Pacific Rim looks like every kid’s dream film (whether man-child or young child) gigantic robots known as Jaegers battling evil alien forces that have found their way out from the bottom of the sea, the Kaiju. Looking like the film Transformers was trying its hardest to be, Pacific Rim looks simply down right cool. What better way to tap into this uber-cool idea than with a game! Who hasn’t dreamed of taking control of a gigantic robot beast to do battle with evil? Well the studio Yuke’s have had the chance to turn this boyhood dream into a real game, choosing to focus purely on the fights between mech and beast, Pacific Rim the game is a brawler much like any other fighting game, but how does it stand up? And is it worth your time as a simple XBLA title?
Visually, you’re in for a treat. While the surroundings you’ll encounter during each battle aren’t anything to write home about, the detail put into each Jaeger and Kaiju is pretty impressive. You can see each wire and metal plate holding your mech together as you grind your epicly-oversized fist into the face of your enemy!
The fighting itself is where opinion may be divided as there’s not much in the shape of a move list. Essentially you run each battle off the back of a standard and power attack, with the option to change stance/style with the right bumper giving you alternate versions of the same attacks, there’s also a running attack and a special move. Controlling both the Jaeger and Kaiju is rather slow and clunky, which at first is rather annoying but if you give it time, as you fight on, you’ll find yourself getting rather hooked. Considering the size and weight of the combatants, the movement speed makes sense in the narrative so can be forgiven. There was one glaring issue which seemed to bring you out of the fight though, a ‘power bar’. Each fighter starts off with a twenty percent power bar which will deplete with each move, including dodging and running. In theory this is a good idea, but more often than not, after two or three swings of your mighty fist you’ll have no energy left, meaning that you’ll be spending a lot of time walking in circles around your enemy in the hopes that the bar will recharge ASAP, to be honest it’s rather tormenting! Sometimes this adds a little tension to battles, running low just when you’re about to score the winning blow, but on mostly it just slowed the pace right down, almost to a halt, serving only to draw you out of the experience.
There’s no real story or narrative beyond the opening intro of still images which vaguely explain the story, I’d imagine this is to avoid any spoilers but even so, it was delivered in a slow and boring manner with a few text sentences void of any voice overs. A simple thing to be lacking but quite a big difference in feel it seems to bring to the game overall.
The same can be said of the soundtrack, which features only one part of the film’s score repeated on loop over the menus and battles. With only one piece of music, used over and over, it does nothing to add depth to the game or tension to the fighting, and instead makes everything rather Deja Vu, which is a huge shame. I could imagine a deep, pounding beat laced over the top of your gargantuan battles would really add some much-needed life and excitement to what could have been a great title.
On the single player side of things, the game is divided into two sections. Normal missions and survival missions, which essentially equate to arcade mode (battle one enemy after the other) and survival (battle waves of enemies with particular move sets or styles) as you battle through either of these modes you will unlock XP, this is then used as in-store currency to buy one time boosts such as speed, health and energy which can be used during battle for quick pick me ups. XP may also be used to purchase Jaeger parts to build your ultimate fighting machine.
Multiplayer is where the game really shines, diving into a quick lobby to do battle with friends around the world is a nice experience but I found it much more exhilarating to grab a friend, jump on the couch and do battle split screen. Something that I’ve always felt modern games have started to do away with, any multiplayer that proudly offers split-screen is a win for me. After all, how can you boast a win when your opponent isn’t right next to you?
A big draw back to Pacific Rim, despite the modes available to you, is the huge lack of fighters available. You only have three Jaegers to choose from and eventually only four Kaiju (in case you’re up for playing as the bad guy), sure you can go and create your own Jaeger in the creation menu but this only went on to highlight the ‘freemiuim’ nature of the game. Firstly to build a half-way decent Jaeger you’ll need a large amount of XP which will take a lot of time to accrue organically, meaning you’re almost forced to pay and download packs of the stuff (at roughly £2 a pop) then once you have the currency flowing you can begin building.
That’s where the spending ends right? I can put my wallet away? wrong!
Once you’ve built your beast of a machine, you’ll think that standard all-over grey is too boring. I’ll paint it, but that’s something you can’t do until you cough up some more money.
The menu is there, you can even go in and paint your fighting machine to see just how cool it can look, but you’ll be warned “please note, any changes won’t be saved as you haven’t purchased the JAEGER DESIGNER”. I know what you’re thinking, I thought it too, if the content is already on your Xbox through your initial purchase, then why should you be paying again? The same goes for extra content such as more stages to fight in, more Kaiju to play as, even better parts to build a much better Jaeger. It’s all there, but it’ll cost you to ‘unlock’.
I think Yuke’s have tried to pull a Capcom on us! And it’s a shame that one of the best ideas in the game, which could have made it that much better, is an add-on service.
Overall Pacific Rim isn’t an awful game, in fact it can get addictive and is definitely a blast if you’ve got a friend/sibling to torment, but there’s a lot missing which could have made an average/decent game into a great game. The lack of content is frustrating and the ‘freemium’ services forced in, almost blackmailing you into paying more for improvements which should have been included.
It’s definitely worth a go, but don’t expect too deep an experience and please, please don’t be drawn into paying more for what should be free.