America - Front
America - Back
By Kelsy Polnik 14th Jan 2020 | 1,351 views
A killer power metal theme song and the promise of intense giant robot action was all that was needed to pique my interest in Hardcore Mecha. In those two regards the game delivers in abundance. Beyond that, Hardcore Mecha surprised me with its depth in some areas and shallowness in others. It's therefore a mixed bag, depending on what you're looking for in a mech title, but thankfully it hit a lot of my own personal sweet spots.
Single player content is the centerpiece of Hardcore Mecha. Initially there's only a campaign to play, and at 18 levels it’s of respectable length. The stages on offer show a great amount of diversity in terms of combat, objectives, and styles. Each stage has a core mandatory objective as well as one or more optional secondary objectives, should you seek them out. The story follows your mercenary group, which is initially tasked with recovering a government agent on a Mars colony, but becomes entangled in a terrorist plot to take control of the planet through violent means. Much of the actual story-telling is told within the mercenary group, which consists of a band of likable, enthusiastic young mercenaries. Because of this, the terrorist group opposing you is extremely one dimensional and not very engaging as an antagonist.
With the narrative therefore sitting comfortably in the realm of serviceable, it falls on the gameplay to compel the player, and compel me it did. Every button on the controller is used, so if you’re not accustomed to playing a lot of action games I’d suggest taking advantage of the tutorials, which will walk you through the various aspects of the gameplay. The controls are quite intuitive despite this complexity and within a couple of levels I'd become comfortable with the default set-up. Within the first 15 minutes of play I was shooting, boosting, punching, defending and using items like I had played it all before. The fast paced action promised in the trailer is delivered; each encounter is frantic and flashy. The variety of enemies and different combinations of each keeps standard encounters feeling fresh, while boss battles are impressive and engaging, ranging from fighting three mechs that can combine into one ultra mech to machines dozens of times larger than your own.
Upon completing each stage your rewards (based on enemies defeated and objectives completed) can be spent on a skill tree to upgrade your unit with additional weapons, items, skills, or mods. Levels can be replayed for additional rewards if you need a boost to help you out, or simply to increase your rank. So if you do find the difficulty curve too steep you can replay previous stages to earn better gear and skills.
Once you finish the campaign mode you’ll unlock simulation mode. A pleasant surprise (it quickly became my favourite aspect of the game), it’s essentially a horde mode where you fight continually stronger waves of enemies until you eventually die. The hook is that as you play you’ll earn rewards to unlock new mechs (each with different styles and its own strengths & weaknesses), increase their stats, and get tons of new weapons and mods to tweak each mech how you see fit. There are dozens of mechs and a seemingly endless amount of weapon and mod drops to acquire. It's an extremely fun gameplay loop to fight as far as you can, before upgrading your machine with all the new loot you've just earned, and then trying to progress further and unlock a whole new mech or series of items to play around with. All the mechs have very different styles of play and strengths/weaknesses. Every 50 waves of enemies you survive will grant you a checkpoint with the specific mech you entered battle with and introduces a new, harder wave of enemies with greater rewards attached to them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum the multiplayer component seems like an afterthought. It’s an incredibly sparse offering of 2-4 player timed deathmatches, although there is at least the option for local splitscreen or online multiplayer. Instead of featuring the wonderfully deep upgrade system from the campaign and simulation modes, there's a simple exp system that slowly unlocks a few new mechs and new color options. It’s barren and honestly pretty boring. If you’re looking for a good multiplayer mech game this isn't it.
Outside of the punchy theme song the rest of the music is also very strong. Throughout the campaign it ranges from rock and metal tracks to slow, moody, orchestrated sections, to operatic ballads, depending on what's most appropriate at the time. The sound effects of mechs clashing and guns firing are top notch as well. The art style is strong for the most part but there are some unattractive quirks. For example, when human characters move around in-game they look very odd, and their heads are too large for their bodies, making their movements seem bizarre and unnatural. Everything else is strong though; each machine, large or small, and all of the backgrounds look great.
For someone looking to solo pilot a collection of handsome looking mechs in stunning 2D I’d highly recommend looking into Hardcore Mecha. It’s full of fun and addictive gameplay, with a great hook in its simulation mode to keep the action going far beyond the game's campaign. If you're hoping to find your next multiplayer obsession or weekend party game, however, then I think you’ll be left feeling pretty disappointed.