Let’s be honest. Video game adaptations typically don’t work out too well. While things have gotten better in the last couple of years with titles such as Star Wars Battlefront and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, there have been more than enough failures and missteps during the last couple of decades. The history of bad adaptations goes all the way back to the early 1980s, when close to a million copies of the failed E.T. video game were buried in a landfill in New Mexico. Needless to say, when I first heard about the upcoming Attack on Titan game, I was a little skeptical.
Granted, most of my skepticism came from the handheld adaptation of Attack on Titan. Having been released in Japan back in 2013, Humanity in Chains was finally localized for the 3DS eShop last year, and it was a less than stellar release. Hardware limitations aside, repetition and a lack of variety didn’t help sway the minds of critics and fans, and for the most part, the release quickly fell by the wayside. With a new developer at the helm, Attack on Titan has finally made it to consoles, and the experience is a noticeable improvement in comparison.
If you haven’t had the chance to check out the anime, I highly suggest you go do so. While the game does cover the events of the anime’s first (and so far, only) season, the story is more akin to a CliffsNotes version. Rather than diving into characters, background stories, and day-to-day events, Attack on Titan sticks to covering the big events from the animated series. As a fan of the show myself, I was more than able to follow along with the game’s dialogue and plot direction, but newcomers will most likely be a little lost, both in terms of the story and more personal moments between the characters.
That being said, developer Omega Force has done an excellent job of capturing the look and feel of the show. Characters bear a very close resemblance to their anime counterpart, and while the game lacks any English dub or voiceovers, the original cast voice cast from the show return to voice their characters once again. The game itself is decidedly less bloody and violent in comparison, but wonderfully choreographed scenes and tight camera angles are all employed to great effect here. It may not reach the level of Kojima Productions or Platinum Games, but it does go to show how far Omega Force has come as a studio.
In a world where humanity has retreated and walled themselves off from giant, human-consuming monsters dubbed ‘Titans,’ you take control of a few different cadets, who have been trained to fend off their kingdom from the newest Titan invasion. For a majority of the story, you play as Eren Yaeger, a hot-headed and passionate soldier who will stop at nothing when it comes to protecting his friends and family. Occasionally, the game will switch you between other playable characters, such as Mikasa (Eren’s adopted sister who happens to be the best cadet in the business), or his good childhood friend Armin, who excels at leadership and combat strategy.
In the series, the Titans have invaded the kingdom where most of humanity resides. People live in cities surrounded by large walls in order to protect themselves from the dangers that lurk in the wild. When the Titans finally manage to breach the outer walls of the kingdom, the Survey Corps (the series’ version of the military) is dispatched to take them out.
Using a set of equipment dubbed the Omni-Directional Mobility Gear, soldiers zip around the city by firing grappling hooks into nearby buildings and landmarks and activating a pneumatic mechanism, allowing them to reel themselves toward their anchored hooks. Doing this in succession allow cadets to fly through the air, and its how you move around the in-game world as you attempt to take down Titans.
Granted, movement is just half the battle (quite literally). Soaring through cities is a treat once you begin to learn the nuances of carefully timed gas boosts and direction changes, and the game smartly separates regular movement and combat into two discrete modes. Once you’ve approached a Titan and are ready to engage it in battle, you can switch to ‘battle mode,’ which allows you to target a Titan directly. By firing a grappling hook into a various body parts, cadets can target and slash off specific limbs, rendering a Titan immobile or defenseless.
Granted, just as it is in the original manga and anime, Titans can only be taken out by excising a portion of the back of their neck, at the base of the spinal column. In the beginning stages, it’s easy enough to target this area from the get-go, but later levels will present themselves with Titans who have this area protected. This will require you to attack other body parts first, or use a special gadget or weapon to expose the nape of a Titan’s neck.
I’ll be the first to admit; during my first few hours of play, I was worried that this core gameplay loop would quickly grow stale, and to some, it very well might. However, Omega Force has thrown in a few mechanics and modifiers into the mix to keep you on your toes. While you can usually just go for the quick kill, Titans occasionally have rare crafting materials or items embedded within their limbs, which provides an incentive to be thorough when eliminating a titan.
On the other hand, there are occasions where time is of the essence, meaning you’ll have to juggle your priorities on the fly. Side missions also pop up during play, which can sometimes yield lucrative rewards (and higher mission rankings) but can also be a time waster if you aren’t quick about it. With cadets and citizens who need saving, and buildings that require defending, Attack on Titan does its part to keep you moving at a brisk pace, and there’s usually a few resources to manage as you’re busy saving the world. Gas canisters and blades need to be swapped out after prolonged use, and you can even recruit cadets on the fly to help you.
Eventually, you’ll take the battle to the front lines, trading in cities and towns for wide open plains and dense forests. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself without any buildings to anchor onto, and riding on horseback becomes an important mode of transportation. Over time, more erratic and powerful Titans show up, and a few ‘boss’ Titans will continually test your fighting prowess.
Without going into specific plot details (I don’t want to spoil the story for you if you are a newcomer to the series), you’ll also be able to take control of a Titan yourself. These moments require less timing and focus compared to regular gameplay, but it’s quite satisfying to take out fellow Titans with a few brutal blows, all while tearing up the city thanks to destructible environments.
Outside of the main story, there are plenty of side missions to complete, which can be tackled by yourself or with a friend online. These side missions and expeditions are very similar to the ones from the game’s story mode, though there are some unlockables that are tied to clearing all of the game’s side content. Still, these missions are fun to play in short bursts (even if they do get tedious at times), and the money and crafting materials obtained transfer over to the main story as well. Regardless of whatever mode you find yourself playing, there are numerous weapons and equipment to craft, and characters to talk with in between missions. This down time is reminiscent of JRPGs, and provides a nice respite between Titan slaughtering sessions.
For the most part, the game’s localization holds up well, though there are a few odd word choices here and there, but they don’t mire the experience in any significant way. Technically, the game runs rather smoothly, though there are some frame rate dips and hiccups every so often, which is somewhat odd for a game that is more stylish than technically impressive. As you might expect from the traversal system, there are moments where your character doesn’t clear a building as you would have hoped, and the camera system can sometimes get in the way.
Similarly, the AI controlled Titans occasionally stumble into hard-to-access areas, and a few managed to get themselves wedged in between buildings during my playthrough. While I couldn’t reproduce it when needed, I also ran into a glitch where the game’s menus indicated that I had more of a certain material than I actually did. These issues are more of a mild annoyance than a noticeable problem, but they are still worth mentioning.
If you aren’t already engrossed in the world of Attack on Titan, this new adaptation won’t do much to sway your opinion, because that’s not what it’s meant to do. Omega Force and Koei Tecmo have crafted a great companion game to the series’ manga and anime, and fans of the franchise will finally get to live out their Titan-killing fantasies in style.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
While it's not the best point of entry for newcomers, Attack on Titan is the video game adaptation that series fans have been waiting for.