Otaku Obsession: Mobile Suit Gundam - Crossfire PS3 review

Originally posted to MAHQ.net on 11/29/06

The next generation of video gaming is now in full swing with the introduction of Sony's PlayStation 3. For the first time, a Gundam game is simultaneously launching in the U.S. and Japan (under the name Target in Sight). Bandai's anime-based games have a reputation for mediocrity, and unfortunately Crossfire does nothing to break from that trend. Like the vast majority of Gundam games, Crossfire is set during the One Year War. However, unlike other Gundam games, it neither follows the anime nor presents an original story. You simply pick Federation or Zeon and play some nameless soldier through many battles on Earth.

Crossfire's problems are apparent as soon you attempt to navigate through the game's needlessly complicated and unintiuitive menus. You're greeted with pages and pages of reading material in bland, gray boxes. To select a mission, you have to navigate a globe and pick from available missions. More are available as you progress through the game. If you choose the Federation, you'll start your first few missions in Australia and eventually move to Southeast Asia. The missions themselves are what you'd expect: patrol, rescue and search and destroy. You start off with just a few basic grunt suits to choose from. Want to upgrade your suit? Sure, but you can only do one upgrade per day. The menu has a bizarre "End Turn" button (bizarre because it sounds like it comes from an RTS game) that ends your turn and moves time forward a day. Damaged mobile suits must also be repaired after missions, and the more damage, the more time and skipped turns you need. The downside to this is that missions have a specific window for completion, so if you skip too many turns, you will lose some missions. You also have to skip turns when you requisition new pilots and mobile suits from the "Supply" menu.

Once you actually get into the action, you'll see more problems. The mobile suits themselves look great - Bandai opted for a gritty, dirty appearance that's more realistic than what's in most of the anime productions. Unfortunately, when the suits move, the frame rate drops massively and goes down to a crawl when two suits engage in combat. This sort of thing is to be expected in an older, weaker system like the PS2, but it's unacceptable for a state-of-the-art system like the PS3. Furthermore, the environments are as bland as in past Gundam PS2 games. You'll find lots of open spaces like deserts and forests, but nothing like a major metropolitan city.

Controls and camera work are also a problem. If you've played Gundam action games in the past on the PS2, you'll be familiar with Crossfire's controls. Movement is handled with the left analog stick, and the face buttons and some triggers are assigned to boost, primary weapon, secondary weapon, melee weapon and lock-on. The right analog stick is your camera, but don't expect it to do much. You don't get full 360 degree control, just limited paning to the left and right. The lock-on system is also broken because your suit has to be in line of sight to lock on. This means that if an enemy is behind you, you have to turn around, re-orient your view and then lock-on. By the time you do that, you're probably dead.

The game's audio doesn't fare much better. Thanks the increased storage capacity of Blu-ray discs, Bandai is able to include English and Japanese audio tracks. Unfortunately, the voice acting in both languages is sub par (although the Japanese is marginally better). The music is completely generic and could come from any action/war game. The sound effects are also supposed to be realistic, so don't expect to hear typical Gundam sound effects.

Crossfire's multiplayer isn't any better than the single player campaign. You start out with just a few mobile suits on each side, so you'll need to play through the single player to unlock them. Multiplayer is split screen vertical. Thanks to the poor camera system, you'll have an even harder time seeing your opponent. Also, the multiplayer is limited to two players offline. Launch titles like Resistance: Fall of Man offer robust multiplayer. However, given Crossfire's shortcomings, you probably wouldn't want to play it online anyway.

There are also several minor issues that are annoying. First, why are all the subtitles in goofy Comic Sans font? Why is the introduction to the One Year War in still screenshots rather than video? Other Gundam games feature video intros and briefings, but you'll hardly see any actual humans in this game. Because the game lacks a story, you won't care about your character. Past One Year War games have featured original stories, so there's no reason Crossfire couldn't have done the same.

In the end, Crossfire is just a mess of a game. For the most part, the unimpressive graphics and erratic frame rate make this feel like a PS2 game masquerading as a PS3 title. The game's menus and system are clunky and complicated. If you're looking for a good One Year War action-sim, dig up Rise from the Ashes on the Dreamcast. Sure, that game is seven years old, but to this day it's one of the best Gundam games created by Bandai. As old as it is, it beats Crossfire in every aspect: design, enjoyment and replayability. There's not much to enjoy in Crossfire, whether you're a casual gamer or a hardcore Gundam fan. The elements for a strong title are here, but they're a jumbled mess that results in a very poor product.

Overall Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

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