The idea of robotic mechs is a particularly appealing one – who wouldn’t want to pilot a giant mechanical suit, laden with ordnance, and fly through the sky? Beloved in Japan, franchises like Gundam, Macross and Neon Genesis Evangelion see us puny humans encased in incredible armoured mechs in order to fly and fight in defence of all we hold dear.
Despite their popularity we’re not inundated with mech games, and with FromSoftware seemingly abandoning Armored Core for the time being, Project Nimbus: Code Mirai is an obvious reaction to that. Originally funded via Kickstarter, a version appeared on PC last year, but Code Mirai though has been rebuilt with the PS4 and console gamers in mind.
The story takes place in your standard dystopian future, where a worldwide nuclear war has caused the world’s oceans to swallow up much of the land. The wealthy have built floating cities above the clouds while those stranded below have grown hardened and envious, and you set out in your weaponised Battle Frame in an effort to bring justice to this bleak world.
Like the anime series that have provided much of Code Mirai’s inspiration, the narrative can be a little tough to follow, and there’s no real cutscenes for you to watch. There are audio logs to listen to between missions that help to flesh things out though, and everything is brought to you by a fully voiced team which lends it all a pleasing degree of authenticity.
Your Battle Frame’s movements are fast and responsive, and combat is focussed around mobility, with a multidirectional dash being as important, if not more important than your various explosive armaments. Of course, you need to blow plenty of things up, and Code Mirai chucks a plethora of drones, missiles, and enemy mecha at you to keep you constantly engaged.
As well as close-range melee options, your Battle Frame is equipped with machine guns and a host of missiles, besides a hugely devastating railgun. Thanks to small magazine size and a more realistic reload time than we’re used to in gaming, you’ll be frantically cycling between them any time you’re in combat, which greatly adds to the sense of pace and often has you on the back foot.
For fans of Armored Core or Ace Combat you’ll easily fall into the rhythm of combat, and there’s plenty to enjoy in it. That said, there are a few foibles with the standard control set-up that make things like moving between weapons less intuitive than they should be. Thankfully you can completely reassign everything, but there are so many controls you still might struggle to get them all into a position where they’re all easily accessible.
On first impressions the game looks a little basic, but when you’re whizzing around trying to blast enemies out of the sky it looks much cooler, and that simplicity is undoubtedly helping to keep the game’s performance as smooth as possible – a feat that it largely holds to. The designers have still fashioned some cool ship and Battle Frame designs, and while they owe a significant debt to shows like Gundam, they bring enough of their own character and sense of place to make it feel like its own thing. The music though doesn’t feel at all pared back, with plenty of bombastically authentic themes helping to add to the drama and action of each mission.
While there’s plenty to like, there are a few issues that keep Project Nimbus: Code Mirai from hitting the high bar set by its peers. Annoyances like a wayward radar and automatically failing your mission if you fly outside the combat zone rather than just turning you around wear thin, particularly when your enemies will fly incredibly close to that barrier, as do the repetitive beats of the mission structure the further you progress, despite the relatively short length of the campaign. Once you’re done with the story there’s the Survival mode to sink your teeth into, which allows you to pick any of the various mecha and see how long you can last against wave after wave of enemies while aiming for the high score.
Project Nimbus: Code Mirai is a frantic mech shooter that ticks all the right boxes, but is ultimately let down by a lack of variety. The combat never fails to set your pulse racing, and I’d love to see more from the team and the series, since, for a short while at least, this is the best mech combat we’ve seen in years.
Disclaimer: One of the characters in Project Nimbus: Code Mirai is voiced by Miguel Moran, one of our writers. While we’re over the moon for his burgeoning voice acting career, rest assured that it’s not something that has influenced this review.