There’s something truly unsettling about the Attack on Titan series. Maybe it’s the giant, naked creatures that frequently munch on humans, or perhaps it’s the post-apocalyptic setting that features young soldiers striving to save humanity. Whatever the reason, Attack on Titan — the anime, live-action movies, and video games — freak me out. However, if you pushed me for a specific reason why this franchise gives me nightmares, I’d probably point my finger at the nude creatures with the weird, unnerving grins. Koei Tecmo’s Attack on Titan 2, a direct follow-up to the 2016 action/adventure, delivers the same blood-soaked hack-and-slash gameplay introduced in its predecessor, as well as plenty of nightmare fuel. And outside of a few camera issues when things get hectic and a narrative oversight that seems flat-out lazy and unfair to a certain demographic, it’s damn-near perfect experience. Assuming, of course, you can handle the freaky imagery.
Although newcomers to the franchise can jump into Attack on Titan 2 with ease, it’s recommended that you give the 2016 title a playthrough before tackling the sequel. While the game provides a number of cutscenes that help set up the story and give freshmen a quick history lesson, it only covers the surface stuff. I won’t go as far as to suggest watching the anime (or even the live-action movies) before diving into the video games, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. The story boasts an incredible mythos and contains a plethora of well-developed characters, so appreciating everything the game offers requires some investigation. Then again, if you just want to hack apart naked, man-eating giants with an assortment of bladed weapons, then Attack on Titan 2 definitely delivers. Feel free to ignore this fan’s aimless ranting.
The game’s story centers around the well-worn journey of a soldier who dedicates his (or her) life to ridding the world of these enormous villains. Although the narrator refers to the soldier as “our man,” players can create a female character at the beginning of the game. Additionally, you can also give this individual name, and other characters will use this moniker throughout your journey. However, don’t expect the story to reflect your decision to play as a girl, as the narrator will continue to refer to the solider as “our man” throughout the game. Since you’re given a robust character creator to bring your ideal hero to life, it’s unforgivable that the game doesn’t take your gender into consideration. While some players might overlook or dismiss this issue, it feels like a glaring oversight.
However, if you’re anxious about the lack of Attack on Titan characters, fear not. Eren Yeager, Armin Arlert, and Mikasa Ackermann, among many others, play essential roles in the game, just as they do in the source material. Players will battle an array of unnerving titans alongside these iconic heroes, aiding them in side quests and receiving help from them when, for instance, you find yourself locked between the teeth of a hungry titan. Again, those familiar with Attack on Titan will appreciate these moments more than those who aren’t. Even if you don’t know your Erens from your Armins, watching these heroes come to your assistance when the tides aren’t turning in your favor never fails to deliver a serious rush of adrenaline. That’s probably the geek in me talking, but the action-packed battles create a sense of urgency that draws you into the fray. Although most of the missions are pretty routine and repetitive, they’re still a blast to play.
Attack on Titan 2 begins with a few brief training levels that quickly establish the game’s mechanics. As with the predecessor, navigating the landscape with your omnidirectional mobility (ODM) gear takes a while to get used to. However, once you’ve grasped the concept, as well as combining these movements with a well-timed jump, you’ll breeze through the battlefield with the skill of a seasoned pro. Thankfully, when the landscape outside the city walls lacks the necessary anchors for proper ODM usage, you’ll have your trusty horse to transport you from point A to B in a relatively short amount of time. Of course, when the opportunity to glide effortlessly through the air presents itself — even when your horse is available — chances are you’ll choose the skies instead of keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground.
Of course, Attack on Titan doesn’t just offer blood, guts, and flayed flesh. In-between these kinetic showdowns lie opportunities to level up your character by getting to know your fellow soldiers. Each ally has a status bar that increases through conversation or assistance on the battlefield. When that gauge fills up, your friendship level increases, unlocking perks that you can assign to your character. Sometimes you’ll receive a perk that grants an increase to your health, agility, or dexterity, though you’ll occasionally receive a new move that provides a much-needed edge against the game’s tougher titans. Considering some of the behemoths you’ll face over the course of the story, it’s important to get all the help you can get. Attack on Titan’s monsters pack a considerable punch, so it’s important to foster these friendships if you want to survive. Besides, chatting with your allies often results in some amusing (and cheesy) cutscenes.
In addition to leveling up and getting some nifty boosts from your pals, players can also craft, upgrade, and reinforce their gear by collecting materials from the battlefield. There are several different ways to obtain the necessary elements required to upgrade or craft gear, ranging from severing titan limbs, transforming bases into mining platforms, or simply wandering to the store and slapping some cash on the barrelhead. The system isn’t as deep as other action-RPGs on the market, and the better gear seems to pop up toward the end of the main story. However, there’s plenty of stuff for players to craft and upgrade that will come in handy during the post-story content, and these items definitely change the tide of the battle when you’re up against the toughest, most sinister enemies Attack on Titan 2 offers up.
Although these systems tend to work well together, things do tend to get a little chaotic when our hero heads into battle. Taking on one titan at a time feels fairly effortless, though that sensation disappears when you’re presented with two or even three enemies at once. When your companions join the fray, the battles become a little hectic and confusing. Trying to lock onto a specific titan becomes a chore, especially when you’ve got a sidekick who’s facing certain doom while locked in the creature’s grasp. To make matters worse, the camera occasionally gets caught behind buildings and trees, obscuring your view in the process. When your health is dwindling, your blades are worn down, and you’re low on gas, these moments often lead to unnecessary frustration. These moments don’t break the game, mind you, but when the adrenaline starts pumping and the game begins working against you, the urge to fling the controller across the room often becomes too strong to resist.
I’ve sunk about 20 hours into Attack on Titan 2 and finished the main story, but there’s still plenty to keep me occupied. In addition to doing tons of scout missions, players can also head into what’s called Another Mode and tackle titans as their favorite characters. With the exception of a few camera issues during the more heated confrontations, the gameplay is swift, fluid, gory, and oh-so-satisfying. Taking down titans — whether they’re big or small — never gets old, and watching your character strike a pose as a spray of blood covers the screen provides the type of thrill some of us might feel uncomfortable admitting our friends. Fans of Attack on Titan should have no problems with the game, and those who are just starting their journey through this engaging world, even if they skipped the first entry, will find likely find themselves hooked on the mythos. Once it gets a hold of you, it’s hard to shake it off. Just prepare yourself for lots of weird naked butts.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of Attack on Titan 2, which was provided by Koei Tecmo.
Attack on Titan 2 delivers tons of bloody action and a surprising amount of depth that's sure to please fans of the franchise.