How to mech a good multiplayer game
1 x Understanding of what makes a multiplayer game great
1 x Persistent Online War
3 x Factions
1,000,000 x Possible Hound combinations
1 x Fantastic risk/reward system
1 x Team play
Take all the above, mix it in a 360 and pour in some Xbox Live. Heat gently for about 2 years, then take it out and serve to your guests still hot. Serves hundreds of thousands of people.
You ainít nothing but a Hound dog
Do you like Mechs? No? Move along, nothing to see here. For the rest of us our dreams of a fantastic Mech based game on a console have been realised fully and completely with one small caveat; the single player campaign is very average. Itís by no means rubbish but by the same token if you only plan to play the game on your own then itís hard to recommend it. You take control of a Mech (known as a Hound henceforth) and enter into a war where three factions are battling for control of a region of our dearly beloved planet. There are 6 main story ladders with half dozen or so missions each. In each ladder you will play as one particular kind of hound and they serve to train you in the ways of the Soldier, Defender, Scout, Heavy Gunner, Sniper and Tactics Commander. You can initially borrow a Hound to take into action but after a few hours you may wish to start tinkering with building your own though itís not essential at this point. There is no doubt that the single player is just a training ground for multiplayer and should be seen as such. You donít even have to play all the way through it as you can just dabble in the missions to get a feel for each of the Hounds. Itís pretty generic stuff though it does have the odd highlight. The Hounds seem to move quite slowly initially but you soon get used to it and you can build faster models if you wish. Youíll soon get bored and want to jump online but be careful as you may never actually return to the single player again once you do so.
Just one Hound can mech a difference
Chromehounds has been built from the ground up to be a multiplayer game. So much care and attention to detail has been lavished on the game that itís extremely difficult not to be impressed. On signing into Xbox Live for the first time you will be presented with the choice of joining one of the three main fighting factions; Morskoj, Sal Kar and Tarakia. Itís essential that you try and find a squad to play with as the game will only be appreciated as part of a team so make this your first priority. Once you have joined your team you can begin the process of designing your Hound from scratch and your first port of call should be the shop. Here you can buy various parts that allow you to build awesome metal monsters of destruction. You wonít have much money to begin but it soon starts to roll in as you start to do missions. A squad can have up to 20 members but when you go into battle it will be in teams of a maximum of 6. The Area Map is laid out before you the whole time you are in the squad lobby and you can instantly see the regions and which Faction currently controls them. Clicking on the territory allows you to see its current status and is your guide as to whether you need to assemble a group to defend or to gather your friends to help other squads in an attack. It seems a bit confusing at first but before too long you will be picking and choosing the best fronts to wage war on without any trouble at all.
Death on wheels (or legs, or tracksÖ..)
Most of the time you will probably be fighting against the CPU, unless you choose to hang around the briefing room deliberately waiting on a human opponent. The AI is fun to play against but a lot easier to defeat than a human squad so the all important capture points you receive are dished out according to this criteria. Itís a great system of risk and reward. Do you take on the humans to gain more ground or take the easier route of the AI for a smaller reward but greater chance of victory? Battle itself is fantastically realised. You chooser your base and everyone starts from this point in the map. Dotted around the map are Combas towers and these are essential to the war effort as they provide a radius around them where your team can communicate via voice, just stand beside them briefly to capture them. Having a Team Commander on your side is also useful as he can see where the enemy are on the map and can bark orders and give information that can turn the tide of the battle. Those few minutes where you are approaching the enemy in formation and talking tactics are a fantastic lull before the storm. When all hell finally breaks loose you are in for a visual treat as well as a real workout for your adrenaline gland. Rockets and other heavy ordnance fly overhead and tracer fire cuts through the air; itís an awesome sight to behold. Behind you there might be a Heavy Gunner firing huge and powerful howitzer shells into the enemy. To the side you catch glimpse of your sniper on top of a hill slowly and carefully firing into the enemy. You might well be caught up in the mother of all melee battles and will be manoeuvring and shooting to the best of your ability trying to take down the huge and powerful enemy currently ploughing a furrow through your ranks.
War is hell, mech no mistake about it
That first battle will probably be enough to allow the game to put its hooks right into you though perhaps Sega might have been kind enough to put a public health warning onto the packaging of the game, informing us just how addictive the whole persistent war thing can be. Each Faction has differing strengths and weaknesses as well as different Hound parts, though enemy parts can be captured and won through a lottery system. The online section of the game is immensely deep and after about 15 hours Iím only scratching the surface and am only really proficient with one type of Hound. The number and different types of Hounds you can build is mind boggling and is one of the best parts of the game. As you idle in the squad lobby you will see the tide of war turn before your very eyes and you will be compelled to join in. Attacking the capitol city of your enemy is exhilarating but no more so than successfully defending one of your own key territories. Chromehounds has been developed with a lot of love, care and attention as well as a wonderful eye for detail and balance. Itís easily one of the best online games ever created and easily the best game on Xbox live as things currently stand. You wonít believe how much you will get drawn into the war and few games can hold a candle to the thrill of stalking human opponents through a desert oil field at night, as heavy gunfire lights up the night sky in the distance.
Youíve gotta be meching kidding me?
Iím not kidding at all, the game really offers something very unique to Live gamers. Itís not a case of looking past the single player and making the most of the online aspect. This is not a solo game with some multiplayer bits tacked on; itís a sprawling online game with a training mode that just happens to be playable only by you. Chromehounds is an astonishing achievement especially now the initial teething problems with the servers are being ironed out. Itís not perfect, there are some small bugs that can cause problems but Sega have so far been quick in acting and a patch to pick up on these is due. These arenít game destroying anyway but do need mentioned. If you love online games and playing as part of team in a war that may eventually last up to 2 months then this game is for you. Buy it while the buzz is still electrifying and jump into a defining moment in the evolution of online console gaming
9 / 10