Game Reviewby Dave Riley,
Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains
An anime series about aerial stunts and gory fatalities, Attack on Titan's seems perfectly suited for an action game. Humanity in Chains nails the feel, capitalizing on the show's grappling hook-assisted flight and grisly murder with a combat system that provides frenetic, instantaneous death on both sides of the conflict.
Trapped behind giant stone walls of their own making, the final remnants of humanity huddle in fear of the unexplained threat of giant, gleefully stupid titans who saunter in every now and then to chow down on the populace. An anime series full of aerial stunts and gory fatalities, Attack on Titan seems perfectly suited for an action game. Humanity in Chains nails the feel, capitalizing on the show's grappling hook-assisted flight and grisly murder with a combat system that provides frenetic, instantaneous death on both sides of the conflict.
The character models and level variety struggle against the budget, but the swinging and slicing itself is fast and fluid. The right trigger swings you around the arena like Spiderman and a face button launches a grapple towards buildings or titan limbs. When latched on to a titan you aim for critical hits with a timing ring. A critical to an arm or leg tumbles your target, the camera locks to the nape of their neck, and you press the grapple button again to soar towards victory, timing your attack to the pixel-thin sliver of the ring that guarantees a clean kill. Movement is hyperkinetic, completely on point. Adjusting the analog stick while vaulting across the environment has your character mount the side of a building in a sprint or skid their knees across the ground. Flicking it to the side as you charge throws them into a whirling spin attack, trading easy criticals for better evasion against the titan's series-standard grab and squish. The margin for error is pretty wide, the game's not that hard. Quickly, you'll become a master at slashing out a titan's Achilles's tendon to stun them, lofting yourself upwards to apply the coup de grace to their neck, and rotating the camera in mid-air, finding your next target and vaulting towards them before you even hit the ground. It's a good loop.
It's also the only loop. If you like what Attack on Titan does in the first mission, hopefully you'll keep liking it in the twentieth mission. There are nominally different titans, frog-hopping aberrations and tiny, five-meter tall cannon fodder, but they all go down the same way, crumbling in the face of the same, simple button presses. Through story you play as Eren, Mikasa, Armin, Levi, or potato-chomping Sasha Braus. Aside from Eren's unremarkable button-mashing beat 'em up stages where you play as a titan, there's no difference between any of the characters. As if the general repetition weren't enough, the game sometimes forces you through identical stages as different characters. With half of the story mode spent watching cutscenes ripped straight from the anime between 1-5 minute chunks of titan slaying on regularly reused maps, the singleplayer feels somewhere between a too-little-too-late nostalgia bump for ultra fans and a tutorial for the multiplayer.
Like so many portable Japanese action games, Humanity in Chains angles for the Monster Hunter demographic. You craft a character made out of stock parts unlocked during the campaign (Hange's face, a Survey Corps cloak), level them up, build better weapons back at home base, and equip skills. Then you sortie to do the same thing you did through the entire single player: lock onto a titan, slash their ankle, lock on again, slash their neck. When you hit the occasional mission that requires teamwork (resuscitate eight wounded soldiers while keeping titans out of an instant-fail defense area) you get some glimmer of what could've been, but mostly the goal is "kill them all." Which is a good enough reason to waste a few hours, but it hardly makes a difference if you're doing that with three other people or three useless NPC squadmates, whose true raison d'etre is saving you from the occasional Game Over grab attack (thankfully, they're pretty good at that).
You can equip giant shotguns and lay down traps. Sometimes these tools are useful, but their slow aiming reticles and bulky animations are the antithesis of Attack on Titan's high flying, high risk maneuvers--a sort of cumbersome anti-fun that pointedly ignores what the game does best. In fact, every bit of the multiplayer seems designed to cut against or delay the part of the game you actually want to play. Keeping your equipment up to date means you have to quit soaring from target to target and instead stomp around on foot, scouring the levels for random item drops held in borderline-invisible beige barrels and boxes. Consumables like extra sword blades and gas tank refills, irrelevant during the campaign, are now something you have to spend money on when you'd rather use it to upgrade your R&D factory or your barracks with the hopes of spending less time on tiered upgrades, like Hatchet Blade Level 2, and more on goofy novelty weapons, like Sasha's oversized cutlery. Too often, you wish they'd hand over whatever's next on the Sword Upgrade list without making you wade through three menus and collect Very Hard Steel for the privilege of a marginal stat increase. The fighting may be repetitive, but it's fast enough to distract you while you're in the moment; the character building throws a ton of numerical values in your face, but it's tough to get a bead on how much those actually matter. Sometimes it's hard to tell how to advance them at all.
As a tie-in game, this hits its source material dead on. Handing you a pitch-perfect recreation of the anime's speed and mortality, Humanity in Chains is at its best during multiplayer, where it divests itself of the story mode's endless "Best Of" anime clips that make the gameplay feel almost incidental. Divorced from the pared-down story rehash, the zipping around and slashing up bad guys is a good hook. But if the game has Monster Hunter aspirations, it's completely devoid of that series' tactical, mechanical, and statistical density. Leashing yourself to a 20 meter titan's neck is fantastic the first time, and even the next hundred times, it's the thousand times after that when you might get the hankering for other, more varied experiences. Humanity in Chains has one play in its book, and it's not bad, but it's still just the one.
Overall : C+
Graphics : C
Sound/Music : B-
Gameplay : C+
Presentation : B-
+ Fast and frenetic aerial combat
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