“Alright, listen up you ragtag bunch of slack jawed grunts, you’re in the army now. I know some of you, so called men, have been reading your fancy training books about how the war started back in Nam…put your hand down son! I ain’t talking about the 1990’s battle of Birmingnam either. The war you grunts are signed up for puts the great wars to shame. None of your poxy helmet wearing trench runners here. It’s mechanised infantry or you go home in a zip up freezer bag for your mom and pop!
Now, I know many of you are fresh out of training but now is not the time to panic. Once you’re out there, toe to toe with a 40ft Hound, I don’t want any of you screaming and wetting your pretty little knickers. Last thing the army needs on the battlefield is a load of leaky privates. Put your hand down again son…you should have gone before you left the house this morning.
Alright, look alive people. Let me explain how this works, in small words for the slow ones at the back…”
Chrome Hounds started out as a huge project by FromSoftware, makers of the fairly old Armoured Core series. Backed by SEGA and with a new console to play with, Chrome Hounds was born on the 360. The first thing you notice about the game is the trailer at the beginning and your jaw drops. “If this is in game I will eat my hat and yours” but unfortunately it is not in game footage, which is a crying shame and a downer on the game to start with. This is not to say that Chrome Hounds looks ugly, the detail on your mech is of a high standard. Joints twist and turn on your giant, robotic legs, bullet casings fly out of your guns and smoke billows out of a enemy mech as you fire a rocket into their side [I did “Oooooh” at the smoke -Ed]. After you have stopped marvelling at your mech in all it’s glory, the second thing you notice is the levels are, well, pretty bare. Even your first training missions show a few rolling hills, a few buildings and that is pretty much it. Later missions do show a much more varied display on levels but nothing huge and amazing. So from the high of mech detail to the low of the bland and empty scenery detail, Chrome Hounds is off to an odd start.
For many mech games, the actual detail on the mech does not really make a difference but with many gamers lust for painting and tweaking things [Thanks Need for Speed -Ed], Chrome Hounds would have to do something a little bit different to attract the crowds. Since FromSoftware made this game and also the Armored Core games, everyone knew there would be similarities. Chrome Hounds definitely has the vast array of weapons, mech parts and customization options compared to Armoured Core, maybe even more so. One of the things it did not pull across was the pace of the game. In many reviews this is the main issue that raises it’s head about Chrome Hounds. The game is very slow. Now, when I saw this in other reviews I did wonder if I was playing a different game to everyone else. Let me explain a little more.
Chrome Hounds is split into 2 parts, the single player missions and the expansive online side of things. While playing through the single player missions you get to try out the 6 RT’s or Role Types. This dictates what type of mech you are playing. Your choices are Sniper, Heavy Gunner, Soldier, Scout, Defender and Commander. As you can guess, this is already a good variety of play styles. As a Soldier Hound, you spend your time running around, following orders and blowing up enemy mechs. Speed wise, Soldiers are pretty speedy in a fight, Defenders, pretty slow. While the story that binds all of these RT’s together is different for each one, the variety in play styles is plain to see. Get bored of the Soldier Hound and step into the heavy weight legs of a Heavy Gunner or Defender class Hound. This is where the pace of the game gets very slow but it is slow on purpose. You are a 40+ tonne Hound, covered in heavy guns and other brutal weaponry. If you think this Hound will be dancing around the battlefield, then you do not know your mech games very well.
The speed issue comes from the fact that most players fall into two categories, you either love the Mechwarrior style of mech or you love the Japanese Gundam style mech, similar to what is found in Armoured Core. If you like your mechs fast, agile and brimming with weapons, flying over the battlefield with jet-packs on, then avoid Chrome Hounds like the plague. Chrome Hounds brings a more tactical edge to mech games and the speed reflects that. If on the other hand you remember playing the Mechwarrior series, where each mech is built how you like and lumber across the battlefield, unleashing rocket based death to all around you, then you will love Chrome Hounds.
As you go though the single player missions, you will notice that you get a rank depending on how well you did that mission. Once a rank has been attained you also get given a variety of parts for your mech but the single player RT’s give you a mech to start with, so why give players parts? The single player does feel a little boring when you are just going from one mission to the next, just unlocking bigger and better parts. Well, this happens to be part of the best features of Chrome Hounds, which is the garage. Here you can assemble your own mech and design it to the RT you enjoy playing.
The mech you build can also be used to retry the single player missions. You can play the Sniper missions as a Soldier if you really want to. This is not to say you are stuck with one RT mech, oh no, you can tailor your mech to combine any of the features you like from any RT. Say you like Sniper class but want to be more armoured like a Heavy Gunner, you can built it. Your first mech part is called the Mobility Base which really means your legs but you are not stuck to just 2 legs. Chrome Hounds gives you a variety of 2 legs, 4 legs, tank tracks, hover-craft like bases and wheels. Each set has different attributes like, acceleration, turning speed, stability etc.
One of the more important attribute is the load attribute. This dictates how much this base can carry. If you are planning on having a beast of a Heavy Gunner then each weapon, additional ammo or add-on you strap to your mech will increase it’s overall weight. As you build, the system will tell you is you are over-weight [Try not to worry, it means the Hounds weight, not yours -Ed]. Not only is weight a issue, each component has a power usage which requires generators to be added to supply power. If you cannot supply enough power and you overheat too quickly, your guns may shut down leaving you at the mercy of other Hounds. The garage even gives you the choice to add emblems to your mech in patterns you design, you can change the camo on each of your mechs and you can even spray paint the color of your mech. Seeing a bright pink mech rolling down the hill, firing off 48 mini rockets into the enemy is a joy to behold.
Many people have said the game seems very soul-less as you play on your own, just unlocking extra parts so you can built a better looking mech but this all leads to one thing – the online side of Chrome Hounds. Online Hounds is split into your standard Quickmatch games which range from standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, CTF and a few others to add variety but one of the bigger parts of Chrome Hounds is the persistent online mode known as Neroimus War.
Imagine a game of Risk where each of there territories is fought over by various factions. Each player sides with one of the 3 main factions, either Morskoj, Tarakia or Sal Kar. Each faction has it’s pros and con’s so which one you pick depends largely on what benefits they offer to you. Each of these territories is fought over and the winners occupy that place and their faction gives them money and also access to a shop brimming with special parts. You may even get some salvage which you can either sell on or add to your Hound. Dig a little deeper into this mode and you will see a huge amount going on underneath this seemingly basic game, from research of weapons, a lottery, great clan support and customization – the list just keeps on growing. I could do a whole review just based on the online side of Chrome Hounds but I will leave it for you to dig for yourself. If you have Live then Chrome Hounds is a great game which will give you a change from Halo 2, Ghost Recon and Battlefield 2 matches. With a squad working together and utilising all of the RT’s to their full potential, Chrome Hounds is a tactical little chunk of joy. If you just jump in hoping to beat everyone, then you may be a little disappointed as your Hound gets ripped a new one by rival faction Hounds.
Sounds and musically, Hounds is so-so. Stomping around the battlefield sounds just right, guns make a solid noise, heavy cannons especially make a huge blast as they are fired but apart from the whirl and clunk of your mech as you walk around, not a huge amount is going on. Music is not really a huge part of the experience so I advise you to use your own stored music if you want to listen to something. The computer chatters over commands to you as you play but there is nothing really great about the game in the sound and music department. The sound does a job at sounding like a big stompy robot, nothing more and nothing less.
Chrome Hounds really does split people in half, you will either love it and be drawn into the customisation and the vast multiplayer online modes or you will find the pace just too slow, the customizing of your mech a chore and the single player boring. Like I mentioned earlier, you will either fall into the Mechwarrior mindset or the Armored Core/Gundam mindset. Chrome Hounds is a great addition to Xbox 360 and it adds yet more games we get to play. If you embrace the game for what it is, a great mech shooter with a more tactical pace and a huge array of online and mech customization options, then you know what to do with Chrome Hounds. If you do not like the slow pace of the game, the fairly generic single player and do not have the time or inclination to pour love and attention into building a mech, then avoid Chrome Hounds.
Originally Written By: Barrie Rogers