PreVa: Human After All

By Kieron Gillen on July 4th, 2008 at 12:33 pm.

ROBOT! ROBOT! ROBOT! ROBOT!
RPS likes robots. Of course, saying “RPS likes Robots” when introing a game like PreVA is guaranteed to prick the temper of at least one mecha fan in the comments thread in a, “They’re not robots! They’re enormous exoskeletons,” way. Which is exactly why we’d say “We like Robots” in the first place. You will learn, mecha-fan, you will learn.

Anyway – PreVa’s an indie giant Mecha game with a splash of Terra Nova which has just released a demo. About 200Mb, which you can get from here. And being a PC mecha game, it’s something of a novelty. Some impressions beneath the cut.

Well, it’s not exactly great. It makes a brave shot of trying to get the slickness of the games which inspired it – short, interspatial cut-scenes try and set the scene, but only work in a Nineties kind of way. In fact, the talking heads aspect is one of the main things which reminds me of lost-Looking Glass classic Terra Nova.

The other two being Jetpacks – which are also a mecha trope, admittedly – and the fact you’re in charge of a small squad of chums who are off to fight other suited beings.

The latter’s the biggest problem, at least with a Mecha-Game. There’s little sense that these are enormous suits. They feel like spacesuits, even to the way they control. They’re nimble, turning on a dime and able to walk as quickly forward as backwards. Similarly, the scenery isn’t built to a scale which suggests our enormousness. Hell, if you didn’t see the cutscene with a tiny man being locked inside your ship, you’d almost certainly assume you were just a spacesuit guy.

Get past though, and it’s some quick-paced space-blasting. There appear to be dozens of mecha to pilot, though they’re not really in the demo – I only have a basic machinegun and force-blades one on the first level, and the neat chaps like the hover-craft were out of bounds, and would clearly feel a lot more like the standard. It’s not complicated, but the alternate picking off with machine guns, hiding behind your shield and manouvering behind an engaged enemy to tear them apart with a hot energy blade has a certain charm. I don’t get to tear people apart with hot energy blades enough, mark my words.

ROBOT! ROBOT! ROBOT! ROBOT! ROBOT! YES, YOU HEARD ME, MECHA FAN! IT'S A BLOODY ROBOT!

At which point we hit the biggest problem – the demo crashed three times. First two times I couldn’t work out whether it was because I’d completed the level or died (the latter reveals another problem – there’s little sense of damage to your craft. It took me until my third go to locate what I thought was my health meter, and even then I’m not sure). Third time, I decided it was neither, and was just unstable on my machine when you reached the base.

Worth playing to see if it works better on yours? If you’re a real mecha devotee, you’ve already clicked. For everyone else… no, not really. Though it awakens a hunger for some heavy metal action on the PC again. I’d kill for a Cyberton-set Transformers MMO, randomly…

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26 Comments »

  1. The Sombrero Kid says:

    i’m interested, my current project at home is a cross between deus ex and terra nova, 2 of my top 5 games EVA! although that’ll never actually get past the early running around shooting boxes pre alpha, so i’m definatly gonna check this out!

  2. cullnean says:

    @KG “Though it awakens a hunger for some heavy metal action on the PC again. I’d kill for a Cyberton-set Transformers MMO, randomly…”

    nah set on earth coz on cybertron the scale would be different also on cybertron there is no need to be a robot in disguise.

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yes, but you also have Eternal War. The robots in disguise stuff was never really that interesting, at least for an MMO.

    KG

  4. gulag says:

    Heavy Gear was a great mecha game for the PC. Most might champion BattleTech ahead of it, especially 4, which was a blast, but Heavy Gear had a tight build-your-own system (somehow lost in the sequel?!) and portrayed the size and limitations of the mechas perfectly. The gameplay was very flexible, letting you complete missions with a wide degree of latitude, and the world it was set in made about as much sense as a game that features walking tanks as warmachines has any right to. Top game, well worth a look even today, although I imagine it looks kind of graphically sparse now.

  5. cullnean says:

    aha but the whole disgusie thing can sync up for a travel power later on.

    also i have no idea what Eternal war is, so i shall discard your comment with scorn and contempt :)

    last thing i ever had to do with mechs was watching the film robojocks way back in me youth.

  6. The Sombrero Kid says:

    @gulag
    no! Terra Nova.

  7. Durbin says:

    mmmmmmmmmmmm Terra Nova

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    Cullnean: The Cybertronian war had been waging for several millions years. Therefore, you can kind of get a setting which makes some fucking sense in MMO terms.

    KG

  9. cullnean says:

    @KG: fair one, but from an uneducated in the matter stand point(ie me) a selling point would invole things that make the game familiar to the player.

    imagine transformers in paragon city thats what im getting at.

  10. Chris says:

    Terra Nova was fantastic, although playing it now I notice that I never did work out what most of the controls were.

    They’re not really mechs in that though are they? More kind of power armour things, human size-ish.

    I’d love a proper new Mechwarrior game, especially multiplayer, even MMO. Actually, if they did a proper Mechwarrior MMO I’d fear for my job, family and sanity.

  11. Dr. Azrael Tod says:

    my favorite mecha-game is still earthsiege 2
    The movement, the weapons, the story.. everything was just perfect.

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    Cullean: Thousands of transformers running around with humans by their feet? I dunno.

    Honestly, I don’t care about the licence. It’s just that you could do a lot with robot beings on a planet trapped in an eternal war.

    KG

  13. cullnean says:

    @KG: Planetside 2?

    id but that for a dollar!

  14. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah, basically. And being robots you can have a mechanism when – say – you start as an average combat droid, and gradually replace your parts to lead to radically different builds.

    KG

  15. cullnean says:

    @KG: i catch ya drift now

    Exoskeleton size being the only real choice at the start building into a make your own class type game, hopefully with a system to stop the forcing of cookie cutter builds.

    or a mad max style mmo thats not shit, just noticed im now repeating you but with slightly different words.

  16. iainl says:

    “here’s little sense that these are enormous suits. They feel like spacesuits, even to the way they control. They’re nimble, turning on a dime and able to walk as quickly forward as backwards.”

    I may not be the biggest fan of Big Robot games (or indeed much of a fan at all), but far too many of them make the reverse mistake of _really_ playing just like an FPS, except (to imply the momentum of 25 tonnes of metal on the go) like your standard FPS guy is running in treacle with controls about as intuitive as the original GTA.

    There has to be some balance between the two somewhere; the _idea_ of big robots clouting each other is great.

  17. CLLMM says:

    Sounds vaguely like an indie Heavy Gear actually.

  18. Janto says:

    Every mech game should be more like Lungfishopolis

    A blend of stomping along at high speed, blasting out missiles and anti personnel rounds to fight infantry and aircraft, and then fixed positions to deploy your main guns against other mechs could be nice if balanced properly.

    and who wouldn’t want to play an 40K Epic MMO where you were Titans, eh? Little men living in your feet, shooting wildly as you stomp your big foot down into the middle of an infantry squad. Hah, transformers!

  19. Noc says:

    On the Mech Warrior-esque MMO:

    I thought Chromehounds was one? For the 360? Though I don’t know if it was any good or not.

  20. Optimaximal says:

    I would murder a small innocent puppy for a TRUE Transformers RPG – true in the sense that is must be G1, must feature at least Cybertron & Earth (via Space Bridges) and allow true Spore-esque procedural character creation that allows mechanical transformation between robot and its alt-form.

    It would do a mint!

  21. malkav11 says:

    There are two distinct breeds of giant robot – there’s the Battletech interpretation (the quasi-vaguely-realistic one, in other words), where giant robots are huge lumbering tanks that tend to lead to games that are basically sims. This appears to be the direction you were approaching from. I like this fine, and think it makes more sense. But there’s also the anime school of robot, as epitomized in things like Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, where they’re fast, nimble, and have a distressing fondness for energy swords. This game sounds like it’s using that take on them.

    I don’t mean to suggest that there are no anime where mechs are big and clunky and so on, but anime is where the fast, nimble ones mostly come from.

  22. The Shed says:

    I’m surprised it took me so long to get the Daft Punk reference.

    One love to you, Gillen.

    Chromehounds was allegedly one of the most dull singleplayer experiences ever- but the online MMO battles were said to be good. A good acquaintence of mine waged clan wars on it for a good year or two, and it was apparently fantastique. Certainly sounded like prog action fun.

  23. Stromko says:

    Chromehounds wasn’t a real MMO, it was just an online matchmaker with the ability to buy new parts. Parts which you couldn’t use in the much more complex SP missions after purchasing, sadly. There were only two types of missions online; the destroy-the-rival-HQ (or all enemies) missions that helped your nation claim a territory and were played against either CPU ‘mechs or rival players(Chromehounds), and then the ‘instant action’-type missions where you were tasked with destroying a bunch of weak ‘mechs (not chromehounds, walkers and such). There were also configurable deathmatch and team deathmatch missions people could host and run. It could be lots of fun with your friends, but most games are.

    The customization system was quite good, not /quite/ as freeform as that indie game ‘Master Plan’, but more variety and more balanced. There was a strong sense of scale, most Chromehounds were quite slow, lumbering, they could dish out and take a lot of fire. Flying was merely the fevered dream of a madman (there wasn’t any).

    The main failing of Chromehounds was that the developers have given it no real support. Years after its release, you still have to wait through ten or twelve slooow “X has given money to his nation” announcements that mean absolutely nothing to you and that crowd out any news you’d actually want to hear.

    On another tangent, I quite liked Armored Core 4(another XB360 game). It was very much in the anime mecha style, fast, maneuverable, included lots of swords in addition to machineguns, bazookas, etc, but the fidelity with which it delivered that experience really impressed me. I’m fairly sure it’s from the same developers but the customization was completely different. You could put together a mech that zipped around like a bee t and could fly for minutes at a time.

    I wish I could still run HeavyGear 2, but it doesn’t support either Windows XP or modern CPUs, can’t remember which. The first HeavyGear PC game tried some interesting things, not really being faithful in the play and customization of the ‘Gears themselves but bringing across the idea of a standard military campaign from the sourcebooks complete with dueling, landships, all that jazz. C&C / Wing Commander – style cinematics (as in, actors).

    I much preferred the gameplay of HeavyGear 2 though, and the way you could mount various weapons on different hardpoints, and that panel that let you tweak armor, speed, maneuverability, firecontrol and such was a little more in line with how I thought the pen&and paper ‘Gears should be translated. Never finished it, the campaign had a lot of welcome variety but was also a bit uneven, and I quit during the mission that asked me to jump over a bunch of underground moats in a tunnel …

    The unnusual thing about the whole HeavyGear theme that I’d like to see brough tback, is that the ‘Gears (mechs) aren’t the end-all be-all battlefield juggernauts. They’re maybe up to 5 meters tall, they can’t have the biggest guns or the heaviest armor, they essentially fill the role of Stryker IFV’s at best, or lightweight scout Humvees bristling with sensors and radar-absorbing paint. Tanks, gunships, jets, even infantry get to shine in their own roles, the ‘Gears are just the best combination of maneuverability, capabilities and power.

    There was a Battletech MMO about (guessing here) 5 years ago. My brother was in the beta, I watched it, seemed sort of interesting though little more than a battletech team deathmatch game apparently. Got cancelled. :P There are probably still Battletech MU*’s out there, though my brother quit playing them so I haven’t been kept abreast of their state.

    I don’t think anybody’s quite figured out the formula for a good vehicular MMO that keeps people playing. Probably something along the lines of EVE, let them find their own goals and you’ll have a core of people that never leave.

  24. vic says:

    SHOGO multiplayer. That is all.

  25. gunwingfan01 says:

    Actually KG, the game has been released. GamersHell just got the demo, they’ve had the game released since last month. The website (itbgames.com/preva) has the full game for sale.

    As for the game, I think it’s great. :D

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