Attack on Titan hands-on: Captures the spirit of anime

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Most of the animation coming out of Japan flies right under the radar for all but self-described anime fans. Once in a while, a show will manage to break out of that thanks to a weird enough or interesting enough concept. Attack on Titan was one such show.  Set in a European-style kingdom, the remains of humanity have encased themselves in a set of massive stone walls mean to protect them from beings called titans – large, ghastly monsters that resemble humans just enough to make them truly discomforting. The titans are extremely durable beasts that can only be dropped permanently by severing their spinal cord.

Taking this concept, the team at Omega Force – the Dynasty Warriors developer – have put together a game that looks like it just might do its source anime some justice.

I spent some time with the game at E3 and while I feel like I’m still getting the hang of the controls, I already found myself enjoying the rhythm of the game.

As a human, you’re equipped with a device called Omni-Directional Maneuvering Gear, a sort of hip-mounted jetpack and set of grappling hooks that make you something akin to Spider-Man with a pair of mean-looking blades. Using the gear, you can zip around the city, forest, and canyon settings of Attack on Titan. Using the gear feels pretty natural and it wasn’t long before I felt fluent with it.

Near a titan, you’ll switch into attack mode, where grappling focuses on the titan itself instead of the surroundings. From there you can target, depending on the type of titan you’re facing, the titan’s arms, legs, or the back of their neck. Going for the kill right away is tempting, and in some titans it works quite nicely. Other titans are smarter and faster, and if you go for their necks first, they’ll snatch you right out of the air. If you don’t react fast enough, you can end up titan food. It’s pretty disgusting.

One element I didn’t get to try out is the game’s Titan Mode. If you’re planning on watching the series, you might want to skip this part, as some spoilers lie ahead.

Some characters in this world can transform into titans, including the main characters, Eren. In Titan mode, that Maneuvering Gear is no longer necessary, as you’re one of those titans yourself. In this mode, you’ll be able to go toe-to-toe with other titans, fighting both the more powerful titans and the simpler ones as well.

What I’ve played of Attack on Titan is fun, and should be a lot of fun for fans of the show and the manga alike. The big question that remains for me is whether maneuvering will stay fun for the length of the game and whether there current batch of titans will provide enough variety to keep the game fun. I’m leaning toward yes, but we won’t know until the game hits PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and Xbox One on August 30.