Finally, this obscure previously Japanese-exclusive mission-based arena combat Vita game from 2012 is now available in the west. The question is: was it worth enhancing and porting Assault Gunners to PlayStation 4?
Assault Gunners has you play as a soldier in a peace keeping force known simply as DAT. It's your team's job to protect Mars colonies from the mysterious invading ANTS. It's basic stuff so let's move on to the gameplay. The campaign consists of mission-based stages that last anywhere from a minute to well over five. You control your mech by moving with the left stick and aiming with the right within a third-person perspective. The left shoulder button is used for evasive moves such as boosting and jumping while the right attacks. You can change weapons on the fly using the face buttons that correspond to your currently equipped main, sub, fist, and shoulder weapons which is odd because L2 and R2 aren't used at all. Why couldn't they be mapped to a couple of those weapons? Anyway, it's very easy to learn how to play and fighting hordes of robot enemies is actually pretty enjoyable.
It's true that Assault Gunners HD Edition certainly doesn't look like much with its PlayStation 2 era visuals but I found everything to at least be clean and unambiguous which allows you to focus on the gameplay. Although it doesn't look impressive, I quite liked the audio. The music is composed of subdued electronic tunes that fit the vibe while the effects are spot-on as you hear gunfire and explosions everywhere. There are also voices that offer a welcome layer of humanity to the onscreen chaos even if you don't understand what they're saying seeing as they are all Japanese. You can change your navigator's voice, too, in case you get annoyed by them.
As you work through the 35 campaign missions, you'll regularly need to head down to the hangar where you can customize your fleet of four mechs. There's an impressive amount of options with a variety of body and leg types such as bipods, tetrapods, tanks, and hover. On top of these basic parts, you can also swap your four weapons between an array of close-range weapons, assault rifles, shotguns, laser rifles, plasma guns, plasma rifles, submachine guns, pulse rifles, pulse vulcans, cannons, missile launchers, vertical launching systems, standard vulcans, and grenade launchers. Phew, that's a lot of weapon types! There are also loads of expansion modules that provide boosts. Finally, you'll increase your pilot level as you play as well as gather development points that you can use to enhance and purchase parts. Needless to say, the vast assortment of customization options makes optimizing your team a very rewarding endeavor.
Unfortunately, all Assault Gunners HD Edition consists of is the mission-based campaign plus a survival mode (Inferno Mode) that has a handful of maps. There are no leaderboards which is disappointing and also no multiplayer options which I find odd considering you always have three allies yet they have to be controlled by the AI. Another downside is that the difficulty relies heavily on grinding. After playing for well over 5 hours, I rarely felt like my skills had anything to do with success. Whenever I got stuck, I just upgraded some parts which made things a lot easier. Lastly, the missions themselves get very tedious after a short while. There is variety in the sense that some require you to protect an asset, take out a boss enemy, or hack into computers but nothing really stands out.
Assault Gunners is an odd game to dig out of obscurity. Thankfully, this HD Edition provides some fun for mech enthusiasts who love to craft custom creations but it certainly doesn't feel like a current generation experience.
- + Simple and fun mech combat gameplay
- + Loads of customization features that make designing your team of mechs rewarding
- + Well-done audio and clean visuals
- - Difficulty relies too much on grinding
- - Missions start to become rather tedious after completing about a dozen of them
- - No multiplayer or leaderboards