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Gundam Evolution Preview: A faithful fling for fans, with room to soar for Overwatch runaways

Having played the closed beta test, Gundam Evolution may just be the next hit the genre needs.

Gundam Evolution is a cool game to get your hands on, let’s start with that. If you’ve been a fan of the series between now and the release of Mobile Suit Gundam all the way back in 1979, you’ll get a kick from the loving recreations of your favourite suits, weapons, and the overall feel of these gigantic mechas shooting and smashing into each other. However, does this game provide enough for those who aren’t familiar with the series’ legacy? From my impressions of this closed beta so far, it might just have what it takes.

(All impressions come from playing the closed PC beta test on the North American server from the UK.)

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Let's start with what the game actually is. Gundam Evolution is a 5v5 first-person shooter in the same vein as Overwatch and Team Fortress 2, where each player takes the role of a different Gundam, each with their own anime-faithful weapons and abilities. Once you’ve got a team together, you battle in a variety of game modes including Point Capture, Domination, and Destruction which is like Search and Destroy game modes in other FPS titles.

Add on top of this all the trimmings of your modern-day live service title – such as a seasonal battle pass and loot boxes packed with skins and emotes – and you’ve got yourself a standard ‘hero shooter’ package. Some of you out there will be more than happy to eat this sort of game up, myself included! I love a good team-based shooter, but if you’re looking for something that revolutionizes the genre (or puts an interesting spin on proceedings that’ll really separate it from the pack), you’ll be left wanting.

If you’re still keen, then there’s a lot here for you to mess around with. The closed beta provided a vast cast of different Gundams to play – 14 in total – all with their own unique appeal. The Pale Rider is the first suit you’ll end up playing through the game’s tutorial, and it offers up an option for those wanting an easy-to-use option with abilities that don’t demand a tone of practice to get the grips of. From there, the cast only gets more exciting (and complex) with a wide variety of weapons and tools that fulfil key uses in a team composition.

The unlock screen for the Marrusai Gundam in GUndam Evolution. COol mech with an explosion behind it.

For me personally, I really liked the Marasai Gundam; this lovely robot comes with a medium range single shot rifle that you can zoom in with for better accuracy. However, what really makes it great is the grappling hook, which you can use to snatch enemies out of the air or away from control points. It’s an archetype we’ve seen before, no doubt – but it’s one that fits snuggly among the cast in Gundam Evolution.

I’m also a huge fan of the complex movement options provided thanks to the universal dashing system. All Gundams, regardless of how large and lumbering they are, have a boost bar. This can be slowly drained to sprint or hover in the air, but it can be quickly tapped into for a speedy dash in any horizontal direction. In one-on-one situation this allows for rapid chases through corridors as two players dash around corners and buildings, while in massive team battles this opens the doors to massive pushes towards objectives, quickly turning the tide off the back of a quick elimination, and so on.

Many times, I fell victim to a sniper picking me off – before it quickly dashed away to safety. As much as I hated them at the time, I must admit, in hindsight, it was pretty rad. I can only imagine what sort of nonsense dedicated players will be able to pull off post-launch with this in play, and that’s a testament to how valuable it is to the overall quality of the experience. It could very well be a game-changer! We’ll have to see.

Another tense gunfight, this time in first person view as a team rushes forward towers damaged enemies.

I do have one problem with the game, and it’s a tricky one to bring up because it is connected by the hip to what is arguably the game’s greatest strength. A decent portion of the weapons in the game, basically anything that shoots out lasers rather than kinetic ammunition, lacks that punch that goes a long way in making kills feel exciting. Some Gundams avoid this to a degree, the Gundam Barbatos with its giant Mace and the GM Sniper II all have that oomph, but even then it all feels a bit subdued. Like, take the Marasai I mentioned earlier. When you hook someone, you can burn them down with a quick laser to the face and that’s great and all, but it feels flaccid. It’s missing that pop you’d get in a parallel situation with Roadhog in Overwatch.

It’s clear that this comes as a consequence of the developer’s intense dedication to replicating these Gundams from the original source material, and I’d never suggest altering that. If nothing else, Gundam Evolution is a celebration of the franchise – I went back and watched through some of the various shows these Gundams turned up in, and the team nailed it. I do think maybe a bit more tweaking on the visual and audio response – a bit more pop when you hit someone or knock out an enemy – would do wonders.

When I sit back and think about Gundam Evolution, about whether it can take off in Western markets, I can’t help but feel a little optimistic. If you’re a Gundam fan it is a must-have, but let’s be totally honest; you knew it was from the moment you saw it.

For the rest of us, there’s still plenty there to like. If you don’t care about Gundam you won’t have that love for the source material, but the actual game the IP is built around is quality enough to warrant at least an exploratory download. Especially with Overwatch 2 nowhere to be seen, the skies are clear for Gundam Evolution to take off.

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