E3 2016: Koei Tecmo Flies High with Attack on Titan
I worried a bit about Koei Tecmo taking on Attack on Titan. The publisher’s previous foray into the anime realm, two games based on Fist of the North Star, really underwhelmed me with monotonous gameplay and rehashed ideas. I went into my hands-on demo for Titan expecting to write about more of the same things I’d played before, but I left the demo completely surprised. Attack on Titan is a bold new direction, and if it pans out it could be a new era of success for the company.
The demo offered three different modes: Tutorial, Battle, and Titan. Titan Mode put me into the role of one of the massive monstrosities, and it’s the most reminiscent of Koei Tecmo of old. I’m running around bashing the heads of other titans, mashing one button to attack while adding the occasional throw. After building some momentum, I can execute a Rage Attack which registers a one-hit kill on enemy Titans most of the time. Admittedly the action is slower than other Koei Tecmo games, likely because Titans are giant hulking monsters and not agile swordsmen on a battlefield. Otherwise Titan Mode is business as usual.
The Battle Mode and its tutorial is where the game truly shines. For those not familiar with Attack on Titan, human cadets battle these massive creatures using a grappling and tethering system called “Vertical Maneuvering Equipment,” a mixture of extending grappling hooks and large blades used for attacking Titans. In order to properly eliminate Titans a cadet has to grapple onto a targeted body part, lunge forward, and slice that body part in one fluid flying motion. Obviously this is quite a departure from what Koei Tecmo normally does, but these ideas have been expertly implemented.
Flying through the air while tethering feels a lot like Spider-Man swinging through New York City, seamlessly finding new places to grapple and continue the swinging motions. I experienced no slowdown or drop in frame rate as I was flying through the air, and only when multiple Titans appeared at one time on the screen did I see any technical issues at all. I’m amazed at how well Attack of Titan maintains its fluid movement in the air, and I love traversing this world like a true cadet.
Attacking these Titans relies on both effective grappling and precise timing in order to take them out as efficiently as possible. Once a Titan appears and I get close enough to it I can lock on with a single button press, choose a body part to tether onto, then unleash the hooks and attach myself. From here I can either target a different body part or lunge right in for an attack, and I can target any of the Titan’s four limbs or go straight for the weak point on the back of the neck. Slicing the limbs remove the Titan’s ability to attack or move around, letting me be strategic in my approach. Timing my attack once I’ve decided is key, as damage is heavily boosted if I can slash at the exact moment. In most instances perfect timing will down a Titan in just once neck slash, making these behemoths seems a little less intimidating.
As if worrying about these monsters wasn’t bad enough, I also have to account for the gas tanks that propel my tethering system and the blades with which I’m attacking. Both elements have finite durability meters, which will occasionally force me to change tanks or blades in the middle of battle. If I run out I need to find a cadet holding replenishment and take one before I can hop back into battle. This removes the mindless hacking and slashing of previous Koei Tecmo games, making me always conscious of how close my supplies are to running out and forcing me to plan my attacks effectively.
Attack on Titan could be a brand new step in Koei Tecmo’s direction, as it’s more involved and dynamic than anything I’ve played from them in a while. I’m hopeful that this neat E3 2016 demo is indicative of the full experience, in both performance quality and fun factor, and I’m now looking forward to its launch in late August. It might even convince me to watch the anime for the first time.
Attack on Titan will be available on Aug. 30 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.