Monday, June 25, 2012

Gravity Rush - Review

Ever since the PS Vita was announced many fans have been looking forward to the unique open world game called Gravity Rush. Earlier trailers showed a young girl flying through the sky and running on buildings, while later trailers actually started to show bits and pieces of the story. Either way the game sparked quite a lot of interest and was the soul reason many people actually wanted a Vita. So how is the game really? Does it live up to the hype? Is it worth owning a Vita just to play it? Well...

The story of Gravity Rush:

Gravity Rush starts out with a single apple hanging from a tree which then soon falls who knows how many miles to the city streets below where our young, currently nameless, heroin is sleeping. Soon after waking up and not knowing who she is or where she is, she soon notices a strange black cat standing by her side. At first she tries to talk to the cat and figure out why it is there, but soon her "discussion" is interrupted by a man yelling for help.

According to him, our heroin is like that "crow lady" and only she can help save his son. Not knowing what to do, the main character decides to follow the man only to soon find that his house and son was being sucked into what seemed to be a black hole. After seeing what was going on, the strange cat then transformed into a type of black mist, and our young heroin soon found herself flying, or rather falling, through the air with the ability to control gravity. Although at the time she wasn't sure how she did what she did, she soon understands that it's a strange power only she can control and she knows she must use it to save the young boy.

After saving the young boy, and allowing his house to fall, our young heroin is chased away when she soon finds out that just about everyone around her hates her for some reason. "Should have never trusted a shifter." "Get out of here." From what she can gather, she is someone known as a shifter, and shifters are bad news. Despite just wanting to help, she soon finds herself wondering the streets of the strange city alone.

Not too long after that event, our young heroin soon comes across a young policeman, who later on gives her the name Kat, and she decides to do anything she can to help the suffering city. After finding a home in the sewers, Kat soon finds herself face to face with a strange man called the "creator" and she soon finds herself setting off to strange lands to not only recover her "lost" powers, but to return missing pieces of the city as well. Although Kat really doesn't understand what's going on with the city, or with the "gravity storms" that are all around it, she decides its for the best if she does whatever she can to help the people.

Over time Kat has quite a few run ins with another shifter named Raven, who has a crow that allows her to control gravity, as well as other unique people who will help her on her adventure to save the city.

Although the story is mostly told from a comic/manga style cutscene system, cutscenes will also happen from time to time in real time, and at times as you play. Either way the way the story is told is in fact unique, and it really helps add to the art style of the game.

The Art Style:

Graphics are normally something I avoid when reviewing a game simply because not everyone cares how good or bad they look. Sure amazing graphics look great and I love them, but at the same time I feel it isn't right to give a game a bad review simply because it doesn't look as good as it should. Well I can safely say that is NOT the case here!

Gravity Rush uses a unique cell shaded art style which really gives it that anime/manga feel. The colors are dusty looking, the only real light is the twilight from the sun, and everything shines. To go along with the dusty, yet animeish, in game graphics, the game's cutscenes also use a hand drawn manga like style as well. Everything is sharp, and the game looks flat out amazing on the Vita's screen.

In short the game looks great, but if you're not into that anime cell shaded style, you might find it to be a turn off.

Gravity Rush's Unique Gameplay:

Even though super hero games have been done time and time again, Gravity Rush is one of them few super hero games that is actually unique. Sure it's got the basic open world to explore, there are NPCs you can talk to, challenge missions to take on, and objects to find, but with the gravity system all of these features are made unique.

The city in Gravity Rush may not be the biggest open world out there, but it is in fact quite large overall. The floating city actually has layers and layers worth of levels to explore, and thanks to the gravity system you can actually make ANYTHING your floor. In short each section of the city actually has 1000s of possible surfaces for you to land on/explore, and the city is FILLED with gems (which are used to upgrade powers) to collect. You can easily spend hours simply exploring this massive world collecting, and still not get bored of the gameplay.

The basics of Gravity Rush's gameplay does in fact come from the gravity system. By hitting the R button Kat will turn red and start floating. Once you are in this state you can then use either the right analog stick or motion controls to aim Kat, and then you can press the R button once again to fall into the direction you have selected. If you hit a surface, that surface will become the floor, if you hit the R button again you'll pause in mid air, if you hit the X button you'll actually speed up and fall faster, and if you hit the L button you'll return to your normal state and simply fall. With all of this flying around it IS very easy to get mixed up on where you are, but don't worry, Kat's scarf and hair always are effected by the TRUE gravity and will point towards the ground.

Another one of Kat's basics moves is a little something called the Gravity Slide. By putting both of your thumbs on the touch screen Kat will enter her gravity state and start sliding across the ground at crazy fast speeds almost as if she was sliding down a hill on a skate board. While in this state anything Kat's feet touch will become the ground which will actually allow her to jet up slopes and even the sides of some buildings if you can land it right, and it serves as a much faster way to travel while on the ground. You can also flick the system upwards to preform a jump, but most of the time you wont need to use it.

Combat is another big part of Gravity Rush since the game is FILLED with some huge crazy air battles. In the story of Gravity Rush strange creatures called Nevi are showing up allover the city and they're attacking people. Each of these Nevi actually have a glowing red mark somewhere on their body, and it's up to Kat to attack that red spot to destroy them; however it really isn't as easy as it sounds.

Kat only has a few basic combat moves and they can be quite hard to use. While on the ground Kat has a simple kick/melee combo which can be upgraded over time, she can do special kicks by sliding your thumb across the touch screen and  pressing the attack button, and she can also simply dodge; however these attacks really dont do that much damage and is more suited for attacking the little guys who basically sit there and do nothing; however when in the air things are a different story. When floating Kat can preform a type of spiral kick which will somewhat lock onto the enemies and flat out crush them. The attack is very strong and is Kat's main way of attacking, but there are actually quite a few problems with it.

First of all the spiral kick doesn't ALWAYS lock onto the target you want to lock onto, and sometimes it doesn't lock on at all. You can simply line up your attack and press the square button, only to find out soon after that you are flying past the enemy at super sonic speeds. You then have to pause yourself in mid air, back track to where the enemies are, and then try again. Although this really isn't much of a problem with the slower moving ground enemies, air enemies are almost ALWAYS on the move, and MOST of them have wings or something to protect their weak point. In short the spiral kick ends up becoming a trial and error attack, and it can be quite a pain to use. However the good news is the next three attacks actually make up for it.

Over time Kat actually does unlock three other special moves which will lock onto your enemies, and do massive damage at the same time. While the first special attack is simply a version of the spiral kick that acts like a drill and simply hits away at the enemies' life until they die, the other two are actually more unique. Even so, to avoid spoilers I'm going to avoid talking about the last two moves all together. Although they may not be the coolest moves you've seen around, they are in fact helpful, and they are nothing like the other standard kicking attacks.

Challenges also make up a large part of Gravity Rush, but overall there really aren't that many of them to do. Each challenge gives you a different goal you must complete within either a set time limit or with a set amount of points, and you will be rewarded with gems based on how well you do. Some challenges require you to race from point to point using every gravity trick you have, others ask you to carry objects from one spot to another as fast as possible, and some are enemy score attacks which ask you to kill as many enemies as possible while keeping a chain going to keep your time up. Either way these challenges do really test your skills, but for the most part they're better off being left until you've just about finished the game, and that's mainly due to the upgrade system.

As I stated before you can actually upgrade Kat's abilities as you collect gems throughout the city. These abilities that can be upgraded range from how long you can gravity shift before you fall, how long it takes for your gravity bar to recover, to how fast your gravity slide is, and even how strong your attacks are. While at the start of the game you are actually very limited in what you can do, by the end you basically get to run around with no limits. Your gravity bar will refill to max almost as SOON as you stop "falling," your gravity slide will be crazy fast, and you'll be one hit killing just about every enemy out there. The upgrade system is in fact slow at first, but it quickly does become over powered. Even so, these challenges and this upgrade system really isn't where the game shined the most.

One of the best parts of Gravity Rush's gameplay actually happens in strange areas called the Rifts. In these Rifts Kat finds herself in a strange world with very limited powers. These parts of the game become heavily focused on platforming and using just about every trick you can think of to make it from the very start of the stage to the end. From using the gravity slide to race down a spiral that leads through caves filled with lava, to jumping across platforms in space with forced gravity. These parts of the game really were unique, and I found myself having a lot of fun playing them. Sure I was more than happy to get my powers back when I returned to the city, but the Rifts were really a nice change of pace that I really enjoyed.

Overall the gameplay in Gravity Rush is well spaced apart and you never find yourself doing the same things more than once. Each Rift is unique, each story mission is unique, and the second half of the game was pretty unexpected. Sure the challenge missions might get old after awhile, but like I said, there really aren't that many of them and they are a nice challenge.

The Good:

Gravity Rush does a lot of things right. The world is really fun to explore, all of the NPCs walking around makes the world feel alive, and the art style is great. While the standard button controls also work very well for a hand held, the motion controls are just as great and I quickly found myself using them quite a bit to get more precise movements for attacking, and I thought it was REALLY nice that the camera angle actually turned as you tilted the system. For example you can actually hold your Vita right in front of you and spin it around a complete 360 degrees yet the camera angle will stay locked in place as if it were still in the standard position right in front of you. It feels just like you're looking into another world, and your screen is the window.

Another really nice feature is the fact that EVERY challenge in the game actually has a leader board for it which allows you to not only just take on your friends, but the world as well. Sure this feature may not be for everyone, but if you're the type of person who tries to shoot to being the best, this is the perfect feature for you and you might find yourself spending who knows how many hours just trying to beat that next person ahead of you.

The Bad:

Although Gravity Rush is a unique and fun game, it does have it's problems. First of all is the combat system. Like I explained before it can be quite hard to actually attack what you want to attack, and battles do become quite repetitive after awhile. While some people might actually fight the battles by spamming their kick attacks, most will find that it's much easier to simply stand back and wait for your special attack to recharge so you can just crush everything around you with little to no effort.

Second of all the game's story really ended up not being that good. Now don't get me wrong, it was a really nice story and it had quite a few characters you really cared about, but most of the questions are left unanswered. Just who is Kat? How did Raven get her powers? What is with the creators? What is all this talk of dreams? There are just so many questions asked at the start of the game that you'll never get an answer to... Sure it is hinted at who Kat really is, but even when you find that out it only leads to MORE questions! Let's just hope we get a sequel in the future!

The final aspect of the game isn't really something I'd call a bad point, but it might turn some people off as well. Anyway... The game is short. Although I have played many Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games with achievements, I have only 100%ed a few of these games, and even then it normally took around 50 or so hours; however that is FAR from the case here. Although Gravity Rush is in fact a full game, it is actually pretty short and you can easily 100% the main game within 20 hours. There are a few trophies that require you to search around the town for some hidden stuff, but it really doesn't take that long to find everything, especially if you follow a walk though.

Now DLC packs for the game WILL be released in the future, each giving Kat a new costume as well as a few new challenges to complete, but these DLC packs are not free and they really don't add too much more to the game. Still if you want to give Kat a new look, or you just want a few more challenges to play, they could be worth it.

So is Gravity Rush Worth it:

Gravity Rush is a very nice hand held game and one better ones on the Vita, but it really isn't for everyone. If you're looking for a unique game with a unique gameplay style you won't find anywhere else, it's worth checking out, but if you don't like sandbox games or super hero games, you might want to stay away from this one. While the story is great at times, the ending is pretty lacking, and the combat never really improves that much from start to finish. Still the challenges are nice, the art style is nice, most people will fall in love with the characters, and the world is truly a unique one.

Still for the type of game it is, Gravity Rush gets a solid 10/10 from me. It's true that the developers could have done so much more to really add to this game, but overall for an experiment, it was perfect.