PSPlus has spoiled us over the years. I’ve lost count of the great games I have been ‘given’ through the program; not everyone is as happy with the service as I am. It has also come under fire in the current generation though. Gamers with too high expectations or that have become entitled through Sony’s past generosity.In January – Sony announced that one of PSPlus’ offerings would be a sequel to the forgotten PS2 game ‘Hardware: Online Arena’. The question is though, is ‘Hardware: Rivals’ a game to change the fortune of PSPlus, or is it a game to forget; much likes its predecessor?
The short answer is no. No it is not going to change anyone’s negative perspective on PSPlus. ‘Hardware: Rivals’ is quite simply a bad game. For those not in the know, what it is, is a vehicular combat game in the mold of the ‘Twisted Metal’ series; if that mould had every ounce of character and personality removed from it.
One of ‘Hardware’s most glaring issues is the fact that it has absolutely no personality, everything has a half-finished feel about it. It painfully attempts to incorporate successful innovations in the online shooter arena but they are all thrown into the mix without a thought about the game dynamics and how they’d be affected!
Firstly we have ‘Battlefront’ style power ups that spawn in the arenas; in ‘Battlefront’ though they spawn randomly, here they are set spawns which encourages people to camp the small area around the most powerful weapons.
Secondly these powerups become your secondary weapons and you can only stack weapons of the same type; this means if you accidentally drive into another powerup you will have that and only that! It makes tactical play difficult and general play frustrating – it’s a bad idea!
Lastly we have ‘Battlefield’ style “levolutions”; on one hand it is very clear to see that the arenas are built around this core concept, one map has a missile strike that can only be avoided by going underground and another that has high ground to avoid ice. However, these levolutions are all ridiculously unbalanced, the effect happens almost instantly and they throw players into situations that will put them at a huge disadvantage! An example of this is to avoid the missile strike you have to go into incredibly thin corridors where tanks will dominate the jeep because there is no maneuvering room.It’s more fun to stay outside and take your chances with the missiles.
Where ‘Twisted Metal’ had a cast of memorable, wacky and hilarious characters here we have a choice between a tank or a SUV. To SCE Connected Content’s credit, there is a huge difference between the two vehicles, but they are not at well-balanced. The Tanks can take an ungodly amount of damage and hit with real oomph (life bar wise every weapon feels weak and unsatisfying) whereas the SUVs are quick (according to the on-screen speedometer) and are weak. The idea here was to create teams with a mixture of both vehicles but in reality most players simply opt for the tank because they can rack up the kills.
It’s this lack of vision, money and/or developer finesse goes right through the title.
Content is bare-bones, while the menus are swift and easy to negotiate, the lack of real content is quickly apparent there are only four vehicles, 4 arenas and 4 game modes to play.
Graphically it is robust and never drops in frame-rate. And while it will not win any industry awards with graphics this game is beautiful for a
mid-budget title. In particular the lighting of the weapons as they fire and the particle effects in their wake. The arenas are also quite beautiful from arid desert to industrial heartland there is an undoubted beauty here – although it is incredibly bland and soulless. The cell shaded aesthetic is incredibly half-hearted and seems like nothing more than trying to inject some form of character onto the game late into its development.
The controls feel sluggish and inconsistent, not only are they mapped strangely to the controller (making you hold in an unnatural way) but the aiming is incredibly unreliable and the sense of speed is awful. You constantly feel that you are driving through treacle such is the sensation of speed and slowness with how you turn.
If you do manage to pick up any speed, the physics engine absolutely freak out, you will be thrown into the air if you happen to even graze anything in the arena! Try to turn tightly and there is a huge swing between under-steer to over-steer – it is frustrating just getting around the arena.
Nothing here is done with enough finesse or to a high enough level. Which is a real shame because there is a good game hiding underneath the bad design decisions. With more time or with a more talented developer this could have been a contender…
…instead of a nothing, which is what it is…let’s face it!
I think there is a core set of gamers that would welcome a good multiplayer vehicular combat game like ‘Twisted Metal’. I’m among them! This however is not that game!
While I hate being harsh on a game that was free, there is next to nothing here to like!