Guilty of Greatness
HIGH Landing an Instant Kill just as all seems lost.
LOW I fail more super attacks in this fighter than any other. No idea why.
WTF Sin's awesome interrogation of Ramlethal during the story mode.
First off, let's get one thing straight—Guilty Gear Xrd is, without question, one of the most incredible looking games in quite some time.
If that statement wasn't impressive enough, it's made even more so by accomplishing this through intelligent use of the Unreal Engine, a development tool now synonymous with texture pop-in and every ugly shade of brown under the sun. That's not the case here though—Xrd is absolutely gorgeous, with outlandish anime character designs and colorful environments bursting from the screen.
As for exactly how outlandish those character designs are? One of the female characters in this series was fighting with her hair long before Bayonetta pinched the idea during a bout of intense jealousy. Another hurls dolphins at her opponents and smacks them with a ship's anchor. One odd dude seems to fight whilst comatose, strapped to a bed outfitted with spikes and some terrifying implements of destruction… and those are just three characters out of a total of seventeen. (Sadly, two are DLC additions which have to be paid for.)
Of course, the graphics or design wouldn't amount to much if Guilty Gear Xrd didn't have the fighting chops to back up its good looks and eclectic cast of hardasses, but the news is good—it plays wonderfully. Anyone familiar with the Blazblue titles or earlier games in the series will have some idea of how it handles, though players coming to it for the first time may feel overwhelmed thanks to the breathtaking array of offensive and defensive options available, from Roman Cancels, Air Dashes and Dust Launchers to Gold Psyche Bursts and Dead Angle Attacks, and more.
There are certainly enough weirdly-named combat techniques on offer to necessitate a trip to the tutorial and trial modes. Thankfully, they're both deeply involved and easily-digestible even for the greenest of newcomers. As per usual though, the combos immediately jump from 'pointlessly simple' to 'how in the bejeezus is anyone supposed to pull this nonsense off mid-match', but there's a lot of useful info in there too.
Once players are able to hold their own, it soon becomes apparent just how awesome Guilty Gear Xrd truly is. It's fast, responsive, looks amazing and has a superb rock soundtrack providing an adrenaline-fueled backdrop to each match. Some may be a little put off by how aggressive Xrd's style is, though—there's a lot of rushdown tactics and pressuring involved in each match, with defensive players penalized if they take too long to come out of their shell via gauge and vitality reductions. Others, like myself, will delight in insane aerial combos sparking off from well timed Dust Attacks. Oh, and landing an instant kill on someone who's been dominating before slipping up for just that one tiny, crucial moment? It's the absolute BEST. Not for them, of course, but man.
Aside from the usual arcade and versus modes there's a couple of interesting additions. MOM mode allows characters to be lightly customized in weird ways, like hurling cartoon bombs at opponents or poisoning them with rusty metal. Then there are the usual collection of galleries and unlockable music from previous games to add to the BGM—'Still in the Dark' and 'Be Just or Be Dead' hold up wonderfully against the newer tracks, which are excellent.
The story mode's also great, as it's literally nothing but a story mode. Players aren't expected to awkwardly grapple with unfamiliar characters to win matches at pivotal moments. Instead, it's essentially a linear visual novel that is (surprisingly) not a simple rerun of the arcade mode's stories as it continues on from where those end.
As for how Xrd fares online, it features an interesting setup. Each room is like a miniature arcade with four cabinets, and up to eight players can join these rooms to either spectate at one cab or have up to four concurrent matches going on at once. Regional selection is easy thanks to a geographic map at the start, and the connection indicator details exactly how many frames are being dropped due to lag throughout each match. Oh, and matches are automatically recorded for later viewing, which is a really handy feature for studying how skilled opponents handle themselves.
I've done nothing but praise the game so far, but there isn't much to knock Guilty Gear Xrd for. The latest entry is missing some awesome characters like Baiken, and sometimes supers just don't seem to come off for some reason, but neither is a huge issue on the whole. Oh, and I'm not overly keen on the Guts system which makes characters lose less health the closer to death they are. It makes judging what'll kill off an opponent a little more confusing than it needs to be.
The unfamiliar battle system may put some newcomers off, but those who don't mind putting in a little practice will be well-rewarded with one of the best and freshest fighters in ages. That it's also one of the most absurdly good-looking titles in years is just gravy on top of a pretty damned special meal.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via Digital Download and reviewed on the Playstation 4. Approximately 14 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed multiple times with a selection of characters) and 12 hours of play in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains: blood, language, suggestive themes, use of tobacco and violence. I-no spouts a lot of suggestive stuff, and there are some uncommonly used phrases that pop up like Axl calling his opponent a 'wanker'. Swearing's uncommon, but it's in there—though the violence aspect is pretty tame and comical overall. I'd talk about some of the slightly suggestive clothing and stuff, but I think Millia Rage's intro cinematic gave me a hitherto undiscovered foot fetish so I'm probably not one to talk.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Not much to worry about here, dear friends! The game is available with both subtitled and dubbed audio throughout and there's plenty of text detailing what's going on at any time. The one exception I noticed comes during an attract mode intro where the audio has no subtitles accompanying it.