Hardware: Rivals is Sony’s latest attempt at the vehicle combat genre, featuring colourful arenas and a number of power-ups to do damage against other players. The game has the potential to gather a large player base due to its easy to understand mechanics, though they can be quite tricky to master. However there are a number of issues that prevents Hardware: Rivals from being a title that will hold your attention for long.
That isn’t to say there aren’t positives to Hardware: Rivals. The first thing that stands out is the visual presentation and style that the SCE Connected Content Group has opted for within the game. The four launch maps all have a distinct style; an army base housing a UFO, some ancient ruins based on early South American civilisations, a large construction pit, and a dark, snowy drilling outpost. Each of these is a feast of colour, though the outpost is more subdued being set at night.
Each of these maps has an environmental situation that can be triggered, and if you don’t escape it you will be destroyed. These situations are designed to push every player on the map into a smaller space, which allows carnage to play out as everyone starts firing looking to destroy the enemy. I liked these moments because they don’t offer an advantage to anyone, and add a lot of risk to every game mode.
In a way the areas look like toy sets that have come to life. This is further exacerbated by the skins and items that can be applied to the vehicles, like a cow-print paint job or a small garden to put on top of a tank. There are four vehicles to choose from within Hardware: Rivals at the moment, with two being tanks and the other two being a variation of smaller and faster attack buggies.
The tanks fire off shells while the buggies have machine guns mounted to them to deal damage, and both can pick up power-ups that have different effects. However it is with the weapons that the first big problem arises. When it comes to any multiplayer title, especially with what is essentially a shooter, feedback means everything. Hardware: Rivals lacks any sort of feedback to show how much damage you’ve done to someone else, to the point where the only time I was sure of destroying another vehicle was when using the railgun power up since that is a one hit kill. With the tanks you can’t manually aim the gun up or down, with a little aim assist coming into play. It does make things a bit difficult when you’re trying to take out opponents.
I couldn’t tell you how many tank shells or machine gun rounds it takes to beat someone else, though I know it can take quite a bit to defeat someone, and there is no indication of an enemy health bar while playing. It is only after you’ve been killed and see who got you that you can see their health, which is a worthless stat considering that will more than likely change as the match continues. Even the power ups seem to lack that punch, with items like missiles and plasma not showing any noticeable damage either.
There are also only four match types, with these being Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Team Domination and Team Elimination. The deathmatches and domination modes are pretty self explanatory, while Elimination gives you one life per round, meaning you need a much more careful approach. There is potential for other modes to be added in future, though, and with the power ups already in place, a kart-like racer mode would really add to the experience in addition to things like Capture The Flag or something more original.
The matchmaking is a bit ropey too. When playing alone finding matches is fine but problems really arise when you party up. Teaming up with some of the other TSA staff found us in matches that only contained ourselves, which is seemingly a widespread problem having been reported on the community forums too. Eventually we were matched with other players, though only after quitting out of quite a few sessions. The way parties are set up is strange, too. When joining a match the game automatically sends an invitation to the other members which they have to accept before joining, instead of automatically putting party members in the same lobby.
Another major flaw the game has is that there is a limit to how much Salvage you can earn per day, with this being the currency used to purchase perks and cosmetic items for your vehicles. This system would make sense if Hardware: Rivals was a free to play title but, even though it is on PS Plus, it is a game that would cost £16.99 normally. It isn’t like you can unlock everything straight away either, regardless of the amount of salvage you have, as you still need to level up to gain access to different items.
The development team has a lot of work to do before Hardware: Rivals could be considered a great game that has any longevity. There are more maps and vehicles on the way, but what is really needed are more modes, a better party system, useful hit feedback, and the scrapping of the daily salvage limit. While Hardware Rivals is fun to play in chunks it gets repetitive quickly, and its great visual design isn’t enough to cover the cracks.