Review by dancer62

"Urban Monster Hunter?"

I'd been anticipating God Eater/Gods Eater Burst for months. I'm a big fan of the Monster Hunter series, from the original PS2 game through Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, and I even bought a used Wii just to play Monster Hunter Tri while I'm waiting for Monster Hunter Portable Third to make it to the US. The idea of an urban variation on Monster Hunter with an anime plot sounded amazing. I would have said a science fiction variation, but Monster hunter actually is science fiction, set on another planet, with remnants of lost technology, nonhuman sentients, legends of Elder races, etc. Instead, in Gods Eater, we have a wrecked world, alien technology, stereotyped humans, and legends of Elder gods.

Some games grab you from the beginning, with music, graphics, and action, like Arctic Edge. Some games are slow starters, it takes a while to catch what's going on, like Blade Dancer. And some games start out offensive and then get worse, like Rush.

For a long-anticipated game, Gods Eater Burst starts in a disappointing manner, with a rapidly shifting montage of jerkily animated and confusing cutscenes with a background of generic J-pop female vocals. Press Start and select new game, and get invited to create a character, with name, running name, and gender. Then we move to the base, with unpleasant light flare from windows and computer screens, flat graphics, muddy colors, and jerky animation. The same applies to going outdoors on missions, we have ruined urban streetscapes with flat backgrounds, dull textures, muddy colors, and cramped areas. Gray pavement, gray ruins, gray water, gray sky.

The monsters are large, cartoonish, and poorly animated. My protagonist bounces around like a jumping bean, the analog nub seems oversensitive, and the timing of button presses for different actions takes some experimentation. Converting from blade to gun, attacking with sword vs. using monster chomping jaws. Running vs. using items, etc., gets frantic in the heat of battle.

And the story seems trivial, teenage last hope of besieged humanity, blah, blah, blah.

OK, I've paid good money for this, I've waited for it for months, grit teeth and continue. Guess what? By the time I reach level 6 missions, 50 or so hours in, I'm creating bullets and slaying multiple monsters (if still getting scragged a lot by monsters and being revived by the AI party members). The monsters become more formidable, and crafted multipart bullets help, but there is still a lot of hacking and slashing. My timing is improving and I'm having fun. The story is still stilted and hokey, but it has become somewhat compelling, I'm wondering about Lindow's fate, and if the story can make me care about a character, then it has sucked me into the game world. .

Weapon crafting gets more complex as the game progresses, initially it is very limited. Some of what would be armor skills in Monster Hunter are attached to the weapons, or the shield, or the "control unit", plus two enhancement items that can be equipped. As I play more, and collect more resources, upgrading becomes clearer. Like Monster Hunter, the ability to create and upgrade weapons and equipment depends on gathering items from the environment and carving monsters for parts, with the quality of parts you can find depending on your level in the game,

The bullet creation engine, is amazingly deep, it reminds me of the old tank game "Ogre" on the Commodore 64, where you would program movements into your tank and turn it loose against other tanks. As you progress in the game, there is a larger variety of bullet options available, short and long range bullets, carrier bullets, homing bullets, sticky bullets, etc,. that you can combine and program. For example, you can program a sequence that fires a short range homing bullet, that carries a sticky bullet, that carries a number of independent laser bullets that release at fractional second intervals and in different directions to devastate the monster's parts.

The bio-mechanical monstrosities are sort of intriguing, as if you'd crossed "Transformers" with "Aliens". Slain monsters in Monster Hunter, no matter how scary and formidable, are rather pathetic in death, sprawled on the ground as you walk around them after a battle. Gods Eaters monsters are more disgusting than scary, like: "Eww, get it off me, kill it, kill it!", and after battle, are just piles of steaming wreckage to be eaten with God Arc jaws.

Is there a bit of misogyny by the game's creators? A lot of the monsters have women's faces, and the Amaterasu is a really gross caricature of femininity. The female NPCs (and your avatar, if you want) wear skimpy microskirts or short-shorts, halters, and heeled boots for eye candy. Costume options remind me of a Kisekae paper doll game. Women also tend to have exaggerated ta tas that overflow their costume. Sigh! While I appreciate a nice barbarian fur bikini, if I'm gonna fight in a ruined city, I'm gonna wear fatigues, body armor, and hiking boots. And my bosom doesn't limit my range of motion when I'm wielding a sword, if it did, I'd wear a tight sports bra. It's not particularly offensive, but does indicate that fanservice rules over practicality.

The storyline has mad scientists, secret projects, a corporation with hidden motives, and characters with murky pasts. The Japanese cultural legacy from Hiroshima and Nagasaki is apparent in the ruined world and mutating monsters and people. Some of the story is intriguing, some is inane, and some just apparently does not make the transition to English well. Nonetheless, some of the catch phrases and running gags stick in the mind, like "I'm gonna watch Bugarally when I get home!"

I was initially disappointed in the game, if I'd rated it in the first 10 hours, I would have given it a 6, but it improves with continued play. The muddy graphics, two dimensional characters, and claustrophobic environments remind me a lot more of a mix of Killzone: Liberation and Bounty Hounds than of Monster Hunter. Not that Killzone or Bounty Hounds are bad games, or unenjoyable in their own right, but they do tend to pale in the light of the best that the PSP has to offer. This is a good game that invites comparison with Monster Hunter, but it has its own charm. Given a fair chance, it has more depth than originally apparent.

Oh, and for those of you running a custom operating system on your PSP, Gods Eater Burst runs nicely with the latest version of Prometheus, with no need for patching.

Pros: addictive game play
bullet crafting!
some absorbing story ideas

Cons: muddy graphics
jerky animation
limited number of environments and monsters

Rating: 8/10, outstanding after a slow start


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/21/11

Game Release: Gods Eater Burst (US, 03/15/11)


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