July 18, 2006

Chromehounds Review

Finally, the Xbox 360 gets a giant destructive mech game! Be warned, however, this is no Mech Assault. What you get here is a very different game. The basic story has something to do which three warring nations, though I don't pay much attention because it's presented in such a dull way. I've read, however, that the story is very good. Guess you'll have to see for yourself.

There really isn't much to be had in the single player mode. You'll find yourself playing it to unlock precious HOUND parts (more on that later) or to get accustomed to the six different role types. Speaking of which, you probably want to know what they are. The RTs (role types) are one of the things that truly makes this game unique. There is the soldier, designed for front line battling, the sniper (self explanatory), the defender, designed to defend your base, the heavy gunner, packed with huge long range missiles to take out the enemy's HQ, the scout, quick and able to zip through battles and asses the situation, and tactics commander, who analyzes the map and strategies with the team.

In company mode, you'll find yourself piloting "borrowed" HOUNDS specifically suited to the role type in which you are playing (you choose an RT to play as and each RT has seven missions- 42 single player missions all together). Once you collect parts, however, you can freely combine parts to combine RTs.

The impressive part of this game is the online mode. Unless you have Xbox Live, you won't find much in this game- it has no multiplayer. If you do, then you're in for a treat. Chromehounds has an incredibly deep online mode. When you first start, the game will ask you to join one of three nations. You'll then battle against players on other nations for dominance of the land mass the three countries reside on. As you battle, your mech will take damage. You'll have to spend money earned from victories to pay for repairs, extra ammo, and parts. That's right- there's an online store. You'll be able to buy a variety of parts made by your nation, but there's nothing stopping you from changing your alliance to another nation and buying their parts. You can also import parts and HOUNDS from the offline mode. There's some online single player missions too to earn some extra cash. Nothing special, just destroy as many enemies as you can in the time limit. Also, based on your skill in the campaign mode, the game will give you a level for each RT which carries over into the online mode and is used to pit you against players of similar skill.

The game's three nations are all very unique and different. Each has its own culture, income, ruler, etc. If any one nation were to control 100% of the territory the servers reset and another war starts. The game also lets you start your own squad of up to twenty people, though only six are able to fight at once- that's a total of eighteen players per mach. The game also lets you choose from a variety of unranked matches just for fun. These do not reflect the outcome of the war like the raked matches.

Finally, the best part of the game... HOUND customization! You can literally customize every aspect of your HOUND from weapons (a total of sixteen per HOUND!), to color, to number, and its all incredibly easy! There are several different types of parts that make up your hound: light arms, heavy arms, cockpits, engines, bases, assist parts, and computer chips. To make the game more realistic, it includes a system in which you must balance your HOUND for maximum performance. For example, would you made a huge, heavy, gas guzzling hound with a small fuel tank and no radiator? No, of course not. It won't last long in battle. It a long, but fun, process to get the right balance of parts. You can even test your HOUND on a practice course, then go back and make changes. This mode became what I wanted and more. No two HOUNDs will ever be the same. You can literally customize everything, right down to color and custom emblem.

Now, on to the gameplay. Chromehounds has incredibly simple pick-up-and-play controls. Move with left stick, look with right stick, shoot with right trigger, switch weapons with right bumper. You can only have four weapons to switch between, but can customize it so you can fire up to four weapons at once. By clicking on the right thumbstick you can switch to first person view. This will become a necessity in battle. A small screen in the upper right corner shows the third person view or a first person view when zoomed out. My only problem with the gameplay is that most of the mechs were really slow. I've learned to deal with it, however. You can always make a fast scout if it bothers you.

Graphically, Chromehounds is beautiful. The one problem is that enemies disappear completely in a puff of smoke when destroyed. Levels are huge, but barren and buildings crumble unrealistically. Other than that the game looks fantastic. Sound wise, the game is good. Sound affects are great and music is cool and eerie, yet repetitive.

The Breakdown
+ Great customization
+ Awesome online mode
+ Simple controls
- Lacking campaign mode
- No offline multiplayer
- Where the hell do the enemies go when you blow them up!?

Overall, Chromehounds is a great game and a fun experience. If you don't have Xbox Live, don't bother. If you do, definitely pick this one up! 8/10

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