• When mechs stomped their way into the Xbox world with the likes of the Mech Assault series and Steel Battalion series, fans of mechs worldwide enjoyed the opportunity to climb into hulking beasts and battle it out across Xbox LIVE proving they were the best Mech pilots around. Those games rocked our world on the first generation Xbox and when Sega announced it was bringing a mech game to the Xbox 360 those same fans raised their arms in the air and praised the Lord.

    Sega and From Software bring Chromehounds to the Xbox 360 and they begin its tale by briefing you on why you are about to play your part in this point in time:

    …’Two of the world’s superpowers faced off in a lock step as mutual fear of nuclear war bonded them in a silent agreement for years. However a single devastating calamity brought an end to that uneasy balance, and with deeply routed distrust and ignorance of one another mankind has entered a third world war. Twenty years have passed since that day and the endless warring and struggles have given birth to a new unprecedented weapon of war. Hounds are the new weapons of mass destruction and they have redefined the rules of battle. Hunt as a pack or die like a dog’…

    Before moving into the gameplay it really is worth mentioning just how much is contained within this game. Single player action allows you to step into six different and what are referred as, ‘role types’ of Hounds with Soldier, Sniper, Defender, Scout, Heavy Gunner and Tactics Commander stories all unfolding as you play through each role type. There are a massive 115 playable maps, which really is a huge amount to chew your way through. You also have the option to build and further customise your own Hound from scratch from weapons and parts you collect/obtain as you play through the story mode (more on that later). And of course there is full Xbox LIVE Multiplayer support where you can build a clan of Hounds to take on the opposition and prove you are the best of the best. This really is a huge hulking beast of a game.

    Chromehounds

    Now just before I do move onto the actual gameplay this is where I will make a quick statement. If you want a fast paced, fast action Mech game… Chromehounds will not be it. This is the tortoise and not the hare, these Hounds are huge and move, as you should expect them to. This game is not trying to re-invent Mech Assault… that game was arcade styled and was of a quicker pace. Chromehounds is actually closer to Steel Battalion in its gameplay and style and is all about tactics and teamwork.

    As I mentioned above the offline play is done through a story mode and has six different paths to choose and to play through. When you attack story mode for the first time you are presented with the six different role types of Hounds and when you choose a role type you begin that journey and unfold the story with your chosen Hound role type. The beauty of the story mode is that should you get stuck… or with you simply choosing to, you can interrupt the play of say the Soldier Hound role type and choose to move to another class. This system therefore allows you to jump in and out of any story line at will, and well… beats you having to bang your head on a brick wall should you hit a frustration point. So hats off to the developers for giving us gamers a none, linear game path, which can be horrible to have to put up with in some other games. No one likes to always be forced to play down a straight path so this system is very cool in my books.

    As you begin the story mode with any role type your first time experience with that Hound will always be a training session. Controlling your Hounds is pretty much of a much for every role type, but the training sessions do at least serve you with the opportunity to experience and get used to new weapons specific to that role type. You will be drilled on drone targets before always ending each session with a live fire situation. Move on from your training and you will delve deeply into the world of Chromehounds. Each mission begins with a mini brief and a choice to change what is referred to as the ‘Borrowed Hound’. So should you feel you do not want to use the defaulted type… and… you have obtained more than one type, then choose away. But for first timers I would simply advise you stick to the given choice. When you launch into the sortie, objectives will be passed to you verbally and in certain cases updated on your map, which can be launched with a simple touch of a face button, and the nice thing here is that you can still be moving and firing whilst your map screen is open.

    Chromehounds is played in both third person and first person, but your normal view will be third person where you are given a view of this world and the beauty of your hound. A cam view is placed in the top right of your screen and is a view point for your current active weapon, should you click the right thumbstick in you will then move into first person view and your screen will change to the scope of your weapon. First person is therefore used for accurate aiming but even in third person if you can see a target in your top right screen the odds are you can also hit it, so it is entirely possible to engage targets in either mode and balance of the two views needs to be well used, dependent on how frantic your current situation is.Â

    Weapon groups are easily chosen, by pressing your right bumper and your Hound will highlight which grouping you have moved to with your top right camera switching its view at the same time to the new weapon cam. One of the nice things to be noted with Chromehounds is that weapons fire from where they are mounted rather than all fire moving directly central to and away the Hound. By this I mean that if you have a grouping of rocket launchers to the left of your Hound they will fire from the left streaming down the field and not central to the cockpit like in other games, so in essence this also means you are not always destined to hit what is directly in front of you, and comes down to you actually lining your weapon up to the enemy object and not your Hound itself.

    The story mode is very neatly done albeit sometimes a tad unforgiving, and there will be a strong certainty that you will be re-doing a number of levels you messed up on, the game is not on the scale of suicide difficult but it is certainly no walk in the park or should I say stomp in the park either. Missions are not boring or repetitive and you will go on a variety of different mission styles throughout the game, from attacking runs, to defending, to scouting through to actually commanding the action. The game is fun to play through and very satisfying leaving you smirking/smiling with glee every time you blow up an enemy Hound… now imagine a huge volley of missiles striking an enemy Hound, repeating after me… “KABOOM”! Things really do go bang big time in this game. Sticking with explosions my only disappointment on that score was that buildings don’t explode or go with a bang they simply seem to crumble for a mere second before sinking into the ground. Mech Assault wins this one hands down as when you took a building out in that game they exploded like a volcano having a bad day, where as with Chromehounds they just… well… sink, leaving you bewildered and thinking “what the f…” Other than that as I have already mentioned, generally when you have pummelled the what-sits out an enemy, the sound effects and visual effects are AMAZING, watching an enemy hound stumble as if it has lost its footing before exploding in a fireball never becomes boring.

    I previously mentioned the customisation and build aspect to Chromehounds and when you play through the offline portion of the game you acquire Hound parts. The collected parts then allow you to completely build a Hound from scratch and also to customise Hounds. The system is very neatly done, and within minutes you will find yourself swapping parts to make the perfect Hound. The basic requirement parts for any Hound, is its legs, or, base system, a cockpit and a generator. Have those in place and you can then attach weapons or armour plating in the order you prefer. Some attention however is required when building your Hound and when you are racking your Hound up to the hilt with weapons and such like you should remember to keep your eye on the max weight load and energy supply. This system is very neatly done, albeit the offline game rarely makes you think about customisation/heading over to the assembly area as the borrowed Hound is usually perfect for the given mission scenario. It’s a great add on for a Mech game and a lot of fun can be had building your very own killing machine.

    Everything you do in the offline campaign really can be classed as a tutorial for what you are about to face in the Xbox LIVE portion of the game. The campaign on Xbox LIVE is called the Neroimus War and when you begin playing online you need to choose from one of three nations, as well as what Hound role type you are about to take into battle. Once you are allied to a nation you are presented with a tactical map, showing who is control or what and where the war is currently being fought. Your objective on LIVE is of course ultimate victory for your allied nation.  Playing through the LIVE portion of the game is all about teamwork and tactics, a lone wolf simply will not cut it in this game and you really will crash and burn if you try to take the world on, on your own. But before you can kick Hound ass, you need to join or form a squad, a max of six players can be in a squad, with you then being able to jump into a territory and fight for the survival of your nation. I will make this note – that you would be best to form a squad with players you know or could work with, as rewards are given for completing objectives on LIVE and on the flip side a losing team will get stung big time as you have to pay for every battle you lose. So this game really does live by its slogan in that you must ‘Hunt like a pack or die like a dog’. There are quick play options on LIVE so if campaigning does not set your world on fire with excitement there are ‘free battle’ areas that have no bearing on the overall outcome of the Neroimus War.

    The graphics and sound quality in Chromehounds is top notch. Sega and From Software have used the 360’s HD power to good effect and Hounds and battlefields alike all look glorious, there are some slight problems with what I will call bland hillsides and trees but overall this is easily the best looking Mech game to date. Sound comes across perfectly, from the stomping of your hound, creaking of metal on metal to the explosive firepower you unleash on your enemy.Â

    If Sega’s aim was to immerse us within this war environment and to create positive emotions within a player, then they can sit back hands behind head style and be pleased that they have done their job. Chromehounds looks great, sounds great, and has produced great game play… I have no doubt that Chromehounds will be a love it or hate it game, but for us mech fans out there “thank you Sega – we love you”.

    Score: 9/10

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