Gundam Versus is the latest in a long series of 2v2 multiplayer arena games. The series is among the most popular arcade games across Japan and has managed the occasional console port on the PS3. Gundam Versus for the PS4 represents an experiment; it not only is the first title in over a decade making its debut on consoles first, but it’s also the first in well over a decade to actually release in the U.S. While a small handful of American players already exist--including myself--,this game introduces an entire series of highly polished, fast paced teamplay to most of the country. Quite honestly, this style of game isn’t massively represented in the U.S. Regardless; Gundam Versus is about as foreign as competitive action games can get.
So, it’s overwhelmingly perplexing to me that Bandai Namco actually designed the game to be flat out harder for new players.
Let’s clear the waters a bit: Gundam Versus is an awesome, frantic arena combat game. I can’t think of a single other title within the franchise that offers such a frenetic experience, all while crucially selling the fantasy of being an actual Gundam pilot. There is no Gundam game selling the power fantasy harder than this one, and I dare you to find me an action game that is this brutally refined mechanically. Gundam Versus shows off countless improvements from its PS3 predecessors, adding intelligent new maneuvers and systems while renovating older ones. It’s almost getting to the point where the blade is so sharp, you can’t even touch it anymore. The new four to six player modes are intense; while maybe not optimal over the classic 2v2 setup, the new modes breathe some life into an already solid experience. Every suit is surprisingly unique, a seemingly impossible feat given the 90 plus playable mobile suits. Although the teamplay aspect will inevitably lead to a few frustrating matches, the majority of matches are so intense and tightly packed that you’ll always “feel” the sting of defeat, and especially the high of clinching the win.
Despite all these positives, this game breaks my heart a bit. I don’t think I can recommend it to most, for a couple reasons.
The biggest among them is the entry barrier. Gundam Versus is a six-button game, and while it can be played decently on a controller, it’s much more suited for an arcade stick. The entire game is driven heavily by its mobility; a solid chunk of the technique can be self-taught or gleamed through the pittance of in-game tutorials offered, but the whole cannot be grasped without assistance. There are about seven different dashing techniques to my knowledge; after playing casually for about a year, I can effectively use maybe five of them. Not to mention, decision fatigue can easily annihilate the casual player. Ninety characters sounds great until you need to actually pick one, and once the match starts the initial game or two can feel stressful. It’s like learning how to drive a car, except you’ve never been in a car before and you’re starting with manual transmission...and there’s no instructor. The game doesn’t really give you all the information you need to really step up your game, and that would be forgivable if the hidden tech wasn’t so important.
But, all of that pales to what I feel is the biggest mishap on Bandai Namco’s part: lack of offline multiplayer. If your intent is to play this game at a competitive level, this likely won’t affect you (especially if your internet is top notch). However, if you’re trying to learn a complicated and intense game, especially a game that requires playing in teams of two, it really helps to learn it with a friend. I had the previous title in the series imported on the PS3; in my experience, I can confirm that the split screen was the best part of the game. The frame rate wasn’t quite as crisp, nor was the resolution, but simply being able to play with someone in the same room and not requiring a second console or television made the game accessible and exciting on so many levels. The removal of this feature, especially with a game that requires team play and that most people in the U.S. have never played, is completely unacceptable. It’s additionally frustrating since they’ve implemented this feature in the past; I can’t think of a good reason why they wouldn’t incorporate it now.
I badly want to be able to recommend this game, I honestly do. There’s such a massive gold mine of appreciable content if only you’re willing to get your hands dirty. But, the ground to get to that gold is so thick, and Bandai Namco doesn’t even bother giving you a shovel.
With split screen multiplayer, this would have been a 4.5. It makes such a difference!