Am I the only one who’s been feeling all meched out lately? Maybe it’s because of the slew of disappointing mech-driven Android titles, like Pacific Rim and MetalWars 3. More likely it’s because of the latest release of Transformers, a franchise that won’t rest until the red carpet only admits actors rolling out of exploding vehicles, or until all Hollywood films spend at least 50% of their total run time featuring Pepsi products. These factors contributed to my reservations about how Warhammer would translate to the mobile platform, despite its good reputation. I’m happy to say that Warhammer turned out to be a really excellent game, one that reminded me of a time before Michael Who Must Not Be Bayed. A time when controlling a suped-up robot war machine could make me feel so free.
Unlike other RTS Warhammer games, this is a 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up. Not unlike other Warhammer games, the graphics are really high quality. The environments have amazing detail, depicting gloomy cities in the background and metallic ruins in the foreground. The Orc enemies have a lot of personality that comes through in the distinct ways that they hold their bodies and through dour faces that seem to hide a lifetime of anguish, such that snuffing them out with a plasma gun really is for the best. I like that this game avoids robot-on-robot action by having you fight organic enemies, because it means that you get to leave a satisfying trail of blood in your wake rather than blue screens of death.
The gameplay is straightforward but challenging. Levels branch off into higher and lower paths, some of which can only be reached with a Jump Pack. This helps relieve the monotony of repeated playthroughs, which are necessary to earn the stars needed to advance in campaign mode. Warhammer is kind of a star miser. If you have a flawless run but take your sweet time orc-pulverizing then you’ll be docked a star. If you speed right through but don’t rack up enough kills then you may not earn more than a single star. And if you do poorly enough, Warhammer won’t hesitate to award you zero stars, you worthless hunk of metal, you. Were you forged by the Cult Mechanicus or General Motors?
In case things weren’t difficult enough, once you’ve proven yourself worthy you can increase the difficulty of a given level by 150 or 200 percent. If you want to make Warhammer a full time job, you can add nifty modifiers that, say, make all enemies explode on contact, or force you to complete a level in complete darkness. Though most levels are pretty short, you’ll be amazed at how little time it takes for you to die, and how quickly the Orcs will begin to argue about whether to melt you down into armor or a satellite dish.
Given its futuristic setting, Carnage’s generic 80’s metal soundtrack is somewhat incongruous, but hey, maybe Motorhead gets its renaissance in the year 40,000. At any rate, the squealing guitar and pounding bass do a good job of keeping me pumped during a run, but it’s annoying that the same music continues afterwards while I’m picking out upgrades. Deciding whether or not to buy an endurance belt just isn’t a headbanging affair. As for the equipment, there’s a lot of variety in the gear you can buy, prompting you to ask yourself questions like, “Is it more important to hold 8 grenades or 5 medikits? Is a brutal toxic pistol more brutal or more toxic?” Something that I like about the purchase system is that there isn’t an all-purpose convenient store where you can pick up whatever weapons you can afford. Instead, you get a limited selection based on the location of your last level. If you want to explore your options, you have to beat another level first.
For many, what will likely justify Warhammer’s $7 pricetag is its multiplayer options. Unfortunately, the game is still in its early stages of development, so I have not been able to take advantage of them thus far. Apparently if you earn all three stars in a level, you get the option of launching a “Fireteam Mission” within that level. However, that’s only possible if you have friends on Facebook or Google Plus who have downloaded the game and connected their accounts. Since that doesn’t apply to me, I don’t know what a Fireteam is or whether or not you’d want one. The good news is that Warhammer promises that I’ll soon be able to join a company to compete for daily and weekly prizes.
In the meantime, there’s plenty of content to keep me busy. The controls are good and the look is great. S0 instead of trying to think up picket signs for upcoming Transformers protests (DisoBay Michael? Michael Bay of Pigs?), I’m going to spend this summer swagging out my Ultramarine. It’s the rare mech truly deserving of my attention.
Is it Hardcore?
A really challenging and addictive platformer that will be even better when multiplayer is up and running.