NieR: Automata, a game I never got around to play when it first released on the PS4 but had high expectations when it finally landed on Xbox One X. After all, it is PlatinumGames who’s behind the wheels and they’ve created great titles like the crazy Bayonetta games, the knee-sliding action shooter Vanquish and the sword wielding spin-off Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. I booted up NieR: Automata and it caught me by surprise…
Expecting Bayonetta-type gameplay, I was instead greeted with a heavy, 80s-inspired arcade shoot’em up style (also called “shmups”). As a guy who has spent countless of hours on the Gradius series and basically grown up in arcades, this isn’t a bad thing at all. While confused I continued to play, navigating the spaceship in tight quarters between the incoming red “orbs” and blowing shit up in familiar fashion from a top-down view… until the game decides to flip the script and transition into a third person fighter/shooter game and throws you more or less into a boss fight right of the bat. The scale of the first boss sets the bar for the rest of the game, you know you’re in for some epic encounters where you will take on behemoth robots programmed to squash you like a bug.
NieR: Automata is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world that has been inhabited by very unfriendly robots. All orchestrated by aliens, of course. You play as an android called 2B. She’s a solider under “YoRHa”, a group that is dedicated to eradicate the unfriendly robots that controls planet Earth and to go after the aliens who’s responsible for pushing humanity out from their homes and forcing them to live on the moon. NieR‘s design is very anime and it reminds me of previous Platinum Games, yet it’s different as it mixes different gameplay elements very nicely together. It’s part “shmup”, part RPG, part third person figher/shooter, all wrapped up in a strange story that got multiple endings for us to explore.
The fighting mechanics are tight and responsive, a signature from Platinum. 2B has all the moves you’d expect, from switchable dual-wielding weapons to highly acrobatic moves with hand-to-hand combat — dishing out the pain like nobody’s business. She also has a small pod that tags along (think a smaller, flying BB-8) that gives you ranged shooting ability and feels very fluid to use; lock-on or free aim, it’s all up to you. 2B can get upgraded with chips that give her more moves in her arsenal, but there’s a catch: you can lose it if you die, Dark Souls style. Luckily you can go back to your defeated body and pick up your hard earned chips again, which can be difficult. Save management is a key to success.
The BECOME AS GODS Edition looks and sounds great, anime done right (details on the special edition’s bonuses can be found here). NieR: Automata doesn’t struggle to keep up with the fast-paced action at all, even when the screen is filled with enough enemies and explosions to give you epilepsy. The post-apocalyptic world design is wonderfully crisp and reminds me a bit of Ninja Theory’s Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, a title that never got the attention or sequel it deserved. The soundtrack, which won Best Score from last year’s TGA’s, has an epic feel — enhancing the tension, the sadness and the bad-ass moments you play and feel throughout. 4.5/5 Bibles.