I’ve played a lot of Gundam games before primarily because of my love for the series, though sometimes it does feel like they’re not really that much different to the point that you really just expect more of the same. Not that you hate it, some things do work by simply slowly improving rather than repeatedly trying to revamp every other version. But sometimes it feels so familiar that you could’ve sworn you’ve written a review for it before but you really haven’t. Which is exactly what happened for Gundam Versus on the PS4. But that won’t stop me from sharing what I like and dislike about the game because I love Gundam and I believe this is stuff worth sharing. Now with that out of the way, let’s get to it.
In general, there’s two ways to introduce something you’re completely passionate about. One is by compressing it into something easy to digest or to preserve its original form as much as possible to reproduce the exact same experience that you did. Sometimes you try to preserve it as much as you can to the point of foregoing innovations made with modern sensibilities. Gundam Versus on the PlayStation 4 seems to have employed the latter in this case. It does have everything that the makes the game good but has done a few other things to unfortunately keep it from becoming a great title.
Gundam Versus had generally started as a 3D combat brawler as ‘Mobile Suit Gundam: Federation vs Zeon’ back in 2001. Considering the success it garnered, it was no surprise that it would spark the launch of sequels and spinoffs including newer series down the line like Gundam Seed. And now here we are, 16 years later with the title finally making it to PS4. Each game not only lets you experience battles that their respective animes featured, but also allowed you to mix and match what you wanted to have fight each other as if granting your childhood toy box dreams. Considering how it has continued to update itself through the years where generally its changes are positive, what leaves me wanting more out of the game? Well, let’s break it down.
Production (3 / 5)
The graphic upgrade of Gundam Versus on the PlayStation 4 is definitely felt as your respective Gundam models feel shinier and more detailed. There’s no denying that they wanted to make it look as accurate as possible when compared to the currently available model kits on market. Even the way they animate is heavily reflective of the series and universe they come from, whether it’s going to be Kira Yamato’s absurd gun ballet with Freedom or the agility that Mikazuki Augus would display during fights in Iron-Blooded Orphans, you’ll definitely be able to tell how unique each of them are.
The environment also has some level of improvement, though not much. Particle effects look a little better, but it almost looks like aside from slight improvements over textures, the map models have not really been reworked at all. Perhaps it’s in the interest of keeping the game’s FPS as high as possible, as there is rarely any time that the frame rate drops except when loading new units coming into the fray.
While all the sounds and music of the respective Gundam series is also present in this title, I wouldn’t give it any praise as it’s pretty much a standard for every Gundam game I’ve played so long as I can remember. At this point it’s more of expected rather than appreciated. In general it’s quite literally the same game graphically but with better lighting effects, shaders and renderers.
Mechanics (2 / 5)
If you’ve played any of the previous installments of this series, you’re likely to feel just at home with Gundam Versus. The interface is pretty similar so I doubt you’ll ever get lost. You run or boost around the map shooting or slashing your enemies hoping that you get a lot more actual hitting done than they do. You can run, boost, block, slash, and die quickly if you can’t at least do two of those things well. There’s also a burst gauge that allows you and (if you’re playing in a team) an ally to be buffed or instantly reloaded to pull off some clutch strategies. You also choose which you’d like as a buff. You choose between offense, which is Blaze, or defense with Lightning. Activating the Burst function also gives you access to doing a Burst Attack, basically your unit’s own unique super.
There’s also a huge variety of robots to choose from meaning they have different strengths and weaknesses, which also inevitably means that if you tend to like to play grunt type units there’s a huge chance that the people that like to use commander or hero units are more likely to kick your ass. Fortunately each unit has a cost attached to them and the actual life bar of a match is the resource you hold, meaning killing one commander unit deals about 4 or 5 times damage compared to killing one grunt. So there’s a sense of balance within every match, though believe me I think I’m the only one who’s playing Zakus seriously and dying 5 times in a match isn’t my definition of fun.
Another thing that isn’t really fun about the game is the painful grind it presents to you to unlock more options and content within it. At the start the only assists you can avail of are limited to 2 units out of over 100 payable ones. Noting that every unit should be possible to become an assist, the reality of the grind starts to take form. Each unit has at least 15 levels to gain before fully unlocking all of the options within it, but you still have to actually buy them with GP. You gain GP through playing the game and get it most quickly through online matches. Sure, if you concentrate on the things you want, you can get them all with regular play sessions through a week, but if you’re the type that wants to have everything available you’re looking at paying for millions worth of GP when you gain about 2000 of it per match you win. Yes, it’s a lot less when you lose.
Content (4 / 5)
Gundam VS has over 100 playable units from the get go, that’s huge. Inevitably there’ll be clearly better and worse units but there’s value in it for fans of their respective series. They also managed to make each one work differently enough from the rest of the roster, it can be a difference in stats, arsenal, attack patterns and of course, burst attacks. More units are also expected to arrive, though you have to buy them with cash as DLC.
You can also customize a few things about your game, like who talks to you while you’re in battle, or how you want to decorate your profile, though you have to unlock it, then buy it with GP.
On the flipside, the arcade battle modes are pretty great. You have your traditional trial mode that allows you to pick which routes to take and complete through battles, free battle that allows you to mix and match whatever you want to fight as and against, but it’s ultimate battle that shines the best among them. This mode basically runs as a survival mode where you fight waves upon waves of opposing forces where you fight a boss for every 5th wave. You then gain points which you use to either upgrade your stats or repair your unit. They also inserted mini games after every 10 waves to shake up the monotonous game play this kind of mode tends to have with bonus points as a reward. And man, these mini games are great, you get to play as bosses, or gang up on one, or just compete with others to get the best kill score. Ultimate Battle is an extremely refreshing and genuinely engaging game mode which I welcome with open arms for Gundam Versus.
Features (1 / 5)
This title has the unfortunate feature of blocking any sort of recording or broadcasting you’d like to do with it (screenshots are okay, though). Which is kind of expected considering the complications of anime licensing within Japan, let alone, beyond its shores. This is pretty sad considering this is generally an online brawler game, so it’s expected that a lot of people would like to stream it.
While I applaud the availability of 3 on 3 online battles with Gundam VS, it pains me to see that there is no local multiplayer mode available. I believe a PS4 can handle at least 2 players duking it out on the same map because they’ve done exactly this in previous installments. While it is possible to make use of online lobbies to be able to play with others regularly, the lack of local multiplayer may very well hurt its chances in forming a local competitive scene.
Also, while DLC mobile suits are expected, I think it would be nice if they would be available as a set, as one unit is quite expensive for the content it presents, and you still have to grind with it. Perhaps making a season pass offering or adding something in for free every now and then would make this business practice look less exploitative.
Overall (2.5 / 5)
I honestly enjoyed Gundam Versus but I was expecting more. To me, this initial release on PS4 feels a lot more like a port of an older game rather than an actual release of a new title. It fails to bring in anything new aside from a few playable units, which you unfortunately have to pay extra for. Being unable to share this experience online without resorting to methods beyond those native to the console makes the experience that much less welcoming.
And while lack of a local multiplayer does hurt it quite a bit, I believe the lack of a proper practice mode. Something that will actually help you figure out and explore all the quirks and kinks of each individual unit is what really prevents its fans, especially those new to the game, to appreciate the depth the game actually has.
In the end Gundam VS is a pretty okay game, and it’s okay to like it. But it’s hard to give it praises beyond that as much of what it presents is pretty much the same stuff that several previous installments has shown us before. It ends up as a rather shallow experience, unable to give avenues to showcase what it really has in store. Sure, you can like the robots because they’re cool, but eventually you’ll want to know why that is, and this title doesn’t really know either. Maybe it needs to grind more exp or GP.
Gundam Versus on the PlayStation 4 may need a look under the hood as it scores a 2.5 / 5.
Available on PlayStation 4.