Approaching its third season, the wildly successful anime Attack on Titan centres on a world where mankind has been driven to near extension by lumbering man-eating titans. Sounds like the perfect fit for a video game, right? Well, if you saw our 6/10 review of the first Attack on Titan, then you'll know that we didn't feel that the jump between mediums was handled too smoothly. Constant repetition, performance issues and a weak narrative all prevented it from being a true monster to contend with. Two years later and we have the release of a sequel but does it deliver the adaption we always anticipated or is it just another colossal disappointment?
The story sees you join the Scout Regiment, a military division that is tasked with saving mankind from the onslaught of the Titans. Unlike the first title, you're given a comprehensive character creator you can use to shape your fighter before joining the rest of the cast in training. After slaying some wooden dummies out in the woods and getting to grips with your ODM (omni-directional mobility gear), you're off to seek revenge for the fallen and to protect the walls that surround the city. The story this time focuses on the second season of the anime but there are also elements included from the first to help get newcomers up to speed.
Using your ODM gear to propel yourself across the environment like Spider-Man you must land a range of carefully coordinated blows on the attacking titans. Momentum here is the key and you'll want to strategically slash off your opponent's limbs to prevent them from defending themselves properly. By slitting a titan's nape (their week spot) you and the environment will be drenched in blood and when you cut off their limbs they will stumble round crawling like a worm until they can swallow you whole. The adrenaline gets pumping thanks to the constant fast pace of the battles and the gore and grotesque imagery on display always feels chilling.
We did find the controls a little difficult to get used to, particularly when maintaining speed and chaining together our attacks. Holding R1 (on PS4) enables you to target your limb of choice and by hitting triangle you fire an anchor and are propelled directly towards it. There's the option to press the X button for an extra boost in speed (if you have fuel), but this demands a much swifter response although it can deal much greater damage. New to Attack on Titan 2 are sneak attacks, which can be performed by pressing R2 and locking onto a Titan through your scope. You can land quick executions here if you time your attack precisely but gazing down the scope too long will send the Titans into a fit of rage.
Teamwork here is vital, and you have the power to recruit four allies in battle. By pressing the circle button, you can enlist the help of other fighters and with a few pushes of the D-pad you can send them to attack once their cooldown time has expired. We loved that we could send our team members to the rescue when on the brink of death - seeing them swing in and slash at a titan never got boring. An interesting mechanic is that by improving your friendship with other characters you can receive upgrades like improvements to health and leadership. This is done by entering optional interactions between missions and offering positive responses to dialogue.
As you fight your fuel and blade sharpness will start to deplete making it vital that you build bases to resupply. There are different bases that you can build that unlock through the campaign, including cannons that you can mount, mining posts that can dig for better resources, as well as general supply towers. These are built by using a required amount of flare guns which you can obtain by completing the optional side quests identified by green smoke signals. Whilst these are useful in providing resources and even additional allies, they mainly boil down to the exact same thing - killing more titans.
What we touched upon earlier is easily A.O.T. 2's biggest let down - sheer repetition. Many quests within the story will see you repeating the same objectives of clearing out titans, escorting survivors, and protecting buildings. The areas where you wander around town speaking to NPCs offer the most variation but even then it's lacking as you just speak to characters and upgrade gear. Granted there is more included later, such as more bases you can build and other methods of traversal like horses, but things soon got tedious. Even the act of killing the titans soon become dull especially as sneak kills can be exploited and it's easy to bag yourself a one-shot kill.
A saving grace is the poorly titled "other mode", which features competitive and cooperative modes. Here you can play as 37 playable characters from both seasons of the anime which are unlocked by completing episodes in the story mode and that each has their own stats. Perhaps our favourite mode was the cooperative 4v4 Annihilation, which sees you rack up as many titan kills as possible to earn more points than your competitors. There are scout missions too that allow you to bring a buddy along for the ride. While it is more of the same from the campaign, it's great to experience battles with a friend and having them there to help revive you is greater during higher difficulties.
The cel-shaded style adopted for Attack on Titan perfectly captured the feel of the anime and reminded us an awful lot of the Gravity Rush series. The developer has done a great job of making the Titans look as chilling as possible with their lifeless expressions and strange naked appearance. On the performances side of things, not everything is as rosy. When you're fighting a mob or are tearing through the buildings around you the frame rate stutters significantly which doesn't lend itself well to the precise nature of attacking. Objects also started to pop in and out and Titans would get themselves stuck in walls and buildings. Hopefully, this can be fixed in a later patch as it presented a constant annoyance and really disrupted the flow of battle.
A.O.T. 2 is a competent sequel that's packing all the thrills of its 2016 predecessor whilst sprinkling in a few additions of its own. Sadly, though, it inherits many of the original's flaws too; at times it gets a little tedious and repetitive, and there are frame-rate issues that work to hamper the precise combat demanded of the player. We still loved whizzing across the environment and dismembering the giant beasts that tried to stalk us, but these moments were surrounded by plenty of frustration. If there is a plan to adapt the third season into video game form then let's hope that more can be introduced to shake up the formula and provide us with the definitive AOT title we're so desperately clambering for.
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