" The game plays like development team quit half-way through and Sega just decided to ship what they had anyways. "
Title: Chromehounds by Sega
Format: Xbox 360 Mech Shooter
Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo
The Hype: "Hunt like a pack or die like a dog" in this newest mech shooter. Or so Sega claims. But with the Mech genre long-since tapped-out for exciting and original ideas, can this next-gen title feed we monkeys hungry for new giant robot goodness? Read on and find out.
What This Monkey Thought...
Graphics: Like a number of titles for the 360, Chromehounds (CH) makes a great initial showing, but ends up suffering seriously from lack of polish. The special effects are great, the models are nicely done, and the skies are decent, but the overall picture is pretty lackluster. The textures are crap, no two ways about it, and are really disappointing for the level of graphics the 360 is capable of. The environments, which, because of the pacing of the game, you will spend a lot of time staring at, are bland and way too simplistic. And the animations and details are really, really under whelming. It can all probably be most easily summed up in the odd graphical contrast you get when you kill something. You fire your guns, which looks decent, watch the rounds hit the target and explode, which looks cool, then sit stunned as the now destroyed building or vehicle simply fades and sinks into the earth. It doesn't detonate and fragment, it doesn't have some kind of sweet stumble-and-fall animation, it just disappears as though it was rendered on a 8-bit system. It's strangely inconsistent and incredibly annoying. 3 out of 5
Playability: Touting unprecedented customization
of your mechs…excuse me…'hounds'…and a strategically oriented multi-player focus,
you might be inclined to think that CH will sport a deep, richly playable scheme.
Unfortunately, just about every aspect of the actual gameplay ends up falling
with a dull thud into a pit of half-assed execution.
The first signs of CH's mediocrity appear mere seconds into the game's tutorial. It begins with your introduction to the overly simplistic controls, which utilize an inexplicably sparse four buttons of the controller for your hound piloting. The right trigger fires, the right bumper cycles to your next weapon group (there is no way to hot select or cycle backwards), pushing on the right stick brings up your zoomed reticule, and the Y button brings up the map. That's it. End of list. There are no view changes, no way to add or detract information from your HUD, no way to hot key weapons or configurations, and no ability to communicate with your teammates. It is, without a doubt, the most under whelming and undeveloped control scheme I've ever seen in a next-gen game…much less one that should be as complex as a high-end mech shooter.
But you won't spend much time initially questioning the sparseness of the input, because as soon as you start actually playing you'll discover all the other myriad of ways that Chromehounds is lacking. Like the complete absence of any kind of objectives list during your missions, which guarantees that if you happen to miss when a teammate tells you what you're supposed to do you'll have to just wander around until you figure it out. Or the lack of any kind of functioning radar, decent targeting system, or Identify Friend/Foe display (which would tell you if a targeted unit is a goodguy or badguy)…all of which make piloting a futuristic giant walking mech only slightly less primitive than running around in a WWII tank.
Still, it wouldn't be so bad if the game managed to pull the combat together into some kind of exciting, dynamic affair. Instead, it devolves into the most base of mindless shooters. The mission structures and AI are some of the worst of the worst, and include every half-assed cliché ranging from enemies that aren't smart enough to react to being shot at, as well as operations that leave you to not only fight a whole war all on your own, but to have to try and succeed despite your teammates while you're at it.
The fighting itself is about as interesting as watching paint dry, being entirely a point-and-click affair, and, despite the presence of a wide assortment of gear and equipment, only a handful of the weapons actually end up being worthwhile and usable…which makes the game play absolutely no different from the myriad of other underdeveloped run and gun shooters out there. You can be the sniper, the rocket guy, or the up-close spray and pray / shotgunner. That's it. End of list. Anything else you try and equip will only stay on your hound for the half a mission it'll take for you to realize that you're wasting your time. And, unlike most FPS, because games are played on mostly-barren wide open maps, you don't even have the advantage of intricate terrain to break up the monotony. 1 out of 5
Story and Drama: Half hackneyed political diatribe, half self-aggrandizing social commentary, the story in CH is a thinly veiled attempt by the developers to comment on everything they feel is going wrong in the world. Told through painfully dull mission briefings and some ludicrously bad teammate chatter, it makes damned sure that you understand that Sega thinks that war is bad, America is evil, and that you have probably driven your enemy into doing what they're doing. It's an insulting yawn. 2 out of 5
Multiplayer and Replayability: The one
place CH does shine is in its on-line multiplayer component (off-line multiplayer
is basically non-existent). Primarily designed around a somewhat unique, persistent
world, it uses Xbox Live to create warring nations vying for control of a continent.
This is done through battles that force squads (drawn from permanent clans made
through the multiplayer interface) to form up and vie for control points that
give armies greater control over the battlefield. It's a neat design that, if
you can get into it, gives your fragging a real sense of purpose. I say "if
you can get into it," though, because the simplistic combat, repetitive play,
and difficulty of finding good teammates will not appeal to everyone.
Beyond that, there are also some straight up traditional multiplayer options (team deathmatch, elimination, etc) which are good for taking breaks from the control mode…but they suffer so badly from the cut-down gameplay you probably won't spend much more time than you have to on them. 3 out of 5
|Truthfully, the whole Chrome Hounds affair ends up being embarrassingly bad. Though the persistent multiplayer component is a step in a direction console games have needed to go for a long time, without a decent combat system and interface it lacks the excitement or staying power to get you your money's worth out of this stinker.|
The Good: It's fairly pretty and the online stuff is a good effort.
The Bad: The game plays like development team quit half-way through and Sega just decided to ship what they had anyways.
The Overall Ugly: Anything this rudimentary should be available as a $20 download…at most.
What it's Worth: Rental so you can try the Live component for a weekend.