Chromehounds Reader Review
There have been many injustices in gaming history
The Chrome Hounds Xbox Marketplace Demo may well enter into the annals (careful) as being one of the biggest miscarriages of justice ever. Never before has a single-player demo done more potential damage to a game's sales than the Chrome Hounds demo has. So I'm here to set the record straight by gad!
See what it says on the box? And what it says just there? Chrome Hounds is a huge mech-stomping war game that should not be enjoyed purely as a single player offline pursuit. It should not. Do you understand? The Single Player story mode of Chrome Hounds will pretty much act as a tutorial for the various different Hound configurations you could possibly make in the game, and pretty much nothing more. There are achievements to be had, sure. There is a lot of shooty-bang mech stomping fun to be had, but to truly judge the game on its merits, and ensure that you get the most out of what you paid for, you really need to get signed up to a squad and get online, and take part in the persistent war of Neroima, nailing your allegiance firmly to one of the game's three factions. For reasons only known to me, I chose Morskoj because Morskoj women are lovers not fighters, and the Wodka is better this side of the iron curtain.
One Choo Free Storeys High
So to the game itself. The titular "Hounds" are three storey high war mechs. None of your wimpy stylised Japanese Anime-inspired mechs these, they are clanky, bristling with weaponry and a bit like a next-century equivalent of Hannibal's war elephants. They knock down trees but they defintely do not wear high heels, suspenders and a bra. They are clearly designed to ensure that anyone on the wrong end of 'em ends up with a rather large underpants laundry bill.
Thus, the game has been labelled "slow, dull, slouchy" by some. Seemingly miraculously they expect a heavily armoured three storey high mech to just gambol across the tundra like a young gazelle. This is blatantly not going to happen in Chrome Hounds though with an expert bit of tweaking with the game's deep and extensive Hound Construction Garage, you can come up with something nicely lightweight and scouty. Just don't expect to win any battles with it but hey, sometimes superior firepower ain't everything, right George?
Don't mention the war!
The online persistent war constantly evolves over a 2 month period, with each faction fighting for territory, a bit like an online version of Risk but with huge mechs rather than amusing dice rolls. Each of your hardened squad comrades will have their own particular tastes in what type of fighting they prefer. I myself prefer to be a jack of all trades, building a hound that is agile enough to stomp around, but packs enough of a punch to level an enemy's base in the shortest time possible.
Each time you fight online, whether as a maverick solo or as part of your squad, your efforts if successful will count towards your faction's overall placing in the war. Take enough territory, kick enough ass, and chew enough bubblegum and you will be lauded by those faceless generals in the war room (and of course with this being Xbox 360 Live, you will win achievements and bragging rights to boot).
Action in the game is rendered in loving clanky steam-punk stylee, though to be fair the scenery is a bit sparse on certain levels there is enough variety with night missions, cityscapes, snowy landscapes and charred desert all present and correct for you to stomp all over. Each mission can be won in a variety of ways, for instance you can take down an enemy's commander, destroy their base, capture all the Combas (communication) towers, or merely destroy every enemy mech on the map. It's up to you. In fact as our particular squad has found, when playing against human opponents more often than not they will try and avoid direct combat and just head straight for your base to level it, or scoot around the map swiftly taking all the towers.
Even with a quick foray into the game's world, it becomes apparent that there's a lot here to snare the strategic gamer, or if you just fancy a quick blast you can just play the single player stuff. But to be honest, this game was never ever going to be fairly judged on its offline merits. To truly enjoy it as it was intended, you need to get in a squad with your friends and play the game properly online and contribute to the war effort. There are so many nice little touches I could mention like being able to enter a lottery to "win" captured enemy parts, or developing technologies under test - and the sheer fun to be had customising and turd-polishing your own mech with custom paint jobs, insignia and crazy weapons configs.
The best judges of this game are those that took the plunge, bought it and are now enjoying many many hours of fun online with it. They are the people who will ultimately redress the imbalance and the unfair reviews that have been levelled at this game.
8 / 10