Attack on Titan is the chopping-off-giant-arms simulator we never knew we needed

By Brenna Hillier, Friday, 26 August 2016 09:02 GMT

Attack on Titan makes you feel like you too have the physical and mental grit needed to chop giants into huge piles of severed limbs. What’s not to like?

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Attack on Titan

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Based on the hit anime series, itself based on a popular manga by Hajime Isayama.

Action gameplay, with extra story scenes not seen in the anime.

Play as multiple characters including Eren, Mikasa, Armin and Levi, each with their own arrangement of skills and strengths, in story or free mode. Also play as a Titan.

Releases in Europe today, arrives in North America on August 30. Titled A.O.T.: Wings of Freedom in Europe, for some reason.

Coming to PC, PS3, PS4 and Vita.

We played on PS4, with retail code supplied by PR.

Attack on Titan is boss. You get to chop up horrible giant people and when you bust through the rain of body parts you end up all covered in blood, which steams off you. You can then optionally press a button to do a cool little gesture. This gesture has no purpose except for you, the player, to say to the virtual world around you: I just did that, because I’m a badass. You can press this button whenever you want, but it feels good to do it while titan blood is rising off you in a cloud of stink.

Attack on Titan comes to use from Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force pretty much because Kodansha and Koei Tecmo sat down around a table and said something like “Why don’t we all stop making Dynasty Warriors game for a little bit and instead see what we can do with all these lovely licenses. Obviously we need to do something fancy for the anniversary of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Does anyone have any other ideas for games based on Kodansha properties?” at which point the meeting erupted in shouting and tables were overturned as everyone tried to get hold of their favourite anime (see also: The Heroic Legend of Arslan).

It was probably all bit more reserved than that, but certainly producer Hisashi Koinuma is such a big Attack on Titan fan that he gads about in a costume at events and was extremely enthusiastic about trying to bring the setting’s key concepts to life. The heart of Attack on Titan is the unique method of combat employed by the tiny humans against their foes; they anchor gas-propelled grappling hooks in surfaces, and use these tethers along with twin gas-powered jet packs to get the height and momentum needed to eventually slice through the nape of the neck – the only true weak point on a titan.

I couldn’t conceive how this could translate into video game fun, but Omega Force has nailed it. Even just getting around the environment is joyful as you fall into the rhythm of it and adapt your path to take advantage of the best potential tether points. The tethering system is remarkably easy to use, flinging yourself through the air to maximise momentum and minimise those stomach-dropping moments of inertia, and yet there is a great deal of satisfaction in getting it right merely by picking the best route.

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Transitioning into combat is very smooth; when you’re within range of a titan a nice big indicator pops up and one button will focus your tethers on its limbs. Flicking an analog stick cycles you through the five available attack zones (four limbs and the nape) and then it’s just a matter of getting yourself lined up with a clear shot and letting your tether reel you in close enough to strike. This is complicated by the way the titans behave; the smarter ones sensibly do their best to keep you from approaching their napes by blocking your tethers (and in some instances fall through assets you yourself can’t pass through, which is an annoying bug but resolves itself if you hang about for a while).

You’ll go from chopping off limbs one at a time and felling the creatures individually to flicking from titan to titan at high speed. By the time you’re playing as Levi you feel like you can live up to his reputation.

But with a bit of practice you’ll figure out how to tackle every kind of titan behaviour, and then it’s just a matter of getting up enough speed and a modicum of good timing (middle and lower difficulty settings are very generous). Combat feels laborious at first but rapidly resolves into an almost automatic series of quick decisions and reactions. You’ll go from chopping off limbs one at a time and felling the creatures individually to focusing only on those parts likely to yield upgrade materials then dispatching multiple foes as quickly as possible, flicking from titan to titan at high speed. By the time you’re playing as Levi you feel like you can live up to his reputation, you know?

Part of this is the clever arrangement of missions by playable character, introducing you to different playstyles starting from very basic to complicated and deadly. As your characters advance they unlock various new abilities, in different orders, so that each feels like a different kind of badass. Eren, whom I guess you could call the protagonist, begins with a “skill” that makes him rubbish at commanding the squad of fellow soldiers you amass in every mission by completing quick side quests. This makes a lot of sense from a tutorial perspective and unlocking his second skill, a powerful attack from above, feels awesome as a result. Switching over to Mikasa with her (god tier) starting ability to chop three targets in one attack, and Armin’s capacity for commanding teammates to do the work for him, really changes how you play.

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Well, at first. Attack on Titan distances itself from the Omega Force formula of “one against one thousand” to focus on 1v1, but after a while you still feel like you’re taking out grunt after grunt after grunt. There are literally hundreds of different titans and although their nasty faces never cease to amuse me they rapidly boil down to a few recognisable types, with a few quirks of behaviour, while most mission bosses boil down to being slightly more careful and hitting every target in order.

The repetitiveness is not really a problem if you’re just forging through the story on standard difficulty, but those who play for completion may find themselves a bit tired of it all. The saving grace of the game in the face of grinding for upgrade materials or to unlock gallery entries is the speed of it all – zipping around on your 3D Maneuvering Gear is super fun and the best horse system Omega Force has ever implemented makes getting around on foot (necessary to conserve gas in tougher situations) much more than tolerable, too.

Turning the difficulty up is kind of amazing, as well. Suddenly you need to pay a lot more attention to the gadgets, commands and resources you can mostly ignore in the lower reaches, and every battle becomes a race against time to hit sidequests and prevent allied deaths. Upgrading your gear is imperative, and so is reading the potential flow of battle on the minimap so you can swoop in to rescue beleaguered supply troops in time.

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I kind of love it. Also, and I guess this is kind of a spoiler if you haven’t seen the anime or read the manga, you get to play as a titan sometimes, and that is ridiculous fun. There appear to be no consequences for knocking the city flat like a kaiju as you take the fight to your fellow monsters, and if there’s anything better than picking up a (comparatively) small titan and throwing it at a pack of bigger ones so they all fall down and squash a district flat, I haven’t yet encountered it. It wouldn’t work in vast amounts bot Omega Force doles it out with a light hand so it feels like a treat.

Your mileage may vary on chopping up legions of horrible giant people via a deadly aerial ballet, but I personally feel such a strong attraction to the concept that just typing those words has inspired me to go back and clear some more optional missions. Goodbye.

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