AnthemPS4, Xbox One, PC¦ Shooter
Everyone wishes they could fly, just ask Orville. For many, it was probably admiring Superman – either in comic print or on the big screen – with his cape flowing behind him as he flew through the air, which initially caught the eye.
Despite leaps and bounds in technology/mutant gene tinkery, we still can’t just take off to the skies. Even in the (relatively) safe space of video gaming, the ability to just strike a Superman pose with fist raised in the air and take flight, is remarkably limited.
Concern yourself no more flight fans, Anthem has landed.
The world is in conflict, so it depends on the bravery of Freelancers, a breed of hero that, equipped with tech heavy exosuits, put themselves on the frontline, to protect the planet from evil.
It’s your job, as one of four classes of Freelancers available, to suit up and shoot stuff. There is a story attached, but it is so convoluted it’s not worth anyone’s time attempting to describe it. Needless to say, the world needs saving, and it’s down to you, and up to three others online, to get the job done.
The first thing you have to get your head around is the game’s central hub, which mostly takes place in an area known as Fort Tarsis. It’s here that your exosuit is located, and you get to pick your missions.
As hubs go Tarsis is a basic one. Although it gives the illusion that it’s a busy fort, the reality is, most of its community are in fixed places. You find them, chat with them, possibly get a mission from them, and find your way back to the suit again. And repeat. There was a recent update, which the game was clearly crying out for, that has sped up this monotony, by giving you the option to go straight on a mission once been given it, but it only papers over one of many visible cracks.
To begin with, you’re on a fairly linear path, but once you level up a few times, you get the option of taking part in Strongholds and in freeplay mode. Strongholds are set missions that are the most testing element of the game, that sees you and your fellow online Freelancers, face a barrage of enemies, wave after wave. If you die during battle, you have to wait to be revived by another player, or wait a considerable amount of time before you can respawn. This mode can take a while, so if you like shooting stuff in waves, knock yourself out.
Freeplay literally gives you the freedom to traverse the world any way you see fit. You can take your time exploring regions, take on trials, or help out some poor old souls in trouble, it’s up to you. The world is quite a pretty one too, so it’s fairly enjoyable to take in the sights.
It’s the campaign mode that’s the most stuttering. The story is so devoid of any real structure or interest that it’s difficult to either understand or care what’s going on. It’s a real shame as some of the writing, the dialogue in particular, is vibrant and amusing. But as it's all from static characters, it amounts to very little, sadly.
And then there are the more serious issues that have plagued the game since release. There have been rumours that, for PS4 players at least, the game has been bricking consoles, which, is rather unfortunate. It may actually be more of an urban myth than reality, but there does seem more truth in the game causing the console to crash, forcing a re-boot, which is never nice. Our review copy was for the PS4, and although we haven’t had anything quite as traumatic occur, we have noticed the game behaving glitchy in places. It does appear that Xbox and PC players are on safer ground, which must be a relief for them at least. BioWare have taken stock of these complaints and updates are doing the rounds, so hopefully the game can run a lot smoother in the future.
The other issue is that of micro transactions. Although they are fast becoming the bane of gamers’ existence, they aren’t entirely crippling here. The only thing available to buy are items to make your exosuit prettier, so if you don’t need any cosmetic upgrade, you’re good to go.
To all intent and purposes, the game does feel and play like a Destiny copycat, which we could have really done without.
Even its biggest USP, of being able to fly like Superman or Iron Man, is hampered by the fact that you have to pass through water to cool your engines down on a regular basis, or suffer a crash landing.
That said, we did find teaming up with three other players online to tackle missions, a fairly enjoyable experience. We are no fans of multiplayer affairs generally, but as you have to work together to defeat AI enemies, the pressure felt lessened for the need to perform well. Also, despite the fact you can play it in a solo campaign, there was no easy signpost as to how to, so multiplayer it was.
It certainly doesn’t realise its potential, and it’s difficult to see if it ever will regardless of how many updates it gets.
It has some nice ideas, buried deep down, but otherwise it feels unoriginal and plagiaristic in its gameplay and mechanics.
Anthem is a game that was probably born of good intentions, but is let down by poor execution and being rushed out the door before being really ready. It is visually pleasing in places, and is quite a thrill to take off and fly through the skies, but other than that, it’s a game that makes it difficult to sing its praises.