It’s taken a heck of a time for God Eater 2 to arrive on Western shores. It’s not even the 2013 original, which never left Japan, but rather we’re getting last year’s expanded God Eater 2: Rage Burst, where the series finally jumped from handheld to home console. In its home country God Eater is only second to the almighty Monster Hunter franchise, and given that it boasts various similarities it’s easy to see why. Now that Monster Hunter is a genuine presence over here, the God Eater series is primed for success, and in the PS4 release of God Eater 2: Rage Burst we’re getting its finest entry so far.
Set in a post-apocalyptic Japan, a land beset by huge creatures known as Aragami, you play a member of the Blood faction of the God Eaters, an elite force of special individuals who take on missions that ordinary God Eaters aren’t equipped for. Part of this is that you and your team all have a new ability called Blood Arts; powerful attacks that can turn the tide of battle in one fell swoop. You embark on a series of missions with your three teammates in tow – either online or with AI back-up – tackling increasingly challenging Aragami, all the while improving your gear and levelling up your abilities.
The action in God Eater 2: Rage Burst is a great deal more immediate and accessible than Monster Hunter, and attacking and evading your enemy doesn’t have the same barrier to entry, with simpler controls and systems open to you. Fundamentally the melee combat might feel familiar to anyone that’s played a Musou game, though the added emphasis on evasion, blocking, item use and the hugely dangerous larger foes leave such superficial similarities behind.
Much has been retained from the first game – a remastered version of which has been generously bundled in alongside Rage Burst – and switching between your melee weapon and your ranged one remains swift and undeniably cool, and you’ll find yourself mixing up your skills and abilities in order to take the Aragami down. There are still a few misfires in terms of controller layout, but some of that is perhaps due to how comfortable I am with Monster Hunter’s set-up. You soon adjust.
Crafting is essential to your progress, and it’s in your armament that all of your character’s progress is made. At the close of each mission you gain three Abandoned God Arcs that you can then transfer the skills from to your own weapon. Besides that, as you explore each mission area you’ll find various materials, which you’ll also gain from your downed foes by utilising your Devour ability – the much cooler God Eater equivalent of Monster Hunter’s carving – and these in turn can be crafted into wholly new weapons, shields or power-ups.
One of the key things that God Eater 2: Rage Burst has over its rival is a fully integrated narrative, with a whole host of characters that you’ll hopefully enjoy spending time with. On the whole there’s a lightness of touch to the proceedings that may surprise given the apocalyptic setting. The genuinely humorous interludes make for a strong counterpoint to the action, and you’ll find yourself being taken in by the array of likeable characters.
Having said that, there’s some questionable clothing on the go in God Eater 2 – the first central female character you meet, Nana, sports hot pants and a thin piece of fabric that barely covers her breasts. Sure, this is par for the course, particularly from Japan, and there’s different cultural dynamics at work, but globally we need to move on, particularly when it serves absolutely no purpose to the game – she’s supposed to be an elite warrior! You can fortunately send her into combat in different clothing, but all of the cutscenes see her promptly returned to her original outfit, alongside its accompanying jiggle physics.
While the artwork and style of God Eater 2: Rage Burst goes a long way, there’s no getting away from the fact that it is fundamentally a three year old PS Vita title, and indeed one that even saw a version appear on the PSP. Despite some nice work to the character models, and sharp and varied creature designs, the levels that you spend much of your time in are drab, basic and poorly textured.
The one key advantage to this of course is that the game’s performance is greatly improved – particularly if you’ve previously played the PSP version of God Eater 2 – making this release the best place to experience the story so far. With the slow decline of Sony’s Vita I just hope that the next entry in the series is built from the ground-up to take full advantage of a more powerful console.
Foibles do dwell just below the surface, from a narrative that often requires you to talk to everyone in an effort to move the plot on, to the conversation trees that force you to make selections rather than simply backing out of an exchange. The camera is also not always in the best position to frame the action, and while you can centre it and control it yourself, in the heat of the moment you’ll likely be too busy simply hoping you’re hitting something.
God Eater 2: Rage Burst is simply a great game, and it’s a shame that it’s taken this long for it to make it to the West. As a PS4 release, its simplistic graphics are unlikely to wow anybody, but the fast-paced combat, enjoyable characters and compelling crafting make for an experience you’ll want to come back to time and time again.
Version Tested: PS4