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Review: Archangel (PlayStation 4)By Insanoflex At 07.08.2017 16:11

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Archangel is an impressive experience that is so far the most polished giant robot game that truly puts the VR user in the pilot's seat... or at least in the gunner's seat. This is a rail shooter at its core, so Archangel's legs are never controlled and will press on automatically, while all offensive operations like gunning, punching and catching are relying on the pilot's reflexes and accuracy. This is a much slower moving rail shooter than most, since the point of Archangel was to create the sensation of being inside a massive, heavy robot with some real weight behind each thundering footstep.

There is also a real attempt in the game's design to make this a title that could only truly work in VR, such as how aiming is used, which entails the driver to move their head independently from the aiming reticule, which is in turn mapped to the DualShock 4's motion sensor (or PS Move controller). Using a DualShock 4 in this manner is a little unusual at first, since it is like if a gun was attached to handlebars, yet the hardware proved to be very accurate and works way better than one would think.

When Archangel begins, there is the choice of playing as a single father or mother who also happens to be the runner of the titular mobile suit, Archangel. The narrative shows some inspiration from works like Half-Life 2, "Gundam," and, surprisingly, the 1980s sci-fi kid's film, The Flight of the Navigator. Everything in the game's story feels pretty fresh and original, and there is attention to characterisation to try to tug at people's heartstrings.

There is only one bizarre choice of casting, where the protagonist's son, a young black boy, sounds like a little white girl, which is really distracting when he talks, and the audience is expected to feel something when the little tyke meets his tragic demise in the game's first level. Is it cheap to kill off the main character's kid to manipulate the audience? Totally. Does it give the hero the excuse to go all Death Wish meets Gipsy Danger on the usurpers? Definitely. This is a fairly simple story about a parent seeking some bloodthirsty vengeance on the thugs that got his/her kid killed. It isn't much, but it gets the job done and serves as an excuse to have a mecha pilot dish out some carnage.

The downside to the narrative presentation is that the cutscenes are unskippable, and in a short game like this that begs for replay to fully max out the Archangel's stats/abilities, it's really tedious to have to sit through every scene over and over. The point cost raises exponentially with every purchase, too, so Archangel is a game that will test everyone's patience to the point the game becomes really frustrating.

Archangel plays its fairly safe with its game design. There are no surprises when Walker takes control of the robot, and the narrative keeps pushing everything forward without any downtime. At best, specific levels introduce new weapons at fixed intervals, but that's about it. A story free arcade mode would have been appreciated for those who don't have the patience of a saint, since replay value was designed into Archangel's core gameplay. One thing that is disappointing is that more powerful weapons earned in later levels cannot be taken to earlier levels, even though spending points on upgrading them is encouraged, which does reduce their utility.

Visually, Archangel won't win any awards. There is a lot of poor lip sync with characters communicating via video feed to the cockpit, and the poly count and texture resolution is kept pretty low to ensure a high frame rate, and character's don't cast any shadows at all. The best looking aspects of the game are always the assets pertaining to the cockpit and the Archangel's arms. There are a lot of flat looking smoke effects, but, really, these are minor quibbles with an otherwise okay-looking PSVR title.

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Final Score
[i]Archangel[/i] a pretty straightforward rail shooting experience that has put a strong effort in presenting its narrative and characters, even if it does come at the cost of replay value. The inability to skip cutscenes really hurt this one. The story itself lays out everything in a fairly predictable fashion and really only serves as the excuse to get inside of a mech and blow up ships. It does not reach the absurd heights as seen in [i]Armored Core[/i] games, so it isn't exactly a story worth experiencing more than once. The physical act of playing [i]Archangel[/i] is its strength, since it feels like how operating a turret from inside a large machine would probably feel like.

6

/10

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