Into the midst of the PlayStation Vita's launch lineup drops a fiery comet, crashing through the Earth's crust and plunging into the mythical underworld below to amass a massive force of evil with infernal domination in mind. The Army Corps of Hell is recruiting. Should you join up?
The King of Hell is back in town, and he's pissed. Having been stripped of his powers and banished from his throne, this once and future king claws his way back and begins to assemble a goblin fighting force of extraordinary magnitude. His goal? Cutting a bloody path through the denizens of hell until nothing stands between him and his seat of power.
This is achieved by running around a series of floating islands (hell is floating islands) surrounded by a horde of goblin warriors, spearmen, and mages, each ready to lay down their lives for your pursuit of power. Well, they might not be quite so willing, but they don't really have a choice, now do they? Does a Pikmin question Olimar? Does a totally different sort of goblin challenge his unrelated Overlord?
Do we question the worth of Square Enix's PlayStation Vita launch day offering? Of course we do. It's our job.
Fast-paced Action Strategy: There are plenty of action games and tons of strategy games, but not a lot of titles can successfully merge the two quite as well as Army Corps of Hell. Being the commander of hell's army is not a desk job, requiring precision movements and dodging while simultaneously issuing attack orders to three different sets of troops. It's up to you to keep them out of harm's way while they tear apart your enemies, and you've got some very important decisions to make.
Do you fight in formation, opening your army up to massive damage in exchange for the quick kill, or do you play it safe, dodging and weaving about the battlefield while nickel-and-diming your foes to death? Which element should your magic users carry into each stage? What sort of balance should be struck between the three classes? There's a lot more going on in this game than meets the eye.
WHY: While I'm still not sure the price is right, the sublime blend of death-metal fueled mayhem and off-the-cuff strategy make Army Corps of Hell worth a try.
ARMY CORPS OF HELL
Platforms: PS Vita
Released: December 11 (Japan), February 14 (U.S.), February 22 (Europe)
Type of game: Action-Strategy
Played through 20 levels of single-player goblin-slinging action, becoming the Lord of Hell, which I suppose was the point. There's more (another 20 levels covering Purgatory and Tartarus), but I got the point.
My Two Favorite Things
- Fast-paced strategic gameplay.
- Boss fights to die for, multiple times.
My Two Least-Favorite Things
- Getting to the boss fights.
- Music-based power-ups aren't a particularly impressive use of the Vita's rear touch panel.
Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes
- "Pretty fly for a PSP game" -Mike Fahey, Kotaku.com
- "Frantic action leaves almost no time to think... almost." -Mike Fahey, Kotaku.com
- "I hate the music; it's perfect." -Mike Fahey, Kotaku.com
Intuitive Controls: Army Corps of Hell's action / strategy blend wouldn't work nearly as well if not for the game's intuitive control scheme. Left stick moves and right stick controls the cameral. Square, Triangle, and Circle buttons switch between your three squads. Left shoulder attacks, right shoulder sees your minions falling into formation, effectively an alt-fire mode for your goblin crews. It might look complicated typed out, but once the game is in your hands the control scheme is surprisingly intuitive.
The only time this Vita launch game's controls falter is when deploying special battle items and power-ups. These require timed taps and finger slides on the Vita's rear touch surface, and those don't seem to register as well as they should.
So Big, So Boss:While hopping from hell island to hell island, popping minor demons gets old rather quickly, the game's massive boss fights are a fine reward for slogging through the unblessed masses. It's here where the real strategy of Army Corps of Hell kicks in. You can wing it as you work your way up to these marvelous main events, but when you're facing off against a slinky succubus riding a gargantuan multi-headed worm, a fire-breathing dragon easily ten times your size, or an insect lord swarming with deadly lackeys, you'd better bring your 'A' game.
Crafting Up a Storm: Army Corps of Hell did not need a crafting system in which you use the bits your goblins chew off dead monsters to craft new weapons, armor, and items to aid in your fight, but it's nice that it's there. It gives the player motivation to hit up those earlier levels, harvesting bits of monster gobbly-goo in order to have the best equipment the damned can get.
God Help Me the Music: It's like an entire soundtrack made up of Final Fantasy XIII-2's horrific wild chocobo song. Packed with death metal, heavy-ish metal, and the screaming of distressed guitars, there is not one song on Army Corps of Hell's soundtrack I would download to my MP3 player. Within the context of the game and its themes, it all works so brilliantly. I hate it so much, but I couldn't imagine playing without it.