God Eater 2: Rage Burst review impressions
God Eater 2: Rage Burst, the remake of a sequel to a PSP game from 2011, has finally arrived on Western shores. While its lineage may sound confusing, the game's premise is not. Rage Burst, like its predecessors God Eater: Burst, and God Eater: Resurrection, is a faster, simpler take on the wildly successful Monster Hunter franchise.
The emphasis here is more on "monsters" than hunting. The game is chock full of Aragami, the titular gods in need of eating. Said creatures have literally devoured most of the Earth, driving most of the planet's former inhabitants underground, or into semi-safe arcologies to escape the ravenous beasts.
Enter the God Eaters. These gifted few can wield biomechanical weapons made from the Aragami themselves, allowing them to literally eat the monsters ravaging what's left of the world. Their basic job is to keep the creatures' numbers down, so that the less fortunate individuals living on the outskirts of shielded society don't wind up being chomped on themselves.
Very little of this is explained at the start of Rage Burst. I only know this setup thanks to dipping into God Eater: Resurrection -- another recent remake of the first game for PlayStation 4 and Vita.
I became pretty infatuated with that entry in the series, and its austere, J-pop take on the post-apocalypse. The characters in the original God Eater converse with a natural, self-aware cadence I found endearing -- even while the game shoehorned them into archetypes just a little harder than necessary.
Rage Burst has a lot of that energy, but it's picked up and moved to "Anime Europe." That is, the land of puffy shirts, organ music, and church choirs acting as a backdrop to self-serious talk about chivalry, and ambition.
As I whittle through the early hours of the game, though, I'm starting to recognize a bit of the old humor. The introduction of side character Emil -- a modern-day "knight" who takes the game's new aesthetic to ridiculous extremes -- has begun to almost make the whole shift in tone worth it.
For a bit, I was able to take Emil with me on missions, just like most of the game's supporting cast. Despite the game's awfully talkative story -- which involves new brands of both God Eaters and Aragami popping up across the world -- these combat arenas remain very much the meat of the game.
Rage Burst, like its predecessor, strips away nearly everything that gets between you and spearing monsters that appear like enormous half-animal, half-religious icons.
Whereas Monster Hunter (and a number of other contenders to that game's throne) task you with actually finding beasties, God Eater conveniently marks anything remotely hostile on your map. It's only ever a short, load time-less sprint between you and... Pretty much the breadth of what the game has to offer, mission after mission.
Said offering is blazing fast melee combat, spiced with just a hint of third-person gunplay. Aragami big and small have multiple weak points, as well as armored plating just begging to be sliced off a well-placed sword strike.
As my own, custom God Eater, I've danced and dodged around my targets to find the perfect angle of attack more times than I can count -- just like I did in Resurrection. No, really: just like I did in Resurrection. Many of the same monsters, locations, and types of weapons have been recycled from one game to the next.
Even the UI is nearly identical. As such it's hard to shake the feeling that Rage Burst is more like a continuation or expansion to the original game than a full-blown, numbered sequel.
It's not entirely Rage Burst's fault. Part of the reason I feel this way is because Resurrection included certain elements introduced in the second game. Yet Resurrection was my introduction to the series, and I'm willing to bet the same can be said for a lot of people who missed the niche PSP game from five years ago.
This isn't to say that God Eater 2 is bankrupt of new features: all of which can be teased out of the game's many, many menus and databases.
You can now unlock "Blood Arts," or skills acquired by repeatedly using the same weapon. Previously, character progression was solely tied to the equipment you crafted from pieces of Aragami. Blood Arts lend Rage Burst just a bit more of a traditional role-playing game feel.
Harvesting the monsters -- which, I should add, is accomplished by your weapon literally growing a mouth and eating their lifeless bodies -- is still the focus of the game, however.
That kind of absurd imagery works in Rage Burst's favor, as far as I'm concerned. You won't find this bizarre blend of story, comedy, and austere violence in any Monster Hunter, that's for sure.
What you will find in Capcom's juggernaut is a more complete package. This year brought us Monster Hunter Generations, which I'd argue is the most accessible, most complete version of that series yet. Ironically, despite being less mechanically taxing than Monster Hunter, God Eater 2 fails at this by comparison.
As you might expect, every class of weapon in Rage Burst has its own, unique set of moves. A sword doesn't control the same as a scythe, a hammer, etc. Essential skills -- like the spear's ability to kick its user into a backflip -- are referenced, but never demonstrated. If they are, the examples are so buried in menus that I couldn't easily find them. So it's up to you (and, if you're anything like me, Google) to find the button strings necessary for certain combo attacks.
While not a minor gripe by any stretch, that is my biggest problem with the game so far, and I'm willing to live with it. The blistering battles for position tap into something I'm very much enjoying right now. Meanwhile the characters, tone, and story -- while not as captivating as the first game -- have strung me right along.
Now, if only the game wasn't called "God Eater 2: Rage Burst," I'd be able to recommend it whole-heartedly...