether you had one or not.
The single player campaign is the showpiece of this PS4 digital download. Each stage provides a different experience and uses the narrative as glue to tie it all together. Complete with cutscenes, optional objectives, and even a few secrets, the campaign holds attention until the very end. As good as the narrative is, it is the actual gameplay and play control that makes the player feel like a mech badass. There is, however, a bit of a learning curve as each button on the controller is used and there are some unconventional maneuvers that are mandatory to master. For example, there is an option to dodge roll to avoid attacks and the mech also has the ability to hover for a moment. Instead of holding a button to control propulsion, the player can tell the mech to float and move around freely with the analog stick. This might sounds simple enough, and it is, but only when you get the hang of it. Thankfully the tutorials are implemented well and get right to the point.
Combat is undoubtedly the most entertaining aspect of the gameplay as there are so many ways to approach each encounter. With a few different melee and range attack options, players can combine this with boosting, defending, and even item use. Fighting is always smooth, responsive, and fast paced. Enemies are also varied and boss battles will really test the skill of the player but there are different difficulty settings if the challenge is too tough. Whether fighting handful of enemy mechs at once, some emplacements like turrets, or even soldiers on foot, combat really hits the nail right on the head.
At the conclusion of each stage, the player is awarded a score and currency to upgrade different elements of the mech. Perhaps the biggest downside of Hardcore Mecha is the teasingly slow unlock rate. The player can see how big the skill trees are but takes forever to unlock that next perk. There are many different types of guns available, some that can be found and used in each stage which also encourages different approaches to combat. There is a lot here so it is a shame that it takes a decent chunk of time to earn anything new, especially since it can drastically change gameplay.
Without spoiling too much, there are some fantastic unlocks once the narrative is completed. There is basically a horde mode in which the player fights constant waves of enemies but can spend currency to unlock new mechs and abilities with each attempt. It is rather well made and actually winds up being a bit of a letdown that it is only available after the main game is completed instead of having access right out of the gate. There a multiplayer component, but the timed deathmatch style has limited appeal and unlocks that are not as good of a reward as the campaign and horde mode.
Visually, the game is composed of stunning 2D vector art that makes it look like you are playing a cartoon. The camera is also something that is subtle but makes a big difference and you won’t notice because it is very well done. There are times when the camera zooms in close to keep action tight, but then zooms out when appropriate. There are screen shaking effects and other visual trickery that connects the entire experience together with tight presentation values. This also extends to the cutscenes. Mechs are fighting after all, so action should be at the forefront.
Hardcore Mecha is one of those rare treats. It will probably fly under the radar but those willing to seek it out will be exposed to a well-crafted single player outing. The combat is also full of action and the button mapping with responsive controls can make you feel like a John Wick in a giant robot. The multiplayer mode isn’t anything to get too excited about but this is one title that can easily eat your entire weekend if you let it.
Also available on PC.
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