God Eater 2: Rage Burst (PS4)

If you have even a passing interest in monster hunting titles, then chances are you might have heard that the God Eater franchise has made its long awaited debut on home consoles and PC. God Eater 2: Rage Burst is a remastered port of the original PSP game from 2013. 

Set 3 years after the events of the first God Eater in a post apocalyptic world populated by monstrous Aragami that consume everything in their path, you take the role of Blood Alpha, a new recruit joining the ranks of Blood special forces as an experimental unit consisting of a new-type of God Eaters to hunt down the Aragami. Your avatar is customized using a heavily anime-inspired character creation system, with the option to customize your looks and apparel at any time afterwards from a surprising variety of cosmetics (once you unlock them of course). Want to go out as a cat-eared maid while wrecking monsters? You most definitely could, if that's your thing.

In fact, the God Eater franchise really brings the anime-ness into its core aesthetics, confidently striding an otaku-centric path. Much of its design oozes with style, from the post-apocalyptic setting and rice lore, to the cool designs of the various Aragami and the god arcs designed to kill them. Dashing, dodging, slicing and blasting Aragami to the tune of a bombastic techno inspired soundtrack was definitely a novel satisfying experience for me. Monster hunter has never looked this cool.

The core gameplay loop involves player(s) selecting a mission, gear up, choose from a selection of squadmates and support skills, drop right into the field to hunt down the aragami, reap the rewards, craft new gear and repeat. Pretty much all the missions boil down to kill "X" target as the sole objective. While this structure may seem shallow at first, the core appeal and hook of monster hunting titles is tactically engaging large monsters and crafting new gear from their loot, and by cutting out much of the excess busywork , involved in similar titles there is a nice immediacy to the action that isn't bogged down by busywork like tracking down the monster over large expanses of land or foraging for crafting materials that
can reeeeally bog down the pacing. 

Difficulty wise, God Eater is not quite as technically complex or difficult as Monster Hunter. But that would apply to most tiles when comparing anything to a title as hardcore as Monster Hunter, and by no means that the Aragami should be underestimated, as they can promptly make quick work of any careless god eaters in the later portions of the game. Whatever the case, I must say I found it no less satifying to pop in for quick 5-10 minute  hunts in God Eater comapared to the 10-30 minute grinders that Monster Hunter is known for.

Similaly, with only a handfull of moves and weapon combos to each of the game's 8 weapon types, GE lacks the sheer depth and mechanical complexity of Monster Hunter's arsenal, but makes up for it in the high speed, high mobility combat. The morphing god arcs allow players to quickly switch from melee strikes to gun form to pop off a few quick shots at the tap of the button, taking time to use devours to take literal bites off enemies to temporarily enter burst mode for even more mobility and damage. The constant need to stay on the move, looking for openings to lay in the hurt before quickly dashing away while needing to maintain burst mode creates a frantic pace that is both exhilarating and satisfying. Augmenting the core combat is the use of blood arts that modify existing moves, such as adding literal blade beams to normal swings or switching aerial combos into what is essentially omnislash. Blood arts level up naturally as you use them and some become ludicrously powerful attacks when maxed out. Its a simple addition, but one that I would like to see greatly expanded upon in future releases.

Progression in the game is done mostly through building and upgrading new weapons, guns, shields, modules, cosmetics, and skill modifiers to equip. Min-maxing is far from required in this game, but rather focuses on letting players used whatever they find aesthetically pleasing and best complement their playstyle. Finding a style that works for you and gradually tuning your kit to synergize with it will be a difference between a 5-minute from a 10-minute kill.

One especially unique aspect to God Eater is the ability to craft your own bullets. Unlocked shortly into the campaign, bullet modification is a surprisingly complicated and robust system with nowhere near sufficient a tutorial to get newcomers up to speed on its intricacies. Depending on the gun type of sniper, assault, blastgun or spread, the bullets they use can be individually customized using 5-7 modules. The modules completely dictate the properties of the fired projectile, controlling the distance, direction, damage type and timing in relation to one another. Examples of some creations include a vertically fired bullet that increases in damage as it travels that spins in place rapidly for a few secs before homing in on the target, or a bullet that on impact releases a wild flurry of orbiting lasers that shred the target. 

Its unfortunate that the system itself is pretty unintuitive to the uninitiated. Anyone looking to wrap their heads around it may read up on some online tutorial and examples of optimized bullets, experiment using the in-game firing range before letting their own crazy creations out onto the field.  

In combat, the player is accompanied by a group of up to 3 other god eaters. Selected from a expanding roster of pre-written NPCs, the AI for your allies is surprisingly competent, providing far far more utility than in other genre contemporaries. While definitely not as potent as a well experienced players, they generally do a decent job at drawing aggro, healing, buffing, debuffing, and plain staying alive, keeping in mind that the player will still have to do the lion's share of the damage for gameplay purposes. The personalities of these support characters can vary from pretty good to simple cardboard cliches, but the writing does a good job at making your fellow god eaters a charming and likable bunch to spend time with. Alternatively you can easily hop online to have up to 3 players join you for some jolly cooperation, and from my limited experience the netcode is generally smooth.

Now, I have gotten this far without mentioning the story. Its average at best and filled with plenty of anime cliches. It still maintains an engaging enough core plot with some twists to keep things moving, but it largely acts as a vehicles to push players onto missions of increasing difficulty. This ain't no masterpiece of storytelling, but to have a functional story at all in fact is a huge plus point of God Eater has over its competitors. Having a decent narrative and characters that are worth caring for goes a long way at making the frequent hunts from feeling like a desensitized grindfest.

God Eater 2: Rage Burst is a port of a 3 year old PSP game and it often shows it. The anime-inspired aesthetics, solid character designs and the updated models does much to make the characters look just fine on the console, but the same cant be said about the simple background assets and textures. The combat encounters all take place in a variety of small to medium sized areas, which while it may seem limiting at first, is a surprising welcome change from the need to slog through large distances and multiple loading screens just to chase the monster around. Initially, I was a little mindful of the aged look of the game, but the feeling quickly got pushed aside in-lieu of the satisfying gameplay and story, and this makes it all the more exciting as its sequel for current gen consoles is already teased. That and I genuinely cannot discount the sheer benefit of playing a monster hunting game on a proper television or monitor after years of being confined to handhelds.

God Eater 2: Rage Burst relies on its strong gameplay, likable cast and decent narrative to carry its otherwise simple concept. I was genuinely engrossed in my 70 hour playthrough of the main campaign. This game shows that a leaner, faster Monster Hunter can be just as engaging, and accommodates a busy schedule far better with its short 5-10 minutes sessions. Anyone looking for a monster hunting title on home consoles or PC should definitely look into this little gem.


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