OVER­RIDE: MECH CITY BRAWL

Bite our shiny me­tal mag! We’re go­ing for a deep dive into Over­ride: Mech City Brawl “Punches and kicks are slow and weighty and, of course, in­de­pen­dently con­trolled”

Games Master - - Contents - By Luke Kemp

The weapon-filled ro­bot brawler serves up the crash of me­tal, the rum­ble of fall­ing build­ings, and the screams of your de­feated op­po­nent.

If you’ve read our past pre­views, you’ll know that this game has been rais­ing our eye­brows in a good way. Gi­ant ro­bots fight­ing each other, with­out the com­plex con­trols or crush­ing weight of a mil­lion stats this usu­ally en­tails? Yes please! We were al­ready ex­cited and now, thanks to ex­tended hands-on time – in­clud­ing ex­clu­sive ac­cess to the story mode and ev­ery mul­ti­player map – we’re even ex­cited.

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The fun­da­men­tal con­cept is pretty sim­ple: a brawler for two to four play­ers, where ev­ery char­ac­ter is a mech, and each limb on a mech is con­trolled with a dif­fer­ent trig­ger but­ton. In fact, this con­trol scheme came about be­fore ev­ery­thing else. “It first started as more of a tech demo,” says pro­ducer An­drew Nguyen. “The de­vel­op­ers were ac­tu­ally try­ing to make a game kind of like QWOP. In that game you con­trol a

jog­ger with four but­tons, it’s su­per-hard. [Our demo] was about con­trol­ling all the dif­fer­ent limbs, and it took in­sane co-or­di­na­tion just to keep it bal­anced, just to keep it stand­ing.”

Bal­ance isn’t an is­sue in the fi­nal prod­uct (un­less, of course, an op­po­nent knocks you over onto your over­sized metal­lic back­side dur­ing a scrap). The team soon re­alised that the mechs with in­di­vid­u­ally con­trol­lable limbs would work bril­liantly in a brawler. So that’s the di­rec­tion the project took, and the game be­came much sim­pler and more ac­ces­si­ble as a re­sult.

Bot fuss

When we’re handed a con­troller to play around with the lat­est build, it’s like slip­ping back into a pair of oddly shaped, yet com­fort­able, slip­pers. Punches and kicks are slow and weighty and, of course, in­de­pen­dently con­trolled. There re­ally isn’t a fighter with a di­rectly com­pa­ra­ble sys­tem, and we sud­denly find our­selves very glad that we’d pre­vi­ously spent time with the beta. Un­sur­pris­ingly per­haps, we lose our first match to the de­vel­oper, but we man­age to avoid en­tirely hu­mil­i­at­ing our­selves.

Although it’s easy to jump in and start play­ing straight away, it’s the afore­men­tioned weight to your hits that takes the most get­ting used to. How, we ask, did the devs man­age to strike the right bal­ance be­tween speed and com­mu­ni­cat­ing this sense of weight?

“Through a lot of ar­gu­ing!” Nguyen im­me­di­ately replies. “This game started off much slower, much, much weight­ier. It took months to get some­thing that felt good as a brawler. We’re not go­ing to please ev­ery­body, but I think we’ve found a good bal­ance.”

How­ever, if you think this means the game’s a syrupy fighter in which matches move at a glacial pace, think again. The dash but­ton alone elim­i­nates that, al­low­ing us to rapidly close the gap when­ever we’re bold enough to charge Nguyen (rare) and throw our­selves out of the way when he’s look­ing dan­ger­ous (of­ten). Some of the spe­cial moves (de­pen­dent on a me­ter charged by land­ing hits) are ei­ther pro­jec­tile at­tacks, or phys­i­cal ones that launch your mech of choice across the arena, and weapons such as swords, shields, guns, and flamethrow­ers are ran­domly dropped into the map to keep ev­ery­body on their ten-ton toes. Not to men­tion the Ul­ti­mates, su­per-pow­er­ful at­tacks avail­able once your mech is down to its last chunk of life.

Maybe you want a purer fight­ing ex­pe­ri­ence? No prob­lem. You’ll have the op­tion of dis­abling weapons and Ul­ti­mates if that’s what you want to do. In­deed, the de­vel­op­ers are keen to put play­ers in con­trol of how matches play out. On­line, there will be three match queues: two for tra­di­tional 1v1 fights (one ranked, one un­ranked), and one for four play­ers. A free-for-all, two teams of two, a team of 3v1, mul­ti­ple peo­ple con­trol­ling the same mech [see ‘Twenty One Pi­lots’,

p29]… ex­actly what a four-player match looks like will be up to you.

We’re look­ing for­ward to kick­ing the scrap out of strangers on­line, but there’s plenty go­ing on here off­line, too – not least the story mode, which your bud­dies at GamesMaster were al­lowed to look at in de­tail. “You play through the story mode with each mech, and they each have a slightly dif­fer­ent story,” Nguyen ex­plains. “The arc is the same, but they all have their own di­a­logue vari­ants. You get to know the pi­lots be­hind the mechs, which we haven’t re­ally shown yet.”

It turns out there are squishy hu­mans in­side those mechs. You can com­pletely ig­nore this in the main brawl­ing part of the game, but the story ex­plains who these peo­ple are, and how and why they have their own gi­ant ro­bots. “There’s a mech bat­tle league, it’s kind of like a WWE-type thing for mechs. A lot of these guys com­pete in that league, some of them use mechs for other pur­poses be­sides en­ter­tain­ment. In the story, there’s a mon­ster in­va­sion, and now these league mechs are be­ing called on to save the world.”

Mon­ster mashed

The mon­sters that we see are im­me­di­ately strik­ing, Pa­cific-Rim-style kaiju beasts. Nguyen gives a bunch of them what-for in the mid­dle of one of the de­struc­tible cities, in game­play that seems com­fort­ably sim­i­lar to the stan­dard brawl­ing. Though we only get a brief taste of mon­ster de­signs, we’re promised that the fi­nal prod­uct will have a large col­lec­tion of var­ied beasts of dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes.

Each mech’s story will only take an hour or so to play through but, with 12 mechs, that’s at least 12 hours of story mode game­play. Though in to­day’s in­dus­try, with cries of “sin­gle-player is dead!” wor­ry­ingly com­mon, why make a story mode at all? “We al­ways wanted to take some­thing out­side of its nor­mal en­vi­ron­ment, and do some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. And,” Nguyen as­sures us, “we get to do dif­fer­ent things here.”

He’s not ly­ing. The story of­fers el­e­ments which are, with good rea­son, com­pletely ab­sent from the com­pet­i­tive por­tion of the game. “At the end of each level you get XP, and you get mods that you can col­lect; and it’s ran­domised. So ev­ery time you play through, it’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. You get mods that do things like add lifesteal to your at­tacks, in­crease your stamina, add re­flect dam­age, all kinds of weird stuff that we wouldn’t re­ally put into the com­pet­i­tive mode. There’s a lot of mods, and you’re not go­ing to col­lect ev­ery­thing [in one run].” De­spite the roguelite el­e­ments, we’re as­sured that the game will be chal­leng­ing with­out be­com­ing overly pun­ish­ing. “We re­ally like the story that

we ended up writ­ing for it, so we’re like, ‘Wouldn’t it be a shame if peo­ple didn’t even try it be­cause it’s too hard?’ We’d rather just open up the con­tent, and let peo­ple en­joy it.”

Nguyen skips through the on-screen di­a­logue be­tween lev­els so that we can get back to the ac­tion, but not be­fore a few things jump out at us. For one thing, there’s an army gen­eral who, ac­cord­ing to our notes, ap­pears to be named Mavis (we may have mis­read that, but we re­ally hope we didn’t). We also catch a few snatches of di­a­logue as it hur­tles past our eyes.

“I bring en­ter­tain­ment to the masses,” says a pilot, pre­sum­ably a par­tic­i­pant in the afore­men­tioned mech bat­tle league.

“Well now you’ll bring death from above!” barks the gen­eral.

Find­ing story

“It’s kind of Satur­day morn­ing car­toon­ish. We’re not tak­ing our­selves too se­ri­ously here,” says Nguyen, which comes as no sur­prise to Team GM. “We just want to make our­selves one cut above ‘fight the ros­ter’. In be­tween each story mis­sion, you’ll have an op­por­tu­nity to do a few side-mis­sions. These are ran­domised, and you can see if the re­ward is some XP, or a weapon pack.” The story mode, there­fore, is on track to of­fer a nice ex­tra chunk of con­tent. A big blob of off­line ketchup to dip your gam­ing chips into, if you will.

Still, you don’t need the magic of the in­ter­net to play with three friends. You can en­joy the four-player ex­pe­ri­ence in per­son thanks to couch co-op, some­thing that the de­vel­oper felt it was im­por­tant to in­clude. As Nguyen says, “It’s so rare to have couch co-op […] it’s such a nice thing for peo­ple to be able to play to­gether [in the same room]. We try to have some­thing for ev­ery­body, make it as ac­ces­si­ble as we can.”

With four peo­ple in the room – Nguyen, a PR rep, and two com­po­nents of the GM hive mind – we take full ad­van­tage of this. A free-for-all proves to be a story of pain, un­com­fort­able al­liances, treach­ery, and plenty of crushed build­ings. GM goes for the frog-like Co­cada and the Egyp­tianthemed Setesh; we share the city with poster bot Vin­tage and the di­nosaur-flavoured Me­tageckon. Time to show what we’re made of (or, prefer­ably, show what the oth­ers are made of by dis­tribut­ing it all over the map).

A split-screen dis­play gives ev­ery­body their own view. Nguyen’s Me­tageckon quickly gets to work, us­ing claws and tail to dish out pain to any­body fool­ish enough to get close. It’s not long be­fore his spe­cial me­ter be­gins to fill, and so, pretty soon, a laser shoots from his mouth (Me­tageckon’s mouth, not Nguyen’s) and knocks a chunk of health from GM’s Co­cada.

Poor old Co­cada kicks and punches his en­e­mies more than enough to earn suf­fi­cient me­ter to launch a few hom­ing mis­siles, but alas, it’s not long be­fore he’s dan­ger­ously close to de­feat. We trig­ger his Ul­ti­mate, sig­nalled by a brief cutscene be­fore the gi­ant me­tal frog break­dances his way into a city-de­stroy­ing, con­trol­lable tor­nado that we steer into his foes, chip­ping away at their health. Alas, not long af­ter this is over, he is de­stroyed by… fel­low GM mech Setesh. Where’s the loy­alty??

The los­ing mech hav­ing ex­ploded, his sec­tion of the screen dis­ap­pears, and the re­main­ing three widen. As the match flows, Setesh and Me­tageckon tem­po­rar­ily team up to put Vin­tage out of the pic­ture, be­fore again turn­ing on one an­other. Me­tageckon launches his Ul­ti­mate, hurtling through Setesh with a sword be­fore dra­mat­i­cally paus­ing

be­hind his op­po­nent (“We tried to make that look as anime as pos­si­ble,” says Nguyen.) Setesh sur­vives with a sliver of health, trig­gers his own wide-rang­ing Ul­ti­mate… and emerges vic­to­ri­ous!

That match took place in one of the cities pre­vi­ously seen in the beta, but we got a look at all of the oth­ers, too, in­clud­ing some ex­clu­sive time with the Brazil and Mex­ico maps. Mex­ico is vis­ually strik­ing, a night-time city scene where the build­ings are lit up. Un­til you crush them, of course. Brazil, in par­tic­u­lar, is in­ter­est­ing, of­fer­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties un­avail­able in the other maps. While still a city en­vi­ron­ment, it’s not so flat, with a raised mo­tor­way run­ning through the mid­dle. The sup­ports can of­fer tem­po­rary cover, while re­treat­ing to the height of the road can give you breath­ing space for pro­jec­tile or ae­rial at­tacks.

The lat­est build also gives us a look at some of the al­ter­nate skins for the first time, such as Me­tageckon do­ing his best Cthulhu im­pres­sion, and the retro-styled Vin­tage look­ing shiny and, um, wear­ing a gi­ant-mech-sized rub­ber ducky ring, At launch, each mech will have 20 locked skins. We know what you’re think­ing, but don’t worry: Over­ride will not fea­ture loot boxes or mi­cro­trans­ac­tions.

“You un­lock them by play­ing through the story mode and com­plet­ing on­line matches,” Nguyen ex­plains. “So whether you win or lose, you get some­thing. They un­lock at ran­dom, [but] if you win, you have a higher prob­a­bil­ity of get­ting some­thing bet­ter. We also wanted to in­cen­tivise peo­ple to not rage quit. So if you’re los­ing, you still get some­thing […] the sim­ple ones are just colour swaps, the rarer ones are more strik­ing. Their Epics have more de­tail­ing, the Le­gen­daries change their model.” There will also be a to­tal of 30 ac­ces­sories to un­lock at launch, and these are one-size-fits-all. Want to see a tow­er­ing, city-de­stroy­ing mech in a hat? Now you can!

Whipped chrome

With the game al­most fin­ished, work has be­gun on post-launch con­tent. Some time af­ter launch, there will be an ad­di­tional 16 skins and four mechs avail­able to pur­chase (or to down­load straight away if you go for the amus­ingly named Su­per Charged Mega Edi­tion). Not even GM could get more in­for­ma­tion than that, though we’re promised that the ad­di­tional mechs will, as with the ex­ist­ing de­signs, be some­thing we haven’t seen be­fore. “[The artists] def­i­nitely didn’t want clones, they def­i­nitely didn’t want things to just feel like a quick it­er­a­tion on an ex­ist­ing mech.”

Mind you, with the abil­ity to play with up to three oth­ers both on­line and off­line, lit­er­ally hun­dreds of items to un­lock, and a story mode of­fer­ing 12-plus hours of game­play, the base pack­age is set to of­fer more than enough to keep you busy. The core game­play is sim­ple to un­der­stand, and per­fect for a quick blast with a group of friends; gi­ant mechs fight­ing. Con­trol­ling in­di­vid­ual limbs is sur­pris­ingly easy to get to grips

with, and spe­cial moves and Ul­ti­mates are ac­ti­vated with si­mul­ta­ne­ous but­ton presses. No com­plex move­ment and but­ton com­bi­na­tions.

There’s depth for those who want it though, as Nguyen ex­plains. “We tried to make ev­ery­thing pun­ish­able, in a sense. The game is ob­vi­ously still very friendly to just but­ton mash­ing; but for those who want to get se­ri­ous or get good, we wanted to make sure the game had enough legs to al­low for that. A key fac­tor was to make sure that ev­ery­thing has a counter. So noth­ing feels too pow­er­ful, and when ev­ery­thing has coun­ters, then you can do things like mind games and fakes. So for ex­am­ple, if I were to charge a punch, you might have the abil­ity to kick me and in­ter­rupt me, or per­form a counter, which would make me pay for it. But I can also do things like this [sends our mech fly­ing], where you de­cide to do a kick counter, and then I can­cel, so then you end up do­ing a counter-ma­noeu­vre that leaves you vul­ner­a­ble.”

The po­ten­tial for ca­sual brawls among friends is un­de­ni­able, and Nguyen tells us there’s even been pos­i­tive feed­back from the com­mu­nity at Amer­i­can fight­ing game tour­na­ment CEO­taku. “[It’s] al­ways kind of a scary thing to bring some­thing to the fight­ing game com­mu­nity, and see how they re­ceive it. We knew there was room for ca­sual-type games like Smash [Bros] […] but you never know. So far peo­ple are dig­ging it.”

Us too, An­drew; us too.

The ef­fec­tive­ness of split-screen will de­pend on the size of screen that you use, but it’s a wel­come in­clu­sion. Contessa’s Ul­ti­mate sees her sum­mon some kind of ro­botic Grim Reaper, which sug­gests these mechs have souls of their own. Creepy.

Egypt in­cludes tun­nels be­neath the sand – use­ful for when you fancy am­bush­ing an op­po­nent from be­low.

Don’t make Pescado an­gry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s an­gry. Or even mildly an­noyed, to be hon­est.

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