Code 51: Mecha Arena Review (PSVR)
For the purposes of transparency, this review was created using a code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of the game.
I used to love my Mecha games, with a lot of my time at the beginning of the Xbox 360 era being spent playing FromSoftware’s criminally under-rated Chromehounds. A few Mecha games have come to the VR medium but for me they have all fallen short. Smelly River have now brought Code 51: Mecha Arena to PSVR, but does it bring the Mecha game I was hoping for?
Firstly, I would like to point out that one thing Code 51: Mecha Arena is missing is a campaign mode, the tutorial sort of plays out like a campaign mode – but this is a really a five-minute linear mission to introduce you to the controls. For me when ever a game like this misses a campaign mode, I always feel it a huge opportunity missed.
So, I’m sure you are thinking…. No campaign mode? What does it offer then? As you open the game you have the choice of your tutorial mission, practice mode and multiplayer, with the latter being the games main focus.
Practice mode is pretty much what you would expect in a multiplayer based experience – basically your multiplayer with bots populating the game. However, they have no difficulty settings for the bots, meaning after a few rounds you are soon a master over your AI opponents. Which for me made it feel like this is more to get you used to how the game works and handles, and not something that is meant to replace the multiplayer side of it.
That just really leaves to multiplayer mode to make this game stand out and be worth giving the time to, because with the lack of challenge in the Practice mode it’s not going to stand the test of time. Luckily the games multiplayer offers some great and often tense games. After it launched I had little issue finding a game with three other players, but don’t worry if you can’t as it will fill the other slots up with bots.
When it comes down the Mecha’s you can choose from nine in total as you unlock them, all of them will come with their own set of weapons, armour and cool down abilities. You do seem to be given the slower ones to start with, as you plod around the maps, with a stronger shield meaning you can take more damage. But, as you start to unlock the more agile Mecha that take less damage the challenge rises, and you have to switch how you play. At first you can feel like a beast stomping round taking battles head on, but then I found the challenge that came with the smaller ones really moved the game to the next level, as you have to be more tactical. Rather than running head on into fights, its more dodging and moving quickly around the maps looking for a battle to join in, picking off the final bits of health – like a nimble metal scavenger. The final part of the combat is every Mecha can jump and then boost to get some air, again though the more cumbersome ones will have little air time, but the lighter the longer you can stay in the air, again this can be an advantage while picking off some shots.
Now, where controlling these Mecha’s and the combat is fun, for me there is one disappointing part to it all. The lack of customisation options in-game, it would be great to be able to customise the Mecha’s a little. I fully understand the team at Smelly River have made them have set abilities to mix the gameplay up. But, how about some new camo designs to make your Mecha stand out, this sort of thing to me will give you more of goal to hit and a reason to keep going back for more. Especially if they’re linked to milestones, so you can show off your achievements in the game to the people you are facing.
The final part of making a game focused on multiplayer work is the maps. The game comes with three maps in total, and where they are pretty bog standard, they do offer a little bit of variety and the most important part do not favour set Mecha types. One thing I really liked is with the option to boost jump you can try to find a vantage point to get an idea of where the other players are, and get some shots in – but stay there too long and you’ll soon be taken down.
Also about the maps they are power ups and repairs. Your weapons damage is out of three stars, and you can collect the fist shaped power ups to increase the damage, although once you are taken out your back to your step one. When it comes to the repair ones, these come in handy if you can get to one when you need to repair quickly. However, if you are not near anyone or can hide long enough, once your shield is recharged your health will to.
Visually the game does a solid job when it comes to the detailing in the Mecha’s and the maps, with it all being detailed enough to drag you in the cockpit of your chosen Mecha and keeping you immersed. The unfortunately the sound design lets the game down, as all you are really going to hear is the noise from your Mecha stomping around. If it wasn’t for the arrow on your HUD lighting up where enemies are coming from you would never know where they were, due to the fact you never hear their big metal feet stomping – even if they are next to you.
The game is made to be played in a seated position and with the DualShock 4. For those who still don’t have their VR legs I must warn you given this a multiplayer focused arena game, the only option is free locomotion – so if you need the teleport function it wont be for you. The team have put some comfort settings in with fading around the edge of the screen as you move, but you can turn this off if you don’t need it. You can also press in the right analogue to switch between head turning or using the right analogue stick to turn the Mecha, which again opens up more comfort options in the game.
How long the game is going to last you will really come down to if you enjoy the multiplayer mode, because as I mentioned earlier the Practice mode is a nice introduction to ease you into the game, but the fun of defeating AI can only last so long, If you are wandering how long it will take to unlock all off of the Mecha, you will be looking at around a couple of hours. This can also be done in Practice mode, if you want them all unlocked before heading online.
Code 51: Mecha Arena will strap into a hulking Mecha and lets you have some gratifying combat in VR. Coming with nine Mecha’s that play differently it allows you to approach the matches in different ways. Although, it does come with some niggling issues with the game having no campaign, no customisation options and sound issues. But, at the moment if a game with decent Mecha combat is what you want, I would say this is the one you want to go for.
Currently only available on Playstation VR
Developer: Smelly River