‘Attack on Titan’ Preview: An Omnidirectional Thrill (E3 2016)

As I power walked to Koei Tecmo’s booth at E3 (time is of the essence at these events), my feelings began bouncing between uncertainty and hope. Time and time again have I seen the video game adaptations of my favorite series suffer from lackadaisical game design, and I was terrified of the possibility that Attack on Titan could encounter the same fate. It only took about thirty seconds into the thirty minute hands-on demo before I became convinced: this game is exactly what it needs to be, and I could not be happier about it.

Fans of the series will know exactly what they’re getting themselves into as Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) replicates the speed, scale, and intensity of its source material with aplomb. Developer Omega Force ensures a wealth of enjoyment for those unfamiliar with the story, offering a narrative that chronologically covers the events from Season 1. It’s quite a tall order, but the game really does establish itself as a proper addition to the series.

Attack on Titan (show) is generally told from Eren Yeager’s perspective — the good ol’ protagonist. Attack on Titan (game), however, switches the point of view, and often. Playing as Mikasa eventually led me to a terrified Armin who just witnessed an emotionally gruesome sight, but I wasn’t there to see it. I knew what happened thanks to the show, but that’s just the point. This video game adaptation has an exclusive feature: its story is told through multiple pairs of eyes, presenting to players the same beautiful story in an omnidirectional fashion.

Even the gameplay emulates the thrill of the show. The demo featured an outside training course to cover the controls and a battle with the Colossal Titan behind one of the Walls. The controls took some time to get acquainted with, but flying around with your 3D Maneuver gear becomes incredibly fluid once it all clicks. Once you find a target, a simple press of a button switches gameplay into a combat mode that will target nearby enemies. Launching your 3D Maneuver gear with the combat mode active will shoot itself into a designated body part of a nearby Titan, allowing players to hover in circles around their target. If you want to take these monstrosities down, you’ll have to get behind them, charge forward, then time your attack with utmost precision. Successfully doing so imbues the gameplay with gravity as well placed attacks feel extremely gratifying, making inaccurate attempts seem lackluster and amateur.

Human pit stops are littered around the field for whenever you need more blades or gas, two resources that must be monitored if you don’t want to wind up stranded on foot by a group of Titans. Accommodating their depletion will allow you to zip around the map without a worry (outside of, you know, the mercilessly hostile Titans), ultimately saving the lives of the familiar faces that make up your squad. The demo had a main objective to take down the Colossal Titan, but various side quests were scattered in realtime throughout the chaos. If Connie is halfway down a Titan’s throat, it may behoove you to fly over to save him.

Voice overs are spot on from the show, and everyone is prepared with a call for help or witty retort that is totally befitting of their character. Characters, environments, art direction — even sound effects are accurately replicated from the show to the point of feeling like you are truly playing a part in it all. The game places players in the driver seat behind a Titan form in addition to flying around as a soldier, so you really get to experience the gamut of what this series is all about. Unfortunately I never got to make it to the Titan gameplay — I was enjoying the soldier controls so much that I had run out of time before I could make enough progress. From the footage I’ve seen, however, the impact a Titan has on the battlefield seems heavy with awe-inspiring power and effectiveness. It’s a terrifying sight to watch, so I can only imagine how devastating it feels to play.

Attack on Titan pleasantly surprised me in every conceivable way. All doubts of the game’s quality immediately vacated when I started playing and understanding the exclusive characteristics the game offers when compared to its animated and manga counterparts. Its presentation surrounds you with a classic narrative, sound gameplay, and a lot of danger — and that was evident from a thirty minute demo. Needless to say, I’m officially excited to get my hands on the full experience.

Attack on Titan is developed by Omega Force and published by Koei Tecmo. Look for it to release on August 30, 2016 for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, PS Vita, and PC (Steam).

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