If you're like us you might have played War of the Monsters back on the PlayStation 2, and look back with fond memories on the times you spent smashing and crashing around giant cities as equally massive creatures. When we heard that The Balance Inc.'s Override: Mech City Brawl throws us into a similar situation and tasks us with taking down giant creatures that have the nerve to cause chaos in our cities then we couldn't wait to gear up and choose a mech to bring the smackdown.
The premise is pretty much exactly what we were expecting, as every fight takes place in a small arena with a forcefield around it, and you stomp through buildings like it's no big deal to crunch any and all foes in your way. A brief tutorial gives you the basics; with L2 and L1 (we played on PS4) you can kick and punch with your left leg and arm respectively, mirrored also with the right side of the controller. By holding square and pressing these buttons you get special attacks, and there are a few extras thrown in there like jumping attacks, dodges, block, and an ultimate move when you're very low on health. Basically, it's all very simple and doesn't take a long time to get to grips with.
It's a shame to see that the cities themselves don't impact the gameplay much. In War of the Monsters you could interact with the broken elements of the city - like throwing debris for example - and the buildings took a few hits to send tumbling to the ground, but here they need only be touched to be demolished. Everything feels like paper as you breeze through it, and there's no weight or substance other than something preventing you from seeing the enemy briefly.
After the tutorial was done and dusted we headed straight for the arcade mode to get some single-player in before we tried to compete with real people. This mode is built around a story that sees you take control of a mech rider who's enlisted to help with an incoming alien threat, and pulls upon many of the tropes that we've seen in Kaiju films like Godzilla. Big monsters are threatening humanity, and the big guns are needed to fight them off, essentially.
The story (which can be played co-op, by the way) has several characters who communicate via text box; there's a newsreader, a grumpy general, and a fun and friendly mechanic. That said, there's not a whole lot of depth here other than offering a means with which to pull you into different situations. You see, you need to take part in certain bouts of your choosing (a handful at a time, we should add) of varying difficulty, and at regular intervals you get a story mission with a bit more meat, featuring a boss and a new character perhaps.
These missions can get a bit repetitive, especially the smaller ones since they're essentially just beating waves of grunts time and time again, but the added elements like bosses, weapons (which you unlock as you go), mods that improve your mech, and more keep things a bit fresher. Still, a little more variety wouldn't have gone amiss in terms of the mission structure, even if you do keep getting rewards like cosmetic items and mods for completing each one.
Mechanically there's a lot of weight to the mechs, and not always in the most positive sense. Half of the time you do feel like a giant powerful machine as you fire rockets or charge up a kick to send an alien packing, but the movements are often slow and clunky and add more to the frustration than immersion. Small enemies are also capable of stunning you rather easily as well, especially when you're trying an attack that needs a fair while to wind up.
That said, executing a series of powerful moves is very satisfying, as are the weapons, which can be earned and picked up from around the battlefield. One highlight was the sword, adding to the Gundam vibe that sometimes seeped through, and we also liked the flamethrower as that one really packed a punch.
Speaking of Gundam, there are certainly a fair few mechs on the roster that look like they've taken not-so-subtle inspiration from that series, but there is still a lot of variety. One has a head that looks like an old '90s monitor, while another is a little like a green bug, and one even looks like a Roman soldier. Each has their own abilities and ultimate attacks too, so it's worth experimenting, especially if you're being competitive with either online or local versus.
If you do want to compete online, you can do so casually, or you can enter a ranked match to try and earn points to ascend the leaderboards. Sometimes it took a very long time to find a match on the casual side of things, but with ranked we usually found one right away, so that seems to be where people are playing.
The more you play the more you unlock personalisation options and cosmetic items, from the most Japanese of outfits (like the schoolgirl one, for example) to the downright weird (such as the pizza delivery costume). There are accessories to pick from as well, and since you earn these regularly in the arcade mode, it's a good way to keep players coming back for more.
We came away from Override feeling refreshed at what it had to offer, despite the moment-to-moment gameplay having its flaws. Sure it feels a bit clunky and it's a bit samey after a while, but for short bursts its fun to jump into a colourful fight to deal some hard knocks to a bunch of aliens. It's harder to become proficient when up against other humans, but it's definitely one to check out if you like mech fighting games.